Give to Those Who Don't Deserve

This morning, the sermon at church was on the story about the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida. The sermon was excellent, but led a different direction than I expected. The focus was on the man healed, his response, and whether he deserved the healing. The man never offered thanks to Jesus, never concerned himself with Jesus' identity, and the account finishes with with him apparently accusing Jesus before the religious authorities.

How many times is it easy to question the need of those who ask for our charity and assistance? The conclusion is that none of us deserve the gifts of God, it is all mercy. So we should hold no judgment of those we call to help.

St. John Chrysostom's 21st homily on 1 Corinthians was quoted for support and it is excellent and convicting. The portions of the sermon that address this issue of giving and judging are found beginning in section 8 and continuing to the end. The full text of St. John's sermon can be found here:

Here are a couple excerpts:

And whereas Paul suffered hunger that he might not hinder the Gospel; we have not the heart even to touch what is in our own stores, though we see innumerable souls overthrown. “Yea” saith one, “let the moth eat, and let not the poor eat; let the worm devour, and let not the naked be clothed; let all be wasted away with time, and let not Christ be fed; and this when He hungereth.” “Why, who said this?” it will be asked. Nay, this is the very grievance, that not in words but in deeds these things are said: for it were less grievous uttered in words than done in deeds. For is not this the cry, day by day, of the inhuman and cruel tyrant, Covetousness, to
those who are led captive by her? “Let your goods be set before informers and robbers and traitors for luxury, and not before the hungry and needy for their sustenance.” Is it not ye then who make robbers? Is it not ye who minister fuel to the fire of the envious? Is it not ye who make vagabonds and traitors, putting your wealth before them for a bait? What madness is this? (for a madness it is, and plain distraction,) to fill your chests with apparel, and overlook him that is made after God’s image and similitude, naked and trembling with cold, and with difficulty keeping himself upright.

And the next reminds us to personally participate in charity rather than solely using the institution of the Church as a proxy for our almsgiving. The laity are to do the work of the ministry while the clergy are their to assist and equip.

But what is their constant talk? “He hath,” they say, “the common church-allowance.” And what is that to thee? For thou wilt not be saved because I give; nor if the Church bestow hast thou blotted out thine own sins. For this cause givest thou not, because the Church ought to give to the needy? Because the priests pray, wilt thou never pray thyself? And because others fast, wilt thou be continually drunken? Knowest thou not that God enacted not almsgiving so much for the sake of the poor as for the sake of the persons themselves who bestow?
The whole sermon reminded me of popular radio host, Dave Ramsey, and his consistent greeting whenever asked "How are you?". He always answers, "Better than I deserve!"

That's true for all of us. Perhaps gratitude gives birth to generosity?

Read St. John's sermon, and comment below.
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