My dear young friend,
My, you are full of difficulties, are you not? Indeed, I suspect a ration of
mean-spiritedness about you.
How indeed are you to tell who of the poor are genuine! First, have you
thanked God that you live in a time when such a thing could even be conceived to
be a problem? A time when a man might willingly become a beggar because he
thinks it a profitable occupation is cause for rejoicing, not complaint. If such
is truly the case, go to your knees and bless God for his mercy on you and your
people. He has indeed been generous to you.
But let me condescend to your fancy, and take your problem with all
seriousness – though I still have difficulty in crediting it. First, is this
your task? Has God called you to seek out which of the poor are indeed genuine,
and which are frauds? Where is such a command given? Search the Scriptures as
you please, you will not find it.
Very well, let us suppose that the number is sufficient to cause you doubt
that you are giving to one who is genuine. Of what concern is that to you? The
money is as gone when given to a fraud as to the true. You did not give it as a
sign of truth, but rather at your Lord’s command. It is his reward you seek.
Be diligent to avoid the obvious fraud, but commit the rest to your Lord. Did
you think him completely impotent, that he will not punish the frauds who steal
from his children? Perhaps it is your God whom you do not know!
If our Lord were to command you to examine the poor most carefully, and give
to none but the worthy, what would you find? Many of the poor came to that
estate by their own follies. It makes them much less worthy, but no less poor.
It was not to the worthy but to the poor he commanded you to give.
Indeed, if he were to make you the warden of worthiness for the poor, would
you not complain of the work? How difficult it would be to determine which were
worthy and which were not! The task is so difficult that our Lord himself never
attempted it. We are all poor sinners, you are aware. Did he attempt to
determine the worthy sinners from the unworthy? Certainly not. It is a mark of
his love – and no small simplification of the problem. I suggest you imitate
your Lord in this. The time saved will, no doubt, increase your fortune
sufficiently to afford it.
Isaac the Alchemist