If you do something good for a rich man, says St. Ambrose, he just takes it as his due, or thinks you want something out of him. But the poor repay you not only in their own gratitude, but in the promised reward from Jesus himself.
What good does it do you to show favor to a rich man? We ought to think far more of the weak and helpless, because we hope to receive, on behalf of one who has nothing, a recompense from the Lord Jesus. The rich seem to be asked so that they may prepare a banquet for us in return; the poor, as they have nothing to make return with, when they receive anything, make the Lord our recompense, who has offered himself as guarantor for the poor.
In the ordinary course of things, too, conferring a benefit on the poor is of more use than when it is conferred on the rich. The rich man scorns the benefit and is ashamed to feel indebted for a favor. In fact, whatever is offered to him he takes as due to his merits, as though only a just debt were paid him; or else he thinks it was only given because the giver expected a still greater return to be made him by the rich man.
The poor man, however, though he has no money to repay you with, at least shows his gratitude. And in doing that it is certain that he returns more than he received. For money is paid in coins, but gratitude never fails; money grows less by payment, but gratitude fails when held back, and is preserved when given to others.
Besides, the poor man admits that he feels bound by the debt, which is a thing the rich man avoids. He really thinks help has been given him, not that it has been offered in return for his honor. How much better, then, it is to confer benefits upon the good than on the ungrateful!
–St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 2.25IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
How much work do I put into trying to please people I think could help my career or social position?
How much do I put into helping people who can give me nothing but gratitude?
Father, accept the gifts I bring to help your people, as you accepted the sacrifice of your righteous servant Abel.