But see the baseness of the Jews. He had wrought so many miracles, and never were they thus amazed at Him; but when they saw a multitude running together, then they marvel. For all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? But the multitudes said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And when they thought they were saying something great, even then were their thoughts earthly, and low, and dragging on the ground.
But these things He did, not as displaying any pomp, but at once, as I have said, both fulfilling a prophecy, and teaching self-denial, and at the same time also comforting His disciples, who were grieving for His death, and showing them that He suffers all these things willingly. And mark thou, I pray you, the accuracy of the prophet, how he foretold all things. And some things David, some things Zechariah, had proclaimed beforehand. Let us also do likewise, and let us sing hymns, and give up our garments to them that bear Him. For what should we deserve, when some clothe the ass on which He was set, and others strew the garments even under her feet; but we, seeing him naked, and not being even commanded to strip ourselves, but to spend of what is laid by, not even so are liberal? And when they indeed attend upon Him before and behind, but we, when He comes unto us, send Him away, and thrust Him off and insult Him.
How sore a punishment do these things deserve, how great vengeance! Your Lord comes unto you in need, and you are not willing so much as to listen to His entreaty, but you blame and rebukest Him, and this, when you have heard such words as these. But if in giving one loaf, and a little money, you are so mean, and haughty, and backward; if you had to empty out all, what would you become?
Do you see not those that show their magnificence in the theatre, how much they give away to the harlots? But you give not so much as the half, nay often not the smallest part. But the devil is exhorting to give to whom it may chance, procuring us hell, and you give; but Christ to the needy, promising a kingdom, and thou, far from giving, dost rather insult them, and you choose rather to obey the devil, that you might be punished, than to submit to Christ, and be saved.
And what could be worse than this frenzy? One procures hell, the other a kingdom, and you leave the latter, and run unto the former. And this ye send away, when He comes unto you, that when he is far off, you call unto you. And what you do is the same as if a king bearing a royal robe, and offering a diadem, did not win your choice, but a robber brandishing a sword at you, and threatening death, were to win it.
Considering these things then, beloved, let us discern the truth at length though late, and let us grow sober. For I am now ashamed of speaking of almsgiving, because that having often spoken on this subject, I have effected nothing worth the exhortation. For some increase indeed has there been, but not so much as I wished. For I see you sowing, but not with a liberal hand. Wherefore I fear too lest ye also reap sparingly. 2 Corinthians 9:6
For in proof that we do sow sparingly, let us inquire, if it seem good, which are more numerous in the city, poor or rich; and which they, who are neither poor nor rich, but have a middle place. As, for instance, a tenth part is of rich, and a tenth of the poor that have nothing at all, and the rest of the middle sort.
Let us distribute then among the poor the whole multitude of the city, and you will see the disgrace how great it is. For the very rich indeed are but few, but those that come next to them are many; again, the poor are much fewer than these. Nevertheless, although there are so many that are able to feed the hungry, many go to sleep in their hunger, not because those that have are not able with ease to succor them, but because of their great barbarity and inhumanity. For if both the wealthy, and those next to them, were to distribute among themselves those who are in need of bread and raiment, scarcely would one poor person fall to the share of fifty men or even a hundred. Yet nevertheless, though in such great abundance of persons to assist them, they are wailing every day. And that you may learn the inhumanity of the others, when the church is possessed of a revenue of one of the lowest among the wealthy, and not of the very rich, consider how many widows it succors every day, how many virgins; for indeed the list of them has already reached unto the number of three thousand. Together with these, she succors them that dwell in the prison, the sick in the caravansera, the healthy, those that are absent from their home, those that are maimed in their bodies, those that wait upon the altar; and with respect to food and raiment, them that casually come every day; and her substance is in no respect diminished. So that if ten men only were thus willing to spend, there would be no poor.
And what, it will be said, are our children to inherit? The principal remains, and the income again has become more abundant, the goods being stored up for them in Heaven.
But are you not willing to do this? At least do it by the half, at least by the third part, at least by the fourth part, at least by the tenth. For owing to God's favor, it were possible for our city to nourish the poor of ten cities.
And if you will, let us make some calculation in proof of this; or rather there is no need so much as of reckoning; for of itself the easiness of the thing is discernible. See at least, upon public occasions, how much one house has often not been backward to spend, and has not had so much as a little feeling of the expense, which service if each of the rich were willing to perform for the poor, in a brief moment of time he would have seized on Heaven.
What plea then will there be? What shadow of defense, when not even of the things from which we must assuredly be separated, when taken away from hence, not even of these do we impart to the needy with as much liberality as others to those on the stage, and this when we are to reap so many benefits therefrom? For we ought indeed, even though we were always to be here, not even so to be sparing of this good expenditure; but when after a little time, we are to be removed from hence, and dragged away naked from all, what kind of defense shall we have for not even out of our income giving to the hungry and distressed?
For neither do I constrain you to lessen your possessions, not because I do not wish it, but because I see you very backward. It is not then this I say, but spend of your fruits, and treasure up nothing from these. It is enough for you to have the money of your income pouring in on you as from a fountain; make the poor sharers with you, and become a good steward of the things given you of God.
But I pay tribute, one may say. For this cause then do you despise, because in this case no one demands it of you? And the other, who, should the earth bear, or should it not bear, takes by force, and extorts, you dare not gainsay; but Him that is so mild, and then only demands, when the earth bears, you answer not even to a word? And who will deliver you from those intolerable punishments? There is no one. For if, because in the other case a very sore punishment will ensue to you for not giving, therefore you become diligent about the payment, consider here too is one more sore; not to be bound, neither to be cast into prison, but to depart into the eternal fire.
For all reasons then let us pay these tributes first: for great is the facility, and greater the reward; and more abundant the gain, and worse the punishments to us if we are obstinate. For a punishment comes upon us, which has no end.
But if you tell me of the soldier's fighting for you with the barbarians, there is here too a camp, that of the poor, and a war, which the poor are waging for you. For when they receive, by praying they make God propitious; and making Him propitious, they repulse, instead of barbarians, the assaults of the devils; they suffer not the evil one to be violent, neither to attack us continually, but they relax his might.
Seeing therefore these soldiers every day fighting in your behalf with the devil by their supplications and prayers, demand of yourself this good contribution, their nourishment. For this King being mild has not assigned you any to demand it of you, but desires you should give it willingly; though thou pay little by little, He receives it; though being in difficulty, you should pay after a long time, He does not press him that has not.
Let us not then despise His long-suffering; let us treasure up for ourselves, not wrath, but salvation; not death, but life; not punishment and vengeance, but honors and crowns. There is no need in this case to pay a hire for the conveyance of the things contributed; there is no need in this case to labor in turning them into money. If you give them up, the Lord Himself removes them into Heaven; He Himself makes the traffic the more gainful for you.
There is no need here to find one to carry in what you have contributed; contribute only, and straightway it goes up, not that others may be maintained as soldiers, but that it may remain for you with great profit. For here whatsoever you may have given, it is not possible to recover; but there you will receive them again with much honor, and shall gain greater, and more spiritual gains. Here the gifts are a demand; there a loan, and money at interest, and a debt.
Yea farther, God has given you bonds. For he that shows mercy to a poor man, it is said, lends to the Lord. Proverbs 19:17 He gave you also an earnest, and bail, and this being God! What sort of earnest? The things in the present life, the visible, the spiritual things, the foretaste of the things to come.
Why then do you delay, and why are you backward, having received so many things already, looking for so many things?
For what you have received are these: He Himself made you a body, He Himself put in you a soul, He honored with speech you alone of the things on the earth, He gave you the use of all the things that are seen, He bestowed on you the knowledge of Himself, He gave up His Son for you, He gave you a baptism full of so many good things, He gave you a holy table, He promised a kingdom, and the good things that cannot be told.
Having then received so many good things, having to receive so many, again I say the same thing, are you making petty reckoning about perishing riches, and what excuse will you have?
But are you looking altogether at your children? And dost draw back for the sake of these? Nay, rather teach them also to gain such gains. For if you had money lent out and bearing interest, and you had a grateful debtor, you would ten thousand times rather choose instead of the gold to leave the bond to your child, so that he should have the large income from it, and not be constrained to go about, and seek for others to borrow it.
And now give this bond to your children, and leave God a debtor to them. Thou dost not sell your lands, and give to your children, but leavest them, that the income may remain, and that they may have a greater increase of riches from thence; but this bond, which is more productive than any land or revenue, and bears so many fruits, this are you afraid to leave to them? What great folly must this be, and frenzy. And this when you know, that though you should leave it to them, you yourself also shall again take it away with you.
Of this nature are the things spiritual; they have great munificence. Let us not then be beggarly; neither be inhuman and savage towards ourselves, but let us traffic in that good merchandise; that we may both ourselves take it away with us when we depart, and leave it to our own children, and attain to the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.