The things and possessions that are in the world are common to all, like the light and this air that we breathe, as well as the pasture for the dumb animals on the plains and on the mountains. All these things were made for all in common solely for use and enjoyment; in terms of ownership they belong to no one. But covetousness, like a tyrant, has intruded into life, so that its slaves and underlings have in various ways divided up that which the Master gave to be common to all. She has enclosed them by fences and made them secure by means of watch-towers, bolts, and gates. She has deprived all other men of the enjoyment of the Master’s good gifts, shamelessly pretending to own them, contending that she has wronged no one. But this tyrant’s underlings and slaves in turn become, each one of them, evil slaves and keepers of the properties and monies entrusted to them. Even if they are moved by the threat of punishments in store for them, or by the hope of receiving them back a hundredfold (Mk. 10:30) or by sympathy for the misfortunes of men, and take a few or even all of these things to give to those who are in poverty and distress whom they have hitherto ignored, how can they be accounted merciful? Have they fed Christ? Have they done a deed that is worthy of a reward? By no means! I tell you that they owe a debt of penitence to their dying day for all that they so long have kept back and deprived their brothers from using!...
But if anyone says, “Since this is so and we have no reward for the money and possessions we give, what need is there to give to the poor?” let him hear from Him who will judge him and requite to every man according to his works (Rom. 2:6), as though he were speaking to him: “You fool, what have you brought into the world (cf. 1 Tim. 6:7)? Have you yourself made anything that is visible? Did you not come forth naked from your mother’s womb? Will you not depart from life naked (Job 1:21) and will you not stand exposed before My judgment seat (cf. Heb. 4:13)? What money is there of yours for which you ask compensation? By what possessions of yours do you claim that you give alms to your brethren, and through them to Me? I have given you all these things, not to you alone, but to all men in common. Or do you think that I covet something and that I can be bribed like the covetous among human judges? For it is impossible that you have so thought in your folly. It is not that I covet any wealth, but that I have pity on you; it is not that I wish to take what is yours (cf. 2 Cor. 12:14) but that I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to them that I so legislate, and for no other reason.”
Do not think at all, brother, that God is at a loss and is unable to feed the poor, and for this reason commands you to show mercy to them and highly values this commandment. Far from it! But Christ has taken that which the devil through covetousness has wrought against us for our perdition, and through almsgiving has turned to our good to make it redound for our salvation. What do I mean? The devil has suggested to us that we appropriate the things that were provided for our common use and hoard them for ourselves, so that through this covetousness he might make us liable to a double indictment and thus subject to eternal punishment and condemnation—the one, of being unmerciful, the other, of putting our hope in hoarded up wealth instead of in God. For he who has wealth hoarded up cannot hope in God, as is clear from what Christ our God has said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12:34). He, then, who distributes to all from the wealth that he has stored up has no reward owing to him for doing this; rather, he is to blame for hitherto unjustly depriving others of it. Further, he is responsible for those who from time to time have lost their lives through hunger and thirst, for those whom he did not feed at that time though he was able, for the poor whose share he buried and whom he allowed to die a cruel death from cold and hunger (cf. Jas. 2:15f.). He is exposed as one who has murdered as many victims as he was then able to feed.
St. Symeon, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses, ed. Richard J. Payne, trans. C. J. de Catanzaro, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), Discourse 9.4: 152–153, 9.6: 155–156.