One should not give alms with pride but rather with humility, considering the one to whom the alms are given to be better than oneself. Did not the Lord Himself say: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40)?”
Theophanes the Confessor possessed a mind illumined by the light of Christ, even as a child. Once, while walking along the street, he saw a naked child freezing. He quickly removed his clothes, clothed the child and thus warmed him and brought him back to life. He then returned home naked. His startled parents asked him: “Where are your clothes?” To this Theophanes replied: “I clothed Christ.” This is why he was given the grace of Christ, and was later a great ascetic, a sufferer for the Christian Faith and a miracle-worker.
Often, when we give alms, either in someone else’s name or in our own name, we cannot avoid pride which, as soon as it appears in the heart, destroys all the good deeds performed. When we give to the beggar as to a beggar and not as to Christ, we cannot avoid pride or disdain. What value is there in performing an act of mercy, while taking pride in ourselves and disdaining the man? Virtue is not a virtue when it is mixed with sin, just as milk is not milk when it is mixed with gasoline or vinegar.
The Prologue of St. Nikolai Velimirovitch
“The blessed one set out three sacks, identical in appearance. One he filled with gold coins, another with silver, the third with bronze coins. He once left all three with his servant Callistus. A beggar came asking alms, and the saint told Callistus to give him money from one of the sacks. When the servant asked him how he was to know from which sack, the saint replied, “From whichever God commands. He knows the needs of all, rich and poor, and fills every living thing with His favor. It is the Lord Who guides the hand of the giver.”
From the life of St. Philaret the Merciful.