John Chrysostom: Give Gladly

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Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

“It is not enough to help the poor. We must help them with generosity and without grumbling. And it is not enough to help them without grumbling. We must help them gladly and happily. When the poor are helped there ought to be these two conditions: generosity and joy.

Why do you complain of giving something to the poor? Why do you display bad temper in the practice of almsgiving? If they see you in that frame of mind, the poor would prefer to refuse your gift. If you give with a brusque demeanor, you are not being generous but lacking gentleness and courtesy. If your face reveals a feeling a of hostility, you cannot bring comfort to your brother or sister who is living in the midst of hostility.

Afterwards, you will be happy to see that they do not feel ashamed or humiliated just because you have helped them joyfully. Nothing actually causes shame so much as having to receive something from someone else.

By showing great joyfulness you will succeed in enabling your brother or sister to overcome their sensitivity. They will understand that in your opinion receiving is just as beautiful as giving.

By showing a bad temper, on the other hand, far from cheering them up you will be depressing them even further.

If you give gladly, even if you give only a little, it is a big gift. If you give unwillingly, even if you give a big gift, you turn it into a small one.”

John Chyrsostom in On the Letter to the Romans 21 (PG60, 603) in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, ed. by Thomas Spidlik (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1994) 302.

The world looks at how much we give. More is better. Scriptures teach us that God looks at what we don’t give and what that says about our hearts and where we place our trust.

Likewise, how we give, with glad hearts, matters more to God than the size of our gifts. And without cheerful hearts, whatever we do give appears to be spoiled.

So how does this relate to your compassionate generosity and mine? Let us sit with the Holy Spirit to discern if there be any bad temper or brusque demeanor in our giving. God, please root that out.

Let’s replace such hostility with hope. This requires us to slow down and add empathy to our giving. It’s a good lesson for me. Perhaps you too. Jesus, cause our giving to look like yours: glad.