Bridget of Sweden: Three kinds of people

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Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

“My friends can give aid to three kinds of people. First, to the damned; second, to sinners, that is, to those who fall into sins and get up again; third, to the good who stand firm. But you may ask: ‘How can a person give aid to the damned, seeing that they are unworthy of grace and it is impossible for them to return to grace?’ Let me answer you by way of a simile.

It is as though there were countless holes at the bottom of a certain precipice and anyone falling into them would necessarily sink to the depths. However, if someone were to block up one of the holes, the person falling would not sink down as deeply as if no hole had been blocked up. This is what happens to the damned. Although by reason of my justice and their own hardened malice they have to be condemned at a definite and foreknown time, still their punishment will be lighter if they are held back by others from doing certain evils and instead urged to do something good. That is how I am merciful even toward the damned. Although mercy pleads for leniency, justice and their own wickedness countermand it.

In the second place, they can give aid to those who fall down but get back up again by teaching them how to get up, by making them take care not to fall, and by instructing them how to improve and to resist their passions.

In the third place, they can be of benefit to the righteous and perfect. Do not they themselves fall as well? Of course they do, but it is for their greater glory and the devil’s shame. Just as a soldier lightly wounded in battle gets all the more stirred up because of his wound and becomes that much keener for battle, so too the diabolical temptation of adversity stirs up my chosen ones all the more for the spiritual struggle and for humility, and they make all the more fervent progress toward winning the crown of glory.”

Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) in The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden, 2:14.

In this classic work from Bridget, she gives us insightful guidance on our giving to three kinds of people.

First, she encouraged giving to the damned, she uses the word picture of blocking up a hole so people don’t sink to the depths. It’s merciful giving. Trying to save people from destruction.

Second, she advised giving to those who fall down in order to teach them how to get back up again. This again requires grace and mercy and kindness to help orient the disoriented.

Third, she urges giving to those that are on the right and mature path. This brings into view people in ministry that may be making a difference in the large spiritual battle of life.

So as you think about your giving, how would it rate? Do you support work that stops up holes so the damned don’t sink to the depths? Do you support sinners to get back up, and the good who stand firm.

If we look in the mirror, we realize that we were once in group one, then maybe moved to group two, and hopefully we have all transitioned to group three. Regardless, give to others as you would have them give to you.