Lending to God

by Scott D. Hendricks

Whoever has mercy upon the poor lends to God. Let us lend to God almsgiving so we may receive from Him clemency in exchange. Oh, how wise is this statement! “Whoever has mercy upon the poor lends to God.” Why did he not say, “Whoever has mercy upon the poor gives to God” instead of “lends”? Scripture recognizes our greediness; it understood that our insatiate desire, which looks longingly toward greediness, asks for an excess. This is why it did not say simply, “Whoever has mercy upon the poor gives to God,” so you may not think that the recompense will be customary; rather, it said, “Whoever has mercy upon the poor lends to God.” Since God borrows from us, then, He is our debtor. How do you want to have Him, as a judge or debtor? The debtor is ashamed before his lender; the judge does not put to shame the one who borrows.

However, it is necessary to examine in another way why God said, “Whoever gives to the poor lends to me.” For He knows how our greediness is inclined toward excessiveness, just as I said before, and that no one among those who have money wants to lend without insurance, because the lender demands either mortgages, or pawns, or guarantees, and entrusts his money only to these three insured instances: to a guarantor, as I said, or to a mortgager, or to a pawnbroker. Therefore, since God knows that without these no one lends, or looks to beneficence, but rather sees only the profit; but the poor man is destitute of all these; he neither has a mortgage (since he procures nothing for himself), nor offers pledges (since he is naked), nor provides a guarantor (since, due to his poverty, no one trusts him); therefore, when God realized that the poor man is endangered by his indigence, and indeed that the rich man is endangered by his inhumanity, He Himself entered in between them, like a guarantor to the poor man and as a pawnbroker to the lender. “You disbelieve him,” He says, “due to his poverty, believe in me for my abundance.” He saw the poor man and had mercy upon him. He saw the poor man and did not disregard him; rather, He gave Himself as a pledge to the one who had nothing, and He stood next to the needy and helpless out of His abundant goodness; and the blessed David verifies this philanthropy, saying, “For, He stood on the right hand of the poor.” “He who has mercy on a poor man lends to God.” “Have courage,” He says, “lend to me.”

~ St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom, On Repentance and Almsgiving, translated by Gus George Christo (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), 105-106.