Almsgiving

by Scott D. Hendricks

Almsgiving is a great thing. For this reason Solomon exclaimed, “Man is great, and a merciful man is precious.” Almsgiving’s wings are great. She cleaves the air, surpasses the moon, and goes beyond the sun’s rays. She rises up to the very vaults of the heavens. She does not stop there; rather, she surmounts heaven and overtakes the multitudes of angels, the choirs of archangels, and all the higher powers, and she stands next to the royal throne. And you shall be taught from this very Scripture that says, “Cornelius, your prayers and your alms have ascended before God.” “Before God” means that even if you have many sins, you should not be afraid if you possess almsgiving as your advocate. For no higher power opposes it. She pays the debt demanded by sin. She has her own bill of sale that she holds in her hands. For it is the Lord’s own voice that says, “As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” Therefore, regardless of how many other sins you have, your almsgiving counterbalances all of them.

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Heaven is a business and an enterprise, and we are negligent. Give bread and seize paradise. Give small things and grasp great ones. Give mortal things and take hold of immortal ones. Give corruptible things and capture incorruptible ones. If there were a festival that had a fair price and abundant provisions, where many items were sold cheaply, would you not have sold your properties publicly and put everything aside to obtain securely that merchandise? When it concerns corruptible things, you show such readiness; when the merchandise is immortal, however, why do you show so much indolence and faintheartedness?

Give to the poor, so that even if you keep silent (and thousands upon thousands of mouths defend you) almsgiving will take your side and plead on your behalf. Almsgiving is the salvation of the soul. For this reason, just as wash basins are found before the church’s doors filled with water so that you may wash your hands, the poor sit outside of the church so you may wash the hands of your soul. Have you washed  your physical hands with water? Wash the hands of your soul with almsgiving.

~ St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom, On Repentance and Almsgiving, translated by Gus George Christo (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), 30-33.