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From The Parson's Tale, paragraph 67-68:
The remedy against the sin of Sloth
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Parson's Tale
Paragraph 69-72
About Avarice and Greed


Sequitur de Avaricia

§ 69       After accidie wol I speke of Avarice and of Coveitise, of which synne seith Seint Paul that "the roote of alle harmes is Coveitise." Ad thimotheum sexto. For soothly, whan the herte of a man is confounded in itself and troubled, and that the soule hath lost the confort of God, thanne seketh he an ydel solas of worldly thynges. Avarice, after the descripcioun of Seint Augustyn, is a likerousnesse in herte to have erthely thynges. Som oother folk seyn that Avarice is for to purchacen manye erthely thynges, and no thyng yeve to hem that han nede. And understoond that Avarice ne stant nat oonly in lond ne catel, but somtyme in science and in glorie, and in every manere of outrageous thyng is Avarice and Coveitise. And the difference bitwixe Avarice and Coveitise is this: Coveitise is for to coveite swiche thynges as thou hast nat; and Avarice is for to withholde and kepe swiche thynges as thou hast, withoute rightful nede. Soothly, this Avarice is a synne that is ful dampnable; for al hooly writ curseth it, and speketh agayns that vice; for it dooth wrong to Jhesu Crist. For it bireveth hym the love that men to hym owen, and turneth it bakward agayns alle resoun, and maketh that the avaricious man hath moore hope in his catel than in Jhesu Crist, and dooth moore observance in kepynge of his tresor than he dooth to the service of Jhesu Crist. And therfore seith Seint Paul ad ephesios, quinto, that an avaricious man is in the thraldom of ydolatrie.

The section about Avarice

§ 69        After Sloth will I speak of Avarice and of Greed, of which sin Saint Paul says that "the root of all harms is Greed." ad Thimotheum sexto (Epistle to Timothy, chapter six). For truly, when the heart of a man is confused in itself and troubled, and when the soul has lost the comfort of God, then seeks he an idle solace of worldly things. Avarice, according to the description of Saint Augustine, is an inordinate desire in heart to have earthly things. Some other people say that Greed is to purchase many earthly things and give nothing to them that have need. And understand that Greed consists not only of land and possessions, but sometimes in knowledge and in glory, and in every manner of outrageous thing is Avarice and Greed. And the difference between Avarice and Greed is this: Greed is to covet such things as thou hast not; and Avarice is for to and keep such things as thou hast, without just need. Truly, this Avarice is a sin that is very damnable, for all holy writ curses it and speaks against that vice, because it does wrong to Jesus Christ. For it takes from him the love that men owe to him, and turns it backward against all reason, and makes that the avaricious man have more hope in his possessions than in Jesus Christ, and pays more attention to keeping of his treasure than he does to the service of Jesus Christ. And therefore says Saint Paul Ad Ephesios quinto (In the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter five), that an avaricious man is in the bondage of idolatry.

§ 70       What difference is bitwixe an ydolastre and an avaricious man, but that an ydolastre, per aventure, ne hath but o mawmet or two, and the avaricious man hath manye? For certes, every floryn in his cofre is his mawmet. And certes, the synne of mawmettrie is the firste thyng that God deffended in the ten comaundementz as bereth witnesse in exodi capitulo vicesimo. Thou shalt have no false Goddes bifore me, ne thou shalt make to thee no grave thyng. Thus is an avaricious man, that loveth his tresor biforn God, an ydolastre, thurgh this cursed synne of Avarice. Of Coveitise comen thise harde lordshipes, thurgh whiche men been distreyned by taylages, custumes, and cariages, moore than hire duetee or resoun is. And eek taken they of hire boonde-men amercimentz, whiche myghten moore resonably ben cleped extorcions than amercimentz. Of whiche amercimentz and raunsonynge of boonde-men somme hordes stywards seyn that it is ryghtful, for as muche as a cherl hath no temporeel thyng that it ne is his lordes, as they seyn. But certes, thise lordshipes doon wrong that bireven hire bonde-folk thynges that they nevere yave hem. Augustinus, De civitate, libro nono. Sooth is that the condicioun of thraldom and the firste cause of thraldom is for synne. Genesis nono. Thus may ye seen that the gilt disserveth thraldom, but nat nature. Wherfore thise lordes ne sholde nat muche glorifien hem in hir lordshipes, sith that by natureel condicion they been nat lordes over thralles, but that thraldom comth first by the desert of synne. And forther over, ther as the lawe seith that temporeel goodes of boonde-folk been the goodes of hir lordeshipes, ye, that is for to understonde, the goodes of the emperour, to deffenden hem in hir right, but nat for to robben hem ne reven hem. And therfore seith Seneca, "thy prudence sholde lyve benignely with thy thralles." Thilke that thou clepest thy thralles been Goddes peple; for humble folk been Cristes freendes; they been contubernyal with the lord. § 70        What difference is between an idolater and an avaricious man, but that an idolater, perhaps, has only one idol or two, and the avaricious man has many? For certainly, every coin in his coffer is his idol. And certainly, the sin of idolatry is the first thing that God forbad in the ten commandments, as bears witness in Exodi capitulo vicesimo (the twentieth chapter of Exodus): "Thou shalt have no false gods before me, and thou shalt make for thyself no graven thing." Thus is an avaricious man, who loves his treasure before God, an idolater, through this cursed sin of avarice. Of Greed come these hard lordships, through which men are oppressed by taxes, rents, and payments, more than their feudal duty or reason is. And also they take of their bond-men payments (in lieu of service), which might more reasonably be called extortions than payments. Of which payments and forced payments of bond-men some lords' stewards say that it is legal, forasmuch as a churl has no temporal thing but rather it is his lord's, as they say. But certainly, these lord-ships do wrong that take from their bond-folk things that they never gave them. Augustinus, De Civitate libro nono (St. Augustine, City of God, in the ninth book). "Sooth is that the condition of bondage and the first cause of bondage is because of sin. Genesis nono (Genesis, in the ninth chapter). Thus may you seen that the guilt, but not nature, deserves bondage." Therefore these lords should not much glorify themselves in their lordships, since by natural condition they are not lords over bondsmen, but that bondage comes first by the just deserts of sin. And furthermore, whereas the law says that temporal goods of bond-folk are the goods of their lordships, yea, that is for to understand, the goods of the emperor, to defend them in their right, but not for to rob them nor to take from them. And therefore says Seneca, "Thy prudence should live benignly with thy bondsmen." Those that thou callest thy bondsmen are God's people, for humble folk are Christ's friends; they are on familiar terms with the Lord.
§ 71       Thynk eek that of swich seed as cherles spryngen, of swich seed spryngen lordes. As wel may the cherl be saved as the lord. The same deeth that taketh the cherl, swich deeth taketh the lord. Wherfore I rede, do right so with the cherl, as thou woldest that thy lord dide with thee, if thou were in his plit. Every synful man is a cherl to synne. I rede thee, certes, that thou, lord, werke in swich wise with thy cherles that they rather love thee than drede. I woot wel ther is degree above degree, as reson is; and skile is that men do hir devoir ther as it is due; but certes, extorcions and despit of youre underlynges is dampnable. § 71        Think also that of such seed as churls spring, of such seed spring lords. As well may the churl be saved as the lord. The same death that takes the churl, such death takes the lord. Therefore I advise, do just so with thy churl, as thou wouldest that thy lord did with thee, if thou were in his condition. Every sinful man is a churl to sin. I advise thee, certainly, that thou, lord, work in such a way with thy churls that they rather love thee than dread. I know well there is degree above degree, as is consonant with reason, and it is reasonable that men do their duty where it is due, but certainly, extortions and scorn for your underlings is damnable.
§ 72       And forther over, understoond wel that thise conquerours or tirauntz maken ful ofte thralles of hem that been born of as roial blood as been they that hem conqueren. This name of thraldom was nevere erst kowth, til that Noe seyde that his sone Canaan sholde be thral to his bretheren for his synne. What seye we thanne of hem that pilen and doon extorcions to hooly chirche? Certes, the swerd that men yeven first to a knyght, whan he is newe dubbed, signifieth that he sholde deffenden hooly chirche, and nat robben it ne pilen it; and whoso dooth is traitour to Crist. And, as seith Seint Augustyn, they been the develes wolves that stranglen the sheep of Jhesu Crist; and doon worse than wolves. For soothly, whan the wolf hath ful his wombe, he styntheth to strangle sheep. But soothly, the pilours and destroyours of the Godes of hooly chirche no do nat so, for they ne stynte nevere to pile. § 72        And furthermore, understand well that these conquerors or tyrants make very often bondsmen of them that are born of as royal blood as are they that conquer them. This name of bondage was never before known until Noah said that his son Ham should be in bondage to his brethren for his sin. What say we then of them that rob and do extortions to holy church? Certainly, the sword that men give first to a knight, when he is newly dubbed, signifies that he should defend holy church, and not rob it nor pillage it; and whosoever does is traitor to Christ. And, as says Saint Augustine, "They are the devil's wolves that destroy the sheep of Jesus Christ," and do worse than wolves. For truly, when the wolf has his belly full, he stops destroying sheep. But truly, the robbers and destroyers of the goods of holy church do not so, for they stop never to pillage.


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From The Parson's Tale, paragraph 73:
About abuse of lordship, theft, fraud, lies, gambling, false witness, false oath, etc.
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