Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17
“Brother Troilus,” said the blessed patriarch [John the Almsgiver], “love and honor these brothers of Christ.”
Now someone had told him that Troilus’ house servant was carrying thirty pounds of gold with him in order to buy a sort of anaglyphus to grace his table with. Fearing that John was about to preach a sermon at him, with a marked lack of enthusiasm he ordered his servant carrying the gold to give some of it to each of the poor. The whole amount of it quickly vanished.
The patriarch and bishop Troilus, the unwilling almsgiver (as I call him), both went their several ways home. Troilus felt very bitter, with all kinds of perilous thoughts rushing through his mind because of the money he had given away. The love of money which had engendered harshness and negligence in him finally caught up with him and made him shake all over, so that he became unnaturally feverish, and unwillingly took to his bed.
Now the most holy patriarch sent his servant to Troilus to bid him come to a meal, but Troilus refused, saying that for some reason he was suffering from a shivering sort of fever. The patriarch knew at once that the unwilling almsgiver’s fever had been caused by the sudden disappearance of his money. For, as we have said, he loved his money and had no sense of compassion for others. The blessed man could not allow himself to sit at ease at his table while Troilus was languishing on his bed, so he went to see him straight away.
“Don’t worry, Troilus, my son,” he said humbly and with a cheerful face. “Did you really think that I would have expected you to give to the brothers in that way? Believe me, I was only joking. I had in fact wanted to give each of them a numismatum for them to celebrate the holy feast day, but my purseholder did not have enough money with him, so you kindly lent me the money. See, I am bringing you back the thirty pounds now.”
When Troilus actually saw the money in the honored hand of this wise doctor and pastor, his fever suddenly left him and strength and warmth returned to his body, so that it was quite obvious what had caused the change that had come over him. Without hesitation he took the money from the venerable patriarch’s hands, and the patriarch asked him in return for a receipt, disclaiming any reward that might be due for having given the thirty pounds. Troilus quite happily agreed to this, and in his own hand he wrote as follows:
“O God, I have received back my own money. Ascribe the reward due for the almsgiving of the thirty pounds to the account of my lord John, the most blessed patriarch of this great city of Alexandria.”
The holy man took this receipt and betook both himself and Troilus back to dinner, for as we have said, he was now completely well.
But God, the giver of rewards, decided to reproach him, and awaken in him some compassion and sympathy with the idea of almsgiving. So after his dinner with the patriarch, God showed him that night in a dream how he had been deprived of his reward. He saw a building whose magnificence and beauty no human art could possibly devise, with a doorway all of gold, and across the doorway a scroll, saying THE ETERNAL MANSION AND RESTING PLACE OF BISHOP TROILUS.
“I was overjoyed,” he told us later, “when I read this, to think that someone had provided such a sumptuous house for me. But I had hardly finished reading this superscription before a royal bedroom-attendant came along with other servants to the doorway of this gleaming house and said: ‘Take that superscription down. Change it and put it back according to the orders of the ruler of the world.’
“And as I looked on, they brought a new scroll and fixed it on: THE ETERNAL MANSION AND RESTING PLACE OF JOHN, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA, BOUGHT FOR THIRTY POUNDS. I awoke immediately, and went to the great high pastor to tell him what I had seen”
And from that time onwards Bishop Troilus became a most magnificent almsgiver.”
“The Story of Bishop Troilus and John the Almsgiver” in The Life of St. John the Almsgiver by Leontius, Bishop of Neapolis in Cyprus, translated by Athanasius, his librarian, Book 1b, Chapter XXVI.
The power of the story is that Brother Troilus went from being the unwilling almsgiver to becoming a most magnificent almsgiver. What about you?
Will it take a dream in your sleep to be awakened from your own unwillingness? What if you imagine your eternal mansion and resting place?
As the week draws to a close, take inventory of what you have. Take time to think about the eternal implications of your stewardship. Determine what you want your almsgiving to look like.
Most importantly, realize that heaven is watching. Will you be an unwilling almsgiver or a magnificent one? There are eternal implications to your decision.