The 7th Century Monk John Moschos (d. 619AD), wrote many edifying tales in which he portrays how it is both possible and difficult to follow the Gospel commands of Christ our Lord. In one story, he addresses an issue which also is a common worry of modern Christians who give to charity: the poor who also are greedy or appear unworthy of charity. The issue for John is whether our hearts are charitable or judgmental. Are we offering love which is unconditional or are we trying to satisfy our sense of justice or are we trying to make a demonstration of how good we deem ourselves to be?
“In Antioch the Great in Syria there are different kinds of social services. A man who was a friend of Christ was in charge of one of them. It was his custom to provide those in need with what each of them lacked on each occasion. He used to buy things with which to supply their needs. Amongst other things he used to get linen undergarments which came from Egypt and from this supply he would provide garments for those in need, in accordance with the pronouncement of the Lord which says: I was naked and you clothed me (Mt. 25:36). A brother came when the distribution of clothing (as I described it) was taking place, and he received a linen garment, not only once, but two and three times. That friend of Christ, realizing that the man came a second and third time, decided to speak to him about it. When he came a fourth time, moved on that occasion to single him out from the rest of the poor, he said to him: ‘Look, you have received a garment a third and a fourth time and heard nothing from me. Do not do this again in the future, for there are others afflicted like you and in need of good works’. The poor man withdrew in shame.
The next night, the supervisor of the social service saw himself standing in what is called the Place of the Cherubim. It is a very sacred place and those who know say that in that place there is a very awesome icon bearing the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As he stood there in deep thought, he saw the Savior coming down to him out of the icon and censuring him especially on account of the four garments which the poor man received. Then, falling silent again, Christ removed the tunic he was wearing and showed him the number of under-garments while saying: ‘Behold, one; behold, two; behold, three; behold, four. Do not be dismayed; inasmuch (cf. Mt. 26:40) as you provided those things for the poor man, they became my raiment’. The man recognized the clothes and fell down at his feet, saying: ‘Forgive my faint-heartedness, Lord, for I reckoned this matter in human terms’. When he awoke, he gave thanks to God who had shown him this revelation; and from that time on, he gave to all who asked, with simplicity and joy. And all who heard of it glorified God.” (The Spiritual Meadow, pgs. 212-213)