Excerpt From Thomas Becon (1513 - 1567), Preaching On FastinG
God hath put the goods of this world into the rich men's hands, that they should distribute part of them to the poor people. They are the stewards of God and the dispensators of his treasures, that they, continually living of them, should also with the distribution of part of them comfort the needy members of Christ. If they spend them otherwise than God hath appointed in his word, they shall render a strait accounts for it to the high Judge Christ. They have nothing at all, but that they shall be called to accounts for it, even to the uttermost farthing.
If they be not found to have used their talent well, and unto the profit of other, they shall with that unprofitable servant of the gospel be cast into utter darkness, where weeping and gnashing of teeth shall be. If they be proved unmerciful and negligent in the distribution of the worldly goods, surely they shall be carried with the rich glutton, of whom blessed Luke speaketh in the gospel, unto hell, and there burn in such cruel and bitter flames, as the fire whereof shall never be quenched, "neither shall the worm," which shall gnaw the consciences of them that are there, "die at any time," as the prophet saith. What cause then have the rich men to boast themselves, and to glory of their worldly goods, or to avance themselves above other for their possessions' sake? Certes none at all, more than a great man's servant hath, to whom his lord and master hath committed his goods for a certain space to keep, the servant looking at every hour, when his master will call him to accounts, and require them of him again.
Basilius Magnus hath a notable sentence, and it is this: "He is a very thief and a robber, "saith he," which maketh that thing his own that he hath received to distribute and give abroad. For the bread that thou retainest and keepest is the bread of the hungry : the garment which thou keepest in thy chest is the garment of the naked : the .shoe that is mould with thee is the shoe of him that is unshod ; and the money which thou hidest in the ground is the money of the needy.. Moreover thou doest injury and plain wrong to so many as thou forsakest, when thou art able to help them."
Hereto pertaineth the saying of the wise man: "The bread of the needy is the life of the poor ; he that defraudeth him of it is a manslayer" God also by the prophet teacheth, that that fast pleaseth him best, which is accompanied with the works of mercy, saying: "Break thy bread to the hungry, and lead the needy and wayfaring into thy house. When thou seest a naked man, cover him; and despise not thy flesh." Mark that he saith: "Break thy bread to the hungry." Certain that expound this text say, that thou then breakest thy bread to the hungry, when thou so fastest that thou sparest from thine own belly to give to the poor hungry man. For a christian man ought to be no less careful for the poor than for himself. We therefore do break our bread to the hungry, when we give him that which we ourselves necessarily should have eaten. So that to "anoint our head" is to break our bread to the hungry”, to lodge the poor in our house, to give clothes to the naked, and to comfort according to our ability so many as have need of our help. Unto these works of mercy doth our Saviour Christ exhort us in the gospel, saying: "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsfolk, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the feeble, the lame, and the blind; and thou shalt be happy: for they cannot recompense thee; but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the righteous. "Again he saith: "Give alms of those things ye have; and behold, all things are clean unto you." But of this we shall entreat more largely, when we come to the true use of fasting.
(Editor's Note: According to the devotional, A Time To Turn, edited by Christopher L. Webber, Thomas Becon wrote and preached during the reign of Edward VI)