Leo Tolstoy
· The Circle of Reading
Translated by Dmitry Fadeyev

January 26

A rich person cannot be charitable. If he gives free rein to the natural feeling of charity, he will soon cease to be rich.

1

Is it not an extreme case of incongruity that as we sit at table in laughter and satiety and as others walk by on the street crying, not only do we pay no attention to their tears, but we even feel indignant at them and call them frauds? Frauds, you say. But would anyone really deceive others for the sake of bread alone? And even if you think that he is trying to deceive others, then it is all the more reason to pity him and all the more reason to rid him of necessity. And if you do not want to give him anything, then at least do not insult him.

— John Chrysostom

2

First of all stop plundering, and only then give alms. Restrain your hands from extortion and only then stretch them out to offer alms. If we are going to use the same hands to undress some while dressing others, then the giving of alms will become a pretext for crime. It is better to not give alms at all than to do it this way.

— John Chrysostom

3

Nothing reveals the cruelty of rich people’s lives as much as their attempts to give alms.

4

A rich man has 15 rooms for 3 people, and will not let a poor man in to warm himself and spend a night.

A peasant has a 7 yard hut for 7 souls, and will readily let a stranger in.

5

All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.

— John Ruskin

6

And as the first order of Wisdom is to know thyself—though the least creature that can be known—so the first order of Charity is to be sufficient for thyself, though the least creature that can be sufficed; and thus contented and appeased, to be girded and strong for the ministry to others.

— John Ruskin

7

But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, then closes his heart of compassion against him, how does God’s love remain in him? My little children, let us not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.

— 1 John 3:17–18


As Jesus said, in order to love not in word only, or with tongue only, but in deed and truth, the rich must give to the poor.

And if one gives to those in need, then, however rich a person may be, he will soon cease to be rich. And when he ceases to be rich, he will fulfill that which Christ spoke of to the rich youth.1

  1. Translator’s Note: In reply to a rich youth who said that he was fulfilling all of God’s commandments, Jesus said: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)