Orthodox America

  To Give is to Gain

From Homily VI on Titus by Saint John Chrysostom

  .. And at the beginning too, when men sold all their possessions and laid them at the Apostles' feet, the Apostles, you see, were more concerned for them than for those who received their aim s. For if their concern had been that the poor might by any means be relieved, they would not have judged so severely of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, when they kept back their money. Nor would Paul have charged men to give "not grudgingly nor of necessity"(II Cor. 9:7). What are you saying, Paul? Do you discourage giving to the poor? No, he answers; but I consider not their advantage only, but the good of those who give. Don't you see that when the prophet gave that excellent counsel to Nebuchadnezzar, he did not merely consider the poor. For he does not content himself with saying, ‘Give to the poor’, But what? "Break off thy sins by alms deeds, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor" (Dan. 4:27). Part with thy wealth, not that others may be fed, but that you might escape punishment. And Christ again says:

 Go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor...and come and follow Me. (Matt. 19:21)

 Do you see that the commandment was given that he might be persuaded to follow Him? For as riches are an impediment, he therefore commands them to be given to the poor, instructing the soul to be pitiful and merciful, to despise wealth and to flee from covetousness. For he who has learned to give to him that is in need, will in time learn not to receive from those who have to give. This makes men like God. Although virginity and fasting and lying on the ground are more difficult than this, nothing is so strong and powerful to extinguish the fire of our sins as almsgiving. It is greater than all other virtues. It places the lovers of it by the side of the King Himself. And justly so, for the effect of virginity, of fasting, of lying on the ground, is confined to those who practice them, and no other is saved thereby. But almsgiving extends to ail, and embraces the members of Christ; and actions that extend their effects to many are far greater than those which are confined to one.

     For almsgiving is the mother of love, of that love which is the characteristic of Christianity, which is greater than all miracles, by which the disciples of Christ are manifest. It is the medicine of our sins, the cleansing of the filth of our souls, the ladder fixed to heaven; it binds together the body of Christ, Would you learn how excellent a thing it is? In the time of the Apostles, men selling their possessions brought them to them, and they were distributed. For it is said: "Distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" (Acts 4:35).

      Setting aside the future and without considering the kingdom which is to come, let us see who in the present life are the gainers-those who received or those who gave. The former murmured and quarreled with each other. The latter had one soul. "They were of one heart, and of one soul," it is said, "and grace was upon them ail" (Acts 4:32). And they lived in great simplicity. Do you see that they were gainers even by giving? Tell me now, with whom would you wish to be numbered; with those who gave away their possessions and had nothing, or with those who received even the goods of others?

     See the fruit of almsgiving; the separations and hindrances were removed, and immediately their souls were knit together.

"They were all of one heart and of one soul." So that even setting aside almsgiving, the parting with riches is attended with gain. I have said these things in order that those who have not succeeded to an inheritance from their forefathers may not be cast down, as if they had less than those who are wealthy. For if they please they have more. For they will more readily incline to alms giving, like the widow, and they will have no occasion for enmity towards their neighbor, and they will enjoy freedom in every respect. Such a one cannot be threatened with the confiscation of his goods, and he is superior to all wrongs. As those who fly unencumbered with clothes are not easily caught, but they who are encumbered with many garments and a long train are soon overtaken, so it is with the rich man and the poor. The one, though he be taken, will easily make his escape, while the other, though he be not detained, is encumbered by cords of his own, by numerous cares, distresses, passions, provocations, all of which overwhelm the soul. And not these alone, but many other things which riches draw after them. It is much more difficult for a rich man to be moderate and to live frugally, then for the poor, more difficult for him to be free from passion. Then he, you say, will have the greater reward. --By no means. --Not even if he overcomes greater difficulties? --But these difficulties were of his own seeking. For we are not commanded to become rich, but the reverse.