ON THOSE WHO DO NOT STEAL BUT
ARE STINGY WITH WHAT IS THEIRS
The earth from which many
things proceed is God's gift to all men; its nourishments, therefore,
must be for all. He is guilty who arrogates unto himself the common
fruit due to all by causing poverty, famine and carnage on their
neighbor. When we administer necessities to the needy, we give them
what is their own, not what is ours: we pay a debt of justice, rather
than a work of mercy.
The psalmist states that
giving to the poor is an act of justice; not of mercy. "He has
given to the poor, his justice remaineth forever." For he who
receives what is bestowed by the Lord of all should use it for the
common good. "He who is just will give. . ." adds Solomon.
The barren fig tree is
symbolized by the niggardly soul who keeps back what could be
profitable to the many. The ground he occupies is wasted; others could
use it to plant trees that could bear fruits for others. They reason
that they do no wrong; and indeed so. Like the young rich man, he
stole from no one. But he was condemned for not sharing what is his.
Dives was condemned for indulging in what is his.
The niggardly sins in that
he had received mercy from God but he gives none to others. The price
of redemption is for us to return a good deed for a favor which
anticipated our own.
But there are those who
give to others but also despoil others. This is hypocrisy in that
rectitude is shown while in truth he despoils others. Such persons
often murmur when they give; and when want assails them they become
avaricious. And from avarice many sins sprout.
Such persons must possess
their wealth reasonably but never get what belongs to others. If
possession is well ordered, despoiling others stops. Only those who do
not despoil others will learn how to give to others; otherwise, they
will steal as much as they give. You cannot give an act of mercy
stained by the sin of stealing. "I am the Lord that loves
judgment and hates robbery." You cannot give to God what was
taken from the needy.
They who see how much they
give but not how much they steal are like people who put their wages
into bags with holes. While they put in, they also lose.
St. Gregory the Great: Pastoral
Care, Chapter 21, Part III