According to Eric Costanzo’s study of John Chrysostom’s theology of alms (Harbor for the Poor), John considered the judgment scene of Matthew 25 as “this sweetest passage” concerning God’s role in almsgiving and the place of alms in the church.
Costanzo writes, “John used this text to illustrate further the idea that the systems of the church, while initiated by God, are useless if they fail those in need. It is senseless, he argued, to honor Christ’s body in the church, or at the Lord’s Table, if one ignores His body represented by the living poor” (73).
John frequently drew parallels between the Supper and alms, considering alms a kind of sacrament subordinate only to baptism and the Eucharist (113-115). Drawing out this analogy between Eucharist and alms, and between the poor person and Jesus, he asked, “what is the profit, when His table indeed is full of golden cups, but He perishes with hunger? First fill Him, since He is hungry, and then abundantly deck out His table also. Do you make Him a cup of gold, while you do not give Him a cup of cold water? And what is the profit? Do you furnish His table with clothes bespangled with gold, while to Him you do not afford even the necessary covering? And what good comes of it?” (74). Decorating Christ’s table is useless, in short, if you ignore Christ in the person of the least of His brothers.