The Articles of Religion begin with the Holy Trinity, with the reality of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created everything, redeemed and is redeeming the brokenness of sin in the world, and who sustains the present and coming Kingdom of God until all will be made well in life with God in the New Creation.
Wow! That is some amazing stuff. That is what gets me up in the morning for ministry. Yet our faith is not simply that God exists but that we have a life to live here and now. There are some nitty gritty mundane aspects of life that can also be articles of faith. Article 24 concerns private property. It seems moot today but has not been throughout the history of the church. There are two main points to the article. The first concerns private property. Christians retain title to their property. Property is not automatically shared in common with one another.
But it goes on, compelling us that “every person ought, of such things as he or she possesses, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his or her ability” (updated for modern language). It is an article of faith to give to the poor. How this plays out is decided by the individual Christian and the faith community of which they are apart, but this is important.
Alms or charity gifts are not transactions. Nor should they be hoarded so as to make certain they are honestly used. Article 24 does not say that the Christian should discern between the righteous poor and the unrighteous poor. It says “liberally to give alms to the poor.”
This should be done out of faith. As Hebrews 11:1 states, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” We are called to give out of faith in the God who saves us. We have been saved by grace through faith and it is not through works alone. Yet when see the hungry and feed them, and the poor and give to them, and the naked and clothe them, we give to our savior by faith. Not by logic or political instinct or by an attempt to save the world, but by faith in the Triune God who has saved the world.
Now, we are called to do this “according to our ability”, but we are still called to do it by faith. We are called to be stewards of our property by faith. So let us care for what is ours by faith. May we, in the words of John Wesley, earn all we can, save all we can, so we can give all we can.
Article XXIV - Of Christian Men's Goods
The riches and goods of Christians are not common as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as some do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.