Chrysostom’s fiery preaching on the poor (for those who don’t know Jack about John)

Mosaic in the northern tympanon depicting Sain...

John Chrysostom

This is a talk I put together from a number of sources for HS890: Resources for Radical Living, a Bethel Seminary DMin course, Jan 2011 [Key to sources provided at end of article]

SCHM:   “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”: (Matthew 25:35-36). These words of Christ, along with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the almsgiving practiced in many Hebrew synagogues, and the Old Testament precedent allowing the poor to glean fields, all made a profound impression on the minds of the early Christians, and they diligently sought to emulate these practices. (125)

SCHM:   Tertullian (d. ca. 220), the Latin church father in northern Africa, informs us that the early Christians had a common fund to which they gave voluntarily, without any compulsion, on a given day of the month or whenever they wished to contribute (Apology 39). This fund supported widows, [126] the physically disabled, needy orphans, the sick, prisoners incarcerated for their Christian faith, and teachers requiring help; it provided burials for poor people and sometimes funds for the release of slaves. [Here are Tertullian’s exact words (from one of the Christian History Money issues: “Even if there is a chest of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in entrance-fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest coin—or whenever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering. You might call them the trust funds of piety. For they are not spent upon banquets nor drinking-parties nor thankless eating-houses; but to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old and shipwrecked mariners; and any who may be in mines, islands, or prisons ….”]

SCHM:   Historian W. E. H. Lecky says that every Christian was expected to give one-tenth of his income to charity. How many gave 10 percent is not known, but it is known that they gave generously. (125-6)

SCHM:   Christopher Dawson, speaking of early Christianity, writes: “Every church had its matriculum, or list of persons in receipt of relief, and enormous sums were spent in every kind of charitable work.” (127)

SCHM:   [Unlike the Pagans, who tended to give under the principle of liberalitas, expecting a return, Christians were supposed to give out of caritas, simply by virtue of the need of the recipient. Nor were they supposed to distinguish between types of needy people, even whether they were Christian or Pagan] “The Christians helped and gave to everyone in need. St. Paul’s admonition to the church in Philippi [“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”; Phil. 2:4] made it clear that charity was to be given to all, Christians and pagans alike. A late first-century Christian document, the Didache, urged: “Give to everyone who asks thee, and do not refuse.” Similarly, The Shepherd of Hermas, an early second-century epistle, enjoins all Christians: “Give simply to all without asking doubtfully to whom thou givest, but give to all.” (127)

SCHM:   [To see how radical this sort of thing was, we need to remember what the Roman culture of that era (the church’s first centuries) was like. For the Romans,] “such behavior defied common sense; it was seen as a sign of weakness and was viewed with suspicion. There was nothing to be gained by expending time and energy . . . with people who could not contribute to Roman valor and to the strength of the state. The prevalence of Stoic philosophy also made it disrespectful to associate with the weak, the poor, and the downtrodden. To Christians, however, the individual, regardless of his social or economic status, was valuable because he possessed a soul redeemed by JC. Thus, the differences between Christian and Roman charity in regard to motivation and practice were profound. (127)

SCHM:   [The Roman empire during the first few centuries A.D. was not a good place to be poor.] The Roman “habit of selling young children, . . . the readiness of the poor to enroll themselves as gladiators, and the frequent famines, show how large was the measure of unrelieved distress.” (128) “The Roman philosopher Plautus (254-184 B.C>) argued, “You do a beggar bad service by giving him food and drink; you lose what you give and prolong his life for more misery” (Trinummus 2.338-39). . . . [and yet, the Christians took care of the poor indiscriminately.] Such behavior prompted Emperor Julian the Apostate (who reigned from 361 to 363) to lament: “The impious Galileans . . . relieve both their own poor and ours.” And, he continued, “It is shameful that ours should be so destitute of our assistance” (Epistles of Julian 49).” (129)

SCHM:   [Of course, some individual Pagans did practice acts of charity, but they did not do so out of any established principle of Roman social thought.] Such behavior was not motivated by pagan cultural values or religion, but rather was an exception to them on the part of some individuals. . . . “Pagans had a morality, but Paganism had none.” (128)

Now, about John Chrysostom (c. 349–407) himself.

KRUP:    Anthusa, a pious Christian woman, gave birth to her only son . . . in Antioch, the city where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” Her husband, Secundus, a senior government official, died when she was about 20, leaving her with John and a daughter, both quite young. Shunning remarriage, Anthusa devoted the rest of her life to her children.

KRUP:    John was given the best education available in Antioch, a leading intellectual center of the day. He studied under Libanius, the famous pagan rhetorician. Rhetoric—the practice of public address used in the courts and politics—was the leading science of the era; teachers of rhetoric were the pride of every major city. . . .

KRUP:    John apparently was planning a career in law. But sometime in the years of his formal education, he determined to give himself to the service of God. . . .  Like many in his day, he longed for a time apart from the world to grow closer to God.

ROTH:   “John’s mother Anthusa urged him not to leave her to become a monk as long as she was still living. Perhaps it was after her death that he undertook the ascetic life in one of the loosely-organized communities of hermits which had settled in the hills near Antioch. Under the guidance of an old Syrian monk he spent four years in training for the hermit life, then retired to a more isolated cave to live alone. Within two years his excessive austerity forced him to return to Antioch. Perhaps also his time of contemplation had helped him to find his true vocation, as a pastor and teacher. For the next twenty years, approximately, he served the church of Antioch as reader, deacon, and priest. In his years as reader and deacon he must have come to know the people of the city, as he assisted in liturgical worship, collected and distributed alms, and helped to instruct the catechumens. He knew from experience the sufferings of the poor and the sick, and was struck in contrast by the arrogance of the rich.” (9)

ROTH:   He was ordained into the priesthood in 386 and “assigned . . . to the duty of preaching. . . . He was evidently loved by the people, and his sermons were popular—though never as popular as the theater or the race-course. The congregation often interrupted his preaching with applause, but did not necessarily put his advice into practice. He rebuked people for coming to church only for the beginning of the Liturgy and departing with the catechumens after the sermon . . .” (9)

DYK:  Despite his popularity, John sometimes became discouraged with the seeming deafness of his listeners as they failed to apply the truths he spoke week after week. He once complained, “My work is like that of a man who is trying to clean a piece of ground into which a muddy stream is constantly flowing.”

ROTH:   “John’s priestly service at Anitoch was brought to a sudden end when St NEctarius, the patriarch of Constantinople, died in 397. That was the beginning of John’s unwilling involvement in the politics, ecclesiastical and secular, of the imperial capital, and the beginning of his troubles. He was kidnapped from Antioch, for fear that the people would prevent his removal, and received episcopal consecration in 398. . . . The common people of Constantinople, like the people of Antioch, accepted him. His enemies were the ambitious prelates, courtiers, and the empress Eudoxia. Theophilus the [patriarch] of Alexandria, who had opposed John’s election to the see of Constantinople, bore him a grudge. Eudoxia suspected John of attacking her when he denounced luxury and license. . . .

As he had at Antioch, in Constantinople, with a congregation that included even more rich folks, Chrysostom preached up a storm against VOLZ:    worldliness and the neglect of the poor—preaching that today we call prophetic. For example, in the 90 sermons on the Gospel of Matthew, Chrysostom referred 40 times to almsgiving, 13 times to poverty, more than 30 times to avarice, and almost 20 times to wrongly acquired and wrongly used wealth.

VOLZ:    In one sermon he asks the rich, “You say you have not sinned yourselves. But are you sure you are not benefiting from the previous crimes and thefts of others?”

VOLZ:    Later he says, “When your body is laid in the ground, the memory of your ambition will not be buried with you; for each passerby as he looks at your great house will say, ‘What tears went into the building of that house! How many orphans were left naked by it, how many widows wronged, how many workmen cheated out of their wages?’ Your accusers will pursue you even after you are dead.”

VOLZ:    On another occasion he warned, “I am going to say something terrible, but I must say it: Treat God as you would your slaves. You give them freedom in your will: then free Christ from hunger, want, prison, nakedness!”

He could certainly preach to his people with all the harshness of a desert ascetic, but VOLZ:               he always preached with hope. “Have you sinned?” he added to one sermon on repentance. “As often as you fall down in the marketplace, you pick yourself up again. So too, as often as you sin, repent of your sin. Do not despair. Even if you sin a second time, repent a second time. Do not by indifference lose hope entirely of the good things prepared.

VOLZ:    “Even if you are in extreme old age and have sinned, go in, repent! For here there is a physician’s office, not a courtroom. [The church] is not a place where punishment of sin is exacted, but where the forgiveness of sin is granted. Tell your sin to God alone: ‘Before you alone have I sinned, and I have done what is evil in your sight.’ And your sin will be forgiven you.”

VOLZ:    Sometimes after scolding his hearers, he showed them his pastoral intent:

VOLZ:    “My reproach of you today is severe, but I beg you to pardon it. It is just that my soul is wounded. I do not speak in this way out of enmity but out of care for you. Therefore I will now strike a gentler tone.… I know that your intentions are good and that you realize your mistakes. The realization of the greatness of one’s sin is the first step on the way to virtue.… You must offer assurance that you will not fall into the same sins again.”

John is known today not only for his preaching but for his beautiful liturgical work, which the Orthodox and even the Anglican church uses. VOLZ:               He began his sermons with a prayer that many Christians still pray each Sunday: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ, our Lord.”

WARE:           For him, preaching on Christians’ duty to the poor was simply a part of worship as it should be done. Worship as heaven on earth goes hand in hand with a strong social conscience. “You honor the altar at church, because the body of Christ rests upon it,” he once said, “but those who are themselves the very body of Christ you treat with contempt and you remain indifferent when you see them perishing.” Upon this living altar—which can be seen lying in the streets and the marketplaces, he said—one can also offer a sacrifice to God.

Trouble in Constantinople

KRUP:    Within three years at Constantinople, John [perhaps not surprisingly] found himself in deep trouble.

KRUP:    John’s blend of strengths and weaknesses had been ideally suited to his ministry at Antioch. His enthusiasm for the Christian life, his oratorical skills, and his knowledge of the Scriptures powered his preaching to great heights. Under the tactful, politically skillful leadership of archbishops Meletius and Flavian, the church at Antioch thrived.

KRUP:    In the capital city, however, the situation was more difficult for John. Archbishops controlled vast wealth, lived in palaces, and led thousands of church officials. By Chrysostom’s day, the churches in Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople each had approximately 100,000 members and hundreds of officers of various ranks. The coupling of economic and political power with the church’s spiritual mandate attracted some people into ministry with wrong motives.

KRUP:    John’s preaching against abuses of wealth and power affronted the imperial family and the ruling class. He was not skilled in church politics, and his lifestyle itself was a scandal to them: he lived an ascetic life, used his considerable household budget to care for the poor, and built hospitals. Furthermore, he always ate by himself, refusing to take part in the social life of the capital, which would have given him better relationships with those in power.

GALL: The empress Eudoxia now began to fear John’s power—he may have been the only man in the empire strong enough to oppose her. After John’s sermon on the vices of women (in 401), Eudoxia conspired with Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria to depose John.

Actually, John gave Eudoxia all the ammo she needed by sheltering three radical monks called “the Tall Brothers.”

GALL: This controversy began because Theophilus was famous for grand building projects and infamous for taking money given for the poor and using it to build churches. One day Isidore, a revered priest and Theodosius’s assistant responsible for charitable works, refused to hand over one such donation. Theophilus degraded him from his priestly office and threatened bodily harm.

GALL: Isidore fled to the desert, taking refuge with four monks called the “Tall Brothers.” The Tall Brothers asked Theophilus to restore Isidore; Theophilus responded by jailing one of the monks. The Tall Brothers, in turn, went to the prison and staged a sitdown strike. Theophilus, furious at such maneuvering, accused the monks of following Origenism (only partly true), and convinced the civil authorities to drive them out of Egypt.

GALL: The Tall Brothers and Isidore eventually landed in Constantinople and sought the help of Chrysostom, who gave them hospitality while he researched their cause.

GALL: One day, as Empress Eudoxia rode through the city, the Tall Brothers approached her chariot and asked her to intercede for them. She replied, “Pray for the emperor, for me, for our children, and for the empire. For my part, I shall shortly cause a council to be convened, to which Theophilus shall be summoned.”

GALL: Back in Alexandria, Theophilus no doubt fumed. Years earlier, Constantinople had replaced Alexandria as the “Second City” of Christendom. And when Constantinople’s archbishoporic had become open, Theophilus’s nomination was rejected in favor of Chrysostom. Theophilus had a long-standing grudge against Constantinople and Chrysostom, and now he had to defend himself in Constantinople against a former assistant he counted a traitor!

GALL: Great reverse

GALL: On his way to Constantinople, though, Theophilus persuaded various bishops to come with him, ostensibly to attend a conference to condemn Origenism. Theophilus arrived with a large body of priests and bishops who were either loyal to him or angry with John (for having disciplined them for their lax ways). Rather than be disciplined, Theophilus unilaterally convened his own synod (the so-called “Synod of the Oak”) to condemn John! The charges? Among other things, Origenism.

GALL: GALL: John refused to appear, and he was summarily condemned. Meanwhile, Theophilus’s party won the ear of the emperor, who drove John from the city.

GALL: When the people heard of John’s banishment, riots erupted. Then an earthquake shook the city, damaging the imperial bedroom, which the empress interpreted as divine judgment. Terrified of God’s evident wrath, Eudoxia begged John to return, affirming her regard for him and remembering his baptism of her son., and Theophilus was forced to return to Alexandria.

GALL: [Not long after this first exile by Eudoxia and his return, however] further intrigue (and perhaps an indirect attack on Eudoxia by John in one of his sermons), ended the short truce. John was again sent into exile, where he lived until his death in 407 AD.

A radical sermon

I want to give those of you who skipped over his sermons in the online documents a taste of one of those, so you can get a sense of how radical he was. The Reformation scholar Carter Lindberg has claimed that personal charity was the predominant and indeed only form of the Church’s relationship to the poor from the first to the sixteenth centuries. [Really? What about Chrysostom saying kings needed to learn charity from monks? Is that not political/social? And what about Chrysostom’s sermon calling his congregation back to “Bible communism”? Lindberg needed to stick to his Reformation specialty, I’m afraid.]

But check out the following sermon. Doesn’t this sound more radical than just a call for personal charity?

SERM:           From the Archives: Grace and Blessing
John Chrysostom (347–407)

SERM:            “Golden-tongued” John Chrysostom preached often to his church at Constantinople on the duties of rich Christians to care for the poor. He takes up the theme in this homily, excerpted here, on Acts 4:32–37, challenging his listeners to imagine themselves living as the first Christians had lived, just three-and-a-half centuries earlier.

SERM:            “And great grace,” it says, “was upon them all; for neither was there any among them that lacked.” Grace was among them, since nobody suffered want, that is, since they gave so willingly that no one remained poor. For they did not give a part, keeping another part for themselves; they gave everything in their possession. They did away with inequality and lived in great abundance; and this they did in the most praiseworthy fashion. They did not dare to put their offering into the hands of the needy, nor give it with lofty condescension. but they laid it at the feet of the apostles and made them the masters and distributors of the gifts. What a man needed was then taken from the treasure of the community, not from the private property of individuals. Thereby the givers did not become arrogant.

SERM:            Should we do so much today, we should all live much more happily, rich as well as poor; and the poor would not be more the gainers than the rich. And if you please, let us now for a while depict it in words, and derive at least this pleasure from it, since you have no mind for it in your actions. For at any rate this is evident, even from the facts which took place then, that by selling their possessions they did not come to be in need.

SERM:            Let us imagine things as happening in this way: All give all that they have into a common fund. No one would have to concern himself about it, neither the rich nor the poor. How much money do you think would be collected? I infer—for it cannot be said with certainty—that if every individual contributed all his money, his lands, his estates, his houses (I will not speak of slaves, for the first Christians had none, probably giving them their freedom), then a million pounds of gold would be obtained, and most likely two or three times that amount. Then tell me how many people our city (Constantinople) contains? How many Christians? Will it not come to a hundred thousand? And how many pagans and Jews! How many thousands of pounds of gold would be gathered in! And how many of the poor do we have? I doubt that there are more than 50,000. How much would be required to feed them daily? If they all ate at a common table, the cost could not be very great. What could we not undertake with our huge treasure! Do you believe it could ever be exhausted?

SERM:            And will not the blessing of God pour down on us a thousand-fold richer? Will we not make a heaven on earth? Would not the grace of God be indeed richly poured out?

SERM:            If this turned out so brilliantly for three or five thousand (the first Christians) and none of them was in want, how much more would this be so with such a great quantity? Will not each newcomer add something more? The dispersion of property is the cause of greater expenditure and so of poverty. Consider a household with husband and wife and ten children. She does weaving and he goes to the market to make a living; will they need more if they live in a single house or when they live separately? Clearly, when they live separately. If the ten sons each go his own way, they need ten houses, ten tables, ten servants and everything else in proportion. And how of the mass of slaves? Are these not fed at a single table, in order to save money? Dispersion regularly leads to waste, bringing together leads to economy.

SERM:            This is how people now live in monasteries and how the faithful once lived. Who died of hunger then? Who was not fully satisfied?

SERM:            And yet people are more afraid of this way of life than of a leap into the endless sea. If only we made the attempt and took bold hold of the situation! How great a blessing there would be as a result! For if at that time, when there were so few faithful, only three to five thousand, if at that time when the whole world was hostile to us and there was no comfort anywhere, our predecessors were so resolute in this, how much more confidence should we have today, when by God’s grace the faithful are everywhere! Who would still remain a heathen? Nobody, I believe. Everyone would come to us and be friendly.

SERM:            But yet if we do but make fair progress, I trust in God that even this shall be realized. Only do as I say, and let us successfully achieve things in their regular order; if God grant life, I trust that we shall soon be progressing to this way of life.

TIME: c. 368–371 Writes Comparison between a King and a Monk and several other works in favor of monastic life (note, this was while he was still in Antioch, before his elevation to bishop of Cosntantinople, the capitol of the empire)

Comparison between a King and  a Monk

BLAC:    The treatise from which this text derives –A Comparison Between a King and a Monk—is an early work of Chrysostom’s, if not the earliest.7 It was a traditional portrait of power, rooted in the four virtues named “cardinal” by Ambrose: fro<nhsij/sofi<a

(wisdom), swfrosu<nh (self-control), a]ndrei<a (courage), and dikaiosu<nh (justice).8

When it came to courage, exemplified on the battlefield for the purpose of saving

and protecting his people, the best a king could do was overcome formidable men; the monk conquers demons.9 More frequently, however, the king’s reasons for entering battle are not to be the savior of his people, but “for the sake of seizing places or mountains or money,” 10 and if he is successful, “becomes unbearable, adorning himself with trophies, becoming haughty and allowing his soldiers to plunder.” If he is unsuccessful, “he fills his subjects with his own misfortunes.” 11 Meanwhile, the monk is the savior and protector of the villages and cities by battling demons “for the sake of piety and the worship of God. . . . ”12 At best, a king’s courage is displayed on a battlefield for the purpose of plunder; a monk’s courage is displayed against supernatural powers for the benefit of all. If the king is good his benefactions alleviate poverty.13 More often, however, the king does not even provide the benefit of poverty relief. Rather, the opposite is true. He exacts tribute and taxes, conscripts armies, and when he does remit taxes, this only favors the wealthy.14 The monk however “wins the favor of rich and poor alike; he approaches them each in the same way.”15 Because he is the friend (fi<loj) of both, he is also able to provide what the good king does not –relief for the poor.16

Unlike the king, the monk displays swfrosu<nh, self-control. Too often a king is a slave to his passions. His desire for glory and wealth leads him to warfare.17 His love of luxurious living leads him to feast on rich food and drink and to adornment in gems and gold and fine clothing.18 By contrast, the monk enters battles only to overcome the wicked forces in the world. He dresses simply, eats lightly, and drinks water with more pleasure than those who drink fine wine.19

A king lacking in self control is incapable of being just. Envy and avarice lead to a “desire for unjust power,”20 rendering the king incapable of commanding “all things under the laws of God.”21 By means of his virtue, however, the monk establishes himself as “the just man” (o[ di<kaioj), worthy of imitation22 because he is himself an imitator of those heavenly virtues.23 In all of this the monk is wiser than the king. The best a king can do, therefore, is seek the counsel and follow the advice of monks. The king ought to regard monks as “the common saviors of the earth” and allow himself to be “exhorted by this just man to every good and charitable action,” so that “they might learn to honor their counsel and obey their good admonitions.”24 The monk’s wisdom, courage, justice, self-control, and the benefactions that result from his philosophic virtue will bless the king who could never hope to attain this stature on his own.

Christine Pohl on Chrysostom on the subtleties of Christian hospitality to the poor

POHL:    “In the writings of John Chrysostom, from the fourth and early fifth centuries, we can identify multiple settings for hospitality as well as the tensions that emerged out of such diversity. Chrysostom’s parishioners seem to have excused themselves from the demands of hospitality by noting that the church had the means to provide hospitality to strangers [see another article, below, on that change after Constantine, whereby the church became wealthy and rich Christians abdicated their responsibilities to the poor]. He insisted, however, that hospitality remained a personal, individual responsibility as well. Even if the needy person could be fed from common funds, Chrysostom asked, “Can that benefit you? If another man prays, does it follow that you are not bound to pray?” He urged his parishioners to make a guest chamber in their own houses, a place set apart for Christ—a place within which to welcome “the maimed, the beggars, and the homeless.” Recognizing that some Christians would hesitate to take strangers into their homes or guest rooms, Chrysostom suggested that they could at least make a place in their household for a local poor person who was known to them. [Chrysostom, Homily 45 on Acts, NPNF1, vol. 11, p. 277.] (45)

POHL:    [Chrysostom’s own willingness to live up to his prophetic critique:] “Chrysostom himself had an important role in developing . . . institutions of care. In Homily 66 on Matthew, he described the work of the church at Antioch. Though not wealthy, the church cared for three thousand widows and virgins daily, and, in addition, cared for those in prison, sick, and disabled, and those away from their homes. The church also provided food and clothing to those who came ‘Casually’ everyday. From 400 to 403, Chrysostom built a number of hospitals in Constantinople. These provided care for strangers and orphans, as well as for those who were sick, chronic invalids, old, poor, and destitute.” (46)

POHL:    “Hospitality is a practice that integrates respect and care. Finding ways to respond to the needs of persons while simultaneously respecting their dignity is an ancient concern. In his sermons, John Chrysostom gave exceptional attention to the importance of recognition and respect without overlooking or spiritualizing physical needs. He was convinced that within the practice of hospitality, Christians could meet the needs of poor people and strangers while still respecting their dignity as persons.” (69)

POHL:    “He repeatedly warned his parishioners against holding a grudging spirit in the exercise of hospitality. Such an attitude is ‘cruel and inhuman’ for it causes the recipient great pain. Chrysostom was parituclarly sensitive to the fragility of the stranger’s identity—a fragility resulting from his or her dependence on others. In a number of homilies, he developed this theme and warned his congregation to show ‘excessive joy’ when offering hospitality in order to avoid shaming the recipient:” (69)

POHL:    “ ‘The stranger requires much attendance, much encouragement, and with all this it is difficult for him not to feel abashed; for so delicate is his position that whilst he receives the favor, he is ashamed. That shame we ought to remove by the most attentive service, and to show by words and actions, that we do not think we are conferring a favor, but receiving one, that we are obliging less than we are obliged.’” (69)

POHL:    “This was no false performance; in the economy of God, the host was both obliged and blessed in giving hospitality.” (69)

POHL:    “Chrysostom stressed the importance of respect and humility in offering hospitality, criticizing those who ‘think themselves superior to the recipients, and oftentimes despise them for the attention given to them.’ Here Chrysostom identifies a particularly difficult problem in [70] ministry: that practitioners, while offering a service, can come to disrespect those who receive it, simply because of their weakness and need.” (69-70)

POHL:    “Chrysostom also recognized the terrible power of those with resources who could choose to humiliate even as they provided help. His insight offers appropriate warning to contemporary practitioners to consider the destructive aspects of too-rigorous needs tests that can seem designed to shame and embarrass applicants. Those forced to depend on others do not deserve abuse, Chrysostom warned, especially from those who would have to give an account for their lavish tables and excess resources from which nothing had been shared.” (70)

POHL:    “Sensitive to the disrespect implicit in insisting on knowing all the details of someone’s life before helping them, Chrysostom warned that the extreme of stinginess is ‘for one loaf to be exact about a man’s entire life.’ Even if persons were robbers or murderers, they still deserved ‘a loaf and a few pence,’ because God caused the sun to rise on them like everyone else. If Christ forgave and healed those who had injured him and welcomed into paradise those who had scorned him, how could Christians neglect even a starving murderer, Chrysostom wonder.” (70)

POHL:    “Alms and physical assistance were not sufficient to define hospitality; true hospitality involved face-to-face, gracious relationships of encouragement and respect.” (70)

POHL:    “Chrysostom stressed the importance of a proactive approach to hospitality. In commenting on Romans 12:13, he noted that the phrase ‘given to hospitality’ suggests ‘not waiting for those that shall ask for it . . . but to run to them, and be given to finding them’: (70)

POHL:    “‘Not as we do, if we happen to see a stranger or a poor man, knitting our brows, and not deigning even to speak to them. And if after thousands of entreaties we are softened, and bid the servant give them a trifle, we think we have done our duty.’” (70)

Key to sources below:

SCHM = Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World, chap. 5: “Charity and compassion: their Christian connection”

KRUP = Robert A. Krupp, “Golden Tongue & Iron Will,” in Christian History issue #44: John Chrysostom

ROTH = Not sure; I’ll have to sort through my notes on this one!

DYK = “Did You Know,” in Christian History issue #44: John Chrysostom

VOLZ = Carl A. Volz,The Genius of Chrysostom’s Preaching” in Christian History issue #44: John Chrysostom

WARE = Interview with Kallistos Ware, in Christian History issue #44: John Chrysostom

GALL = Gallery, in Christian History issue #44: John Chrysostom

BLAC = Stephen K. Black, University of San Francisco, “John Chrysostom on Power and The Episcopacy in the Late Fourth Century”

SERM = “Archives,” in Christian History issue #44: John Chrysostom

POHL = Christine Pohl, Making Room: : Recovering Hospitality As a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999)

6 responses to “Chrysostom’s fiery preaching on the poor (for those who don’t know Jack about John)

  1. Pingback: Sep 13 – John Chrysostom | Holy Women, Holy Men

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