The Poor

Resenting having to give

The presence of the passion of avarice reveals itself when a person enjoys receiving but resents having to give. — St. Maximos the Confessor

Love scatters money

The lover of money sneers at the Gospel, and is a willful transgressor. He who has attained to love scatters his money. But he who says that he lives for love and for money has deceived himself. — St. John Climacus

Comment: the overturning of the moneychangers tables is a sign of this.

pretext of almsgiving, hatred of the poor

The beginning of love of money is the pretext of almsgiving, and the end of it is hatred of the poor. So long as he is collecting he is charitable, but when the money is in hand he tightens his grip. — St. John Climacus

Christ is reaching to us with the hand of the Poor.

Thus ought we ever to exercise hospitality by our own personal exertions, that we may be sanctified, and our hands be blessed. And if you give to the poor, disdain not yourself to give it, for it is not to the poor that it is given, but to Christ; and who is so wretched, as to disdain to stretch out his own hand to Christ? This is hospitality, this is truly to do it for God’s sake. — St. John Chrysostom, quoted in [Confronting Poverty and Stigmatization: An Orthodox Perspective].

“Those who cannot see the face of Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.” – Dorothy Day [source]

“So by looking at fasting and our relationship to food, we may get a sense of what it is like for most of the world’s population; it also moves us towards doing some things about hunger. Seeing things as they are includes coming to terms with the suffering of our neighbors. Because if we spend less on our stomachs, if we slow down our lifestyles to support a lighter diet, then we have more time to spend on helping our neighbor, both with our time and with our financial resources. I want to stress that the best way to give, is to give of ourselves. As Orthodox we believe in the inherent value of persons. I liked what Father said a couple weeks ago about saying hello to a person on the streets. So often we avert our eyes, we get scared. After all, “He might push me beyond my comfort zone.” “He may ask me for something.” “She may want something I don’t want to give.” “What if I get embarrassed?” “Is that person really poor?” “What if he hurts me?” Seeing the face of Christ in the poor takes time; it’s a gift—but it’s also a muscle that develops through the ins and outs of service.” – [source]

A landed peasant called Nalga saw [St. Walstan] and, in need of a labourer, offered Walstan work. The latter agreed. Walstan soon gained a reputation for hard work and piety and also developed an affinity with the poor and was charitable in the extreme, giving both his food and clothing to those less fortunate than himself. Often he would carry out his work barefoot, having given away even his shoes. Nalga’s wife, seeing him thus, once gave him new shoes and extra food. Within a short time Walstan had given all away to two passing beggars, one of them barefoot. When Nalga and his wife heard this, they were angry with him, but Walstan answered that the men had been sent providentially by God to find out whether he, Walstan, loved God more than himself: ‘I shod Christ in the poor man’, he said. The wife sneered at this and ordered Walstan to take a cart to the forest to fetch a load of briars, treading the thorns well down with his unshod feet. Miraculously, Walstan appeared to be treading on rose leaves and the thorns, as soft as petals ever were, gave out a sweet fragrance. Seeing this, Nalga and his wife fell at Walstan’s feet and begged forgiveness. Thus did Walstan ‘forsake all’ to be the Lord’s disciple and win ‘a crown of thorns’. -[source]


Christ became an orphan for our sakes: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”, “Lord, Lord, why has Thou forsaken me?” – from [here]

What ascesis means for alms

“The bodies of fellow human beings must be treated with greater care than our own. Christian love teaches us to give our brethren not only spiritual gifts, but material gifts as well. Even our last shirt, our last piece of bread must be given to them. Personal almsgiving and the most wide-ranging social work are equally justifiable and necessary. The way to God lies through love of other people and there is no other way. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked if I was successful in my ascetic exercises or how many prostrations I made in the course of my prayers. I shall be asked, did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners: that is all I shall be asked.” – Saint Maria Skobtsova of Paris [source]

Let there be no dichotomy

“Do you wish to honor the Body of the Savior? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold. He who said, “This is my body,” and made it so by his word, is the same that said, “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.” Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls.”

–St. John Chrysostom / “On the Gospel of St. Matthew”, 50, iii (PG 58, 508) [source]

The Sermon that Recapitulates the Entire Gospel

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” – Christ, The Olivet Discourse (Another Sermon on the Mount)

Comment: Who is the hungry? It is all those who want for anything, tangible or intangible. Christ is the hungry, who persevered in fasts for 40 days. Who is the thirsty? It is all those whose bodies are deprived of water, impeding their salvation, and who are deprived of the Spirit, keeping them in slavery, and who are deprived of baptism, keeping them in darkness concerning the Holy Trinity. Christ is the thirsty, who was given bitter gall. Who is the stranger? The stranger is the immigrant, the alien, the foreigner, the ethnic, the non-ethnic, the newcomer, the illegal alien, the person of another culture, even a hostile culture, the deviant, the dissident, the outsider, the antisocial, and the person whom we feel we will never understand. Enemies are strangers. These are days in which it is frequently forgotten that the stranger is Christ, who comes to us as a stranger. He comes to those who are really his own, and we do not know him, even denying him in the world when the cock crows. Who is the naked? The naked are all vulnerable people in the world, and the vulnerable among us. The naked is Christ, for whose clothes we drew lots. Who are the sick? The sick are all of us, because we are all sick with the affliction of Death, the source of all sickness. Christ became sickness for us, became sin, taking our infirmity that we might be healed. Who is the prisoner? The prisoner is the person kept in physical bondage, kidnapped, traded as a slave, captured as enemies and imprisoned for interrogation, tortured, jailed for crimes – the prisoner is the guilty as well as the innocent. The prisoner is all those kept in emotional or physical bondage by the wielders of power, control, and wealth. The prisoner is the one deprived of the means of freedom. The prisoner is the one who lifts up his eyes in Hell or Hellish existence. The prisoner is every one of us who in any way yields to the passions; we are the wrongly imprisoned, on a self-imposed sentence, and we too are in need of mercy. The prisoner is Christ, taken in chains to Golgotha, tortured, mistreated, unjustly convicted, and sentenced to death at the hands of civil and religious authorities. All these, the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, prisoner, and us, and Christ, are “the poor”. But “blessed are the poor in spirit,” those who “consider themselves inferior to all.” As the fathers say, “there is only one sin, that of despising anyone.” or as Christ put it, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Christ’s sermon then shows us the Passion, and also the gifts of the Spirit, telling the whole gospel. And it is actually a full explication of the answer to that pressing question: ‘How should we then live?’ – DD