What follows here is a quotation of a part of a sermon that John Chrysostom, perhaps the greatest preacher of the early church gave on a portion of Hebrews and Mt. 5.2.

“‘Give to him who begs from you and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.’ Stretch out your hand; let it not be closed up. We have not been constituted examiners into others’ lives, for then we should have compassion on no one. When you call upon Gold, why do you say, ‘Remember not my sins?’ So, even if that person is a great sinner, make this allowance in his case also, and do not remember his sins. It is a season of kindness, not of strict enquiry; of mercy, not of account” Err on the side of compassion, not caution.

“The frost is hard, and the poor man is cast out in rags, well-nigh dead, with his teeth chattering. Both by his looks and his air you should be moved. And yet, you pass by, warm and full of drink. How do you expect that God should deliver you when in misfortune? And often you will say to yourself, ‘If I had found one that had done many wrong things, I would have forgiven him, so won’t God forgive me?’ Do not say this. You neglect the one who has done you no wrong, yet you would be able to help. How will he forgive you when you are sinning against him?”

“And it does not even stop here. Immediately accusations are brought against the suppliant. For why does he not work, you say? And why is he to be maintained in idleness? But, tell me, is it by working that you have what you have? Did you not receive it as an inheritance from your fathers? And even if you work, is this a reason why you should reproach another? Do you not hear what Paul says? For after saying ‘If anyone will not work, let him not eat,’ he says ‘Do not be weary in well doing.’ But what do they say? He is an impostor. What do you say, o man? Do you call him an impostor for the sake of a single loaf of bread or a garment? But you say, ‘He will sell it immediately.’ And do you manage all your affairs well? But what? Are all poor through idleness? Is no one so from calamity or shipwreck? None from lawsuits? None from being robbed? None from dangers? None from illness? None from other difficulties? If however we hear anyone bewailing such evils and crying out loud and looking up naked toward heaven, with long hair and clad in rags, at once we call him ‘The impostor! That deceiver! The swindler!’ Are you not ashamed? Whom do you call impostor? Do you accuse the man or give him a hard time? But you say ‘he has means and pretends’. This is a charge against yourself, not against him. He knows he has to deal with the cruel, with wild beasts rather than rational persons. He knows that even if he tells his pitable story, no one pays any attention. And on this account he is forced to assume an even more miserable guise, that he may melt your heart. If we see a person coming to beg in a respectable dress, ‘This is an impostor’ you say, ‘and he comes in this way that he may be supposed to be of good birth.’ If we see one in the contrary apparel, we reproach him too. What then are they to do. Oh the cruelty, oh the inhumanity! And why, you say, ‘do they expose their maimed limbs?’ Do you not see it is because of you? If we were truly compassionate, they would have no need of these artifices. If they persuaded us at the first appeal, they would not have contrived thesed devices. Who is there so wretched as to be willing to behave in an unseemly way, as to be willing to make public lamentations, with his wife destitute of clothing, with his children, to sprinkle ashes on himself? How much worse than poverty are these things?” Surely the lose of all personal dignity is more humilitating than poverty.

John Chrysostom– Homily on Hebrews 11.7-9.

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