Stealing from the poor

Only a Poor Old Man

Naked did you not drop from the womb? Shall you not return again naked to the earth?

Where have the things you now possess come from?

If you say they just spontaneously appeared, then you are an atheist, not acknowledging the Creator, nor showing any gratitude towards the one who gave them.

But if you say that they are from God, declare to us the reason why you received them.

Is God unjust, who divided to us the things of this life unequally?

Why are you wealthy while that other man is poor?

Is it, perhaps, in order that you may receive wages for kindheartedness and faithful stewardship, and in order that he may be honored with great prizes for his endurance?

But, as for you, when you hoard all these things in the insatiable bosom of greed, do you suppose you do no wrong in cheating so many people?

Who is a man of greed?
Someone who does not rest content with what is sufficient. Who is a cheater?

Someone who takes away what belongs to others. And are you not a man of greed? are you not a cheater? taking those things which you received for the sake of stewardship, and making them your very own?

Now, someone who takes a man who is clothed and renders him naked would be termed a robber; but when someone fails to clothe the naked, while he is able to do this, is such a man deserving of any other appellation?

The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry;
the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked;
the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes.

The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need.

Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong.

From St. Basil the Great, Homilia in illud dictum evangelii secundum Lucam: «Destruam horrea mea, et majora ædificabo:» itemque de avaritia (Homily on the saying of the Gospel According to Luke, “I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones,” and on greed), §7 (PG 31, 276B – 277A).
Translation by Peter Gilbert

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