Way back in the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom was confronted by those who wanted to excuse themselves from giving money to the poor by asking if this did not just enable the poor to spend money on loose women and alcohol. St. John addressed this in different ways in several sermons that he gave on almsgiving. He taught that giving money to the poor is commanded by our Lord, with no such reservation. To obey that command demonstrates our freedom by showing that we have not become a slave to our possessions. We can be free of them. But freedom doesn’t end there.
The poor man who receives money has now been given freedom. He now has a choice to use it responsibly to meet his needs or the needs of his family, to share it, to hoard it, or to use it on loose women and wine. This is an opportunity for freedom. If he never has money, but only the things that others deem are appropriate for him, his physical needs may be met; but he is given no opportunity to exercise his own moral freedom.
So let us freely give to purchase our own freedom and the freedom of those bound by poverty.
“In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do not devote themselves to it. Yet, when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy, soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition which is reasonable, mild, kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice. Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all.” -St. John Chrysostom, On Wealth and Poverty
“He who gives alms in imitation of God does not discriminate between the wicked and the virtuous, the just and the unjust, when providing for men’s bodily needs.” -St. Maximos the Confessor, First Century on Love no. 24