by His Eminence Metropolitan Saba Esber
(pictured here with Fr. Joseph Huneycutt)
The Poor are Our Gateway to the Kingdom
A question: who are the poor?
Not all persons with disability are poor in economic terms. We all have deficits; even if we’re not officially “disabled.” The deficits may be, variously, economic, social, emotional, or moral (Lord have mercy on me, a sinner), which do not typically fall into the category of disability; whereas physical or cognitive deficits do fall into that category.
I would understand the poor to whom we are to give to be those whose deficits in any of these ways (or another that may have been omitted) are significant and serious enough to activate healthy consciences to act, according to the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, on their behalf in the ways that meet their need. This is, of course, a personal, subjective definition.
Jesus said, “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.” (St. Luke 6:30)
Giving can be done in many ways: money, time, effort, listening, encouraging, and the like. Saint John Chrysostom has made this point:
For St. John, the dimensions of almsgiving extend to all aspects of human need, from clothing, food, and shelter, to the needs of soul and spirit. St. John says, “Now charity is not bare words, [. . .] but a taking care of [people].” He suggests helping the poor, tending the sick, rescuing those in peril, supporting the troubled, and empathizing with both those who weep and those who rejoice (NPNF, 1. 11, 7, 380, c.1). He also notes that a good word is as powerful as money in lifting another’s spirit in many cases (NPNF, 1, 11, 19, 495, c.2). Again, he says, “[. . .] Alms may be done not only by money, but by acts [such as] kindly stand by [or lending] a helping hand [. . .].” St. John encourages imitation of the Good Samaritan’s response to the destitute and strangers. But, he says, exceed material help; acquaint him with heaven, help him don the robe of righteousness, and be sure to wear your own.