St John Chrysostom on Almsgiving
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017
3. And thou then, art thou unable to practise virginity? Be chaste in marriage. Art thou unable to strip thyself of thy possessions? Give of thy substance. Canst thou not bear that burden? Share thy goods with Christ. Art thou unwilling to yield Him up all? Give Him but the half, but the third part. He is thy brother, and joint-heir, make Him joint-heir with thee here too. Whatsoever thou givest Him, thou wilt give to thyself. Hearest thou not what saith the prophet? “Them that pertain to thy seed thou shalt not overlook.”3 But if we must not overlook our kinsmen, much less our Lord, having towards thee, together with His authority as Lord, the claim also of kindred, and many more besides. Yea, for He too hath made thee a sharer in His goods, having received nothing of thee, but having begun with this unspeakable benefit. What then can it be but extreme senselessness, not even by this gift to be made kind towards men, not even to give a return for a free gift, and less things for greater? Thus whereas He hath made thee heir of Heaven, impartest thou not to Him even of the things on earth? He, when thou hadst done no good work, but wert even an enemy, reconciled thee: and dost thou not requite Him, being even a friend and benefactor?
Yet surely, even antecedently to the kingdom, and to all the rest, even for the very fact of His giving, we ought to feel bound to Him. For so servants too, when bidding their masters to a meal, account themselves not to be giving but receiving; but here the contrary hath taken place: not the servant the Lord, but the Lord hath first bidden the servant unto His own table; and dost thou not bid Him, no not even after this? He first hath introduced thee under His own roof; dost thou not take Him in, so much as in the second place? He clad thee, being naked; and dost thou not even after this receive Him being a stranger? He first gave thee to drink out of His own cup, and dost thou not impart to Him so much as cold water? He hath made thee drink of the Holy Spirit, and dost thou not even soothe His bodily thirst? He hath made thee drink of the Spirit, when thou wast deserving of punishment; and dost thou neglect Him even when thirsty, and this when it is out of His own, that thou art to do all these things? Dost thou not then esteem it a great thing, to hold the cup out of which Christ is to drink, and to put it to His lips? Seest thou not that for the priest alone is it lawful4 to give the cup of His blood? But I am by no means strict about this, saith He; but though thyself should give, I receive; though thou be a layman, I refuse it not. And I do not require such as I have given: for not blood do I seek, but cold water. Consider to whom thou art giving drink, and tremble. Consider, thou art become a priest of Christ, giving with thine own hand, not flesh but bread, not blood, but a cup of cold water. He clothed thee with a garment of salvation, and clothed thee by Himself; do thou at least by thy servant clothe Him. He made thee glorious in Heaven, do thou deliver Him from shivering, and nakedness, and shame. He made thee a fellow-citizen of angels, do thou impart to Him at least of the covering of thy roof, give house-room to Him at least as to thine own servant. “I refuse not this lodging and that, having opened to thee the whole Heaven. I have delivered thee from a most grievous prison; this I do not require again, nor do I say, deliver me; but if thou wouldest look upon me only, when I am bound, this suffices me for refreshment. When thou wert dead, I raised thee; I require not this again of thee, but I say, visit me only when sick.”
Now when His gifts are so great, and His demands exceeding easy, and we do not supply even these; what deep of hell must we not deserve? Justly shall we depart into the fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels, being more insensible than any rock. For how great insensibility is it, tell me, for us, who have received, and are to receive so much, to be slaves of money, from which we shall a little while hence be separated even against our will? And others indeed have given up even their life, and shed their blood; and dost thou not even give up thy superfluities for Heaven’s sake, for the sake of so great crowns?
And of what favor canst thou be worthy? of what justification? who in thy sowing of the earth, gladly pourest forth all, and in lending to men at usury sparest nothing; but in feeding thy Lord through His poor art cruel and inhuman?
Having then considered all these things, and calculated what we have received, what we are to receive, what is required of us, let us show forth all our diligence on the things spiritual. Let us become at length mild and humane, that we may not draw down on ourselves the intolerable punishment. For what is there that hath not power to condemn us? Our having enjoyed so many and such great benefits; our having no great thing required of us; our having such things required, as we shall leave here even against our will; our exhibiting so much liberality in our worldly matters. Why each one of these, even by itself, were enough to condemn us; but when they all meet together, what hope will there be of salvation?
In order then that we may escape all this condemnation, let us show forth some bounty towards those who are in need. For thus shall we enjoy all the good things, both here, and there; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.