Purim is one of the most unusual of the Jewish feast days. It was instituted to celebrate the death of Haman and the escape of the Jews. Today it is marked by reading the book of Esther (interrupted by raucous noisemakers whenever Haman’s name is read) amid a party atmosphere.

Purim is also a time for charity, a concept rooted in the Old Testament (Dt. 15:7-8; 26:12-13). The joy of Israel’s deliverance from Haman’s diabolical plot is expressed in generous charity to all who request it.

In his book Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin tells about a rabbi who felt so compelled to keep the day of Purim that he gave alms to two Jewish women who asked, even though he knew they were frauds.

Because we have been liberated from sin through Jesus Christ, we should be generous to the needy. From hearts of compassion, we are to be benevolent and help the poor. We won’t be charitable, however, if our hearts are hardened by a self-protective spirit, or if we think charity is someone else’s responsibility.

Christ commanded His followers to be charitable (Mt. 6:1-4; 12:33), and He demonstrated charity by the ultimate gift of Himself.