On Almsgiving

11/27/2018 Meditation on Matthew 25

Here we see the ten virgins with their lamps. Of them, five had prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom, bringing with them ample amounts of oil, while the other five had brought just enough to last until the time that the Bridegroom was supposed to return. This serves to complete the Lord’s teaching on watchfulness, versus trying to figure out the exact time of His return, the exact schedule of the end-times. The word for oil, “elaion” and the word for mercy, “eleison,” each have the same root in the Greek. Thus, we see in this that the oil represents mercy, charity, almsgiving. What we see are the five spending their time practicing these virtues in abundance, whilst the other five try to measure exactly how much they need to do to be prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom, the “bare minimum” necessary to be a part of the wedding party. Thus, when the coming of the Bridegroom wasn’t exactly according to their plan, they came up short and missed the return of the Bridegroom.

This is a beautiful image and a grace warning at the same time. When we live our lives according to the commands of the Lord, when we overflow with this mercy, with this compassion, with this love for mankind; then when the Lord returns we will be welcomed with open arms into the Kingdom. However, when we seek this “bare minimum” approach, this approach of “what’s the least that I can do and still be allowed entrance,” we will always fall short of the glory of God. It is the wise who order their lives in obedience to the commands of the Lord, while the foolish seek their own desires and goals and then give the rest out of their abundance. In the Parable of the widow’s mite, we see a widow who gives two coins, all that she has, and her offering is more pleasing to Jesus than the wealthy who, though they gave larger amounts, gave out of their abundance. For a man with a million dollars to give five thousand is a minimal sacrifice, but for the man with six thousand to give five thousand is a huge sacrifice. A child may only give a dollar, but there is a good chance that child has only a dollar to give; thus that sacrifice would be more meaningful to the Lord than a millionaire who gives thousands.

We must always be good stewards of those things which the Lord has given us to be responsible for. The money that we safeguard belongs to the poor; the clothing which we keep stored in a closet belongs to the naked; the bread which we keep in our kitchen belongs to the hungry. When we horde these things, they do no good to anyone; they are the talent that the man buried in the ground for safe keeping. The tax-collectors take the money; the moths consume the clothing, the bread molds; while all throughout the world millions are still poor, naked, and unfed.

Each of us was formed in the image and likeness of God. Each of us is an icon of Christ walking on this earth. We must pray to see this icon not merely in other Christians, not merely in Church, but in every person that we meet each day. When we refuse to give to a homeless man, we refuse Christ; when we refuse to feed a hungry man, we refuse Christ; when we refuse to visit the sick, the elderly, the prisoner, we refuse Christ. Jesus tells us this very thing in this passage, “I say to you, whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to Me.” John Chrysostom teaches us that “If you can’t find Jesus in the beggar outside the church gates, neither will you find Him in the chalice.”

To those whose lives are filled with charity, with almsgiving, with this mercy, Jesus says, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. For I was hungry and you fed Me; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” To those whose lives are filled with their own pursuits, to those who disregarded the needful, to those whose lives were never filled with this love and compassion, He says, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me, and and in prison and you did not visit Me…inasmuch as you did not do to the least of these, you did not do to Me.”

May our lives be always characterized by this giving, by this mercy; by the same mercy that we ask the Lord for each day of our lives for ourselves. Let us give, love, care for each, from the least to the greatest, and may we all see Christ Himself in each person; remembering that whatever we do or don’t do to one created in the image of God, we do or don’t do for God Himself.

May the peace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved brothers and sisters.

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