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The Collection for Christians at Jerusalem


Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints, 2for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; 4otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—in this undertaking. 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.

6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written,

“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!


6. Now the case is this 719719     “Or ie di ceci;” — “Now this I say.” He now commends alms-giving by a beautiful similitude, comparing it to sowing. For in sowing, the seed is cast forth by the hand, is scattered upon the ground on this side and on that, is harrowed, and at length rots; and thus it seems as good as lost. The case is similar as to alms-giving. What goes from you to some other quarter seems as if it were, diminishing of what you have, but the season of harvest will come, when the fruit will be gathered. For as the Lord reckons every thing that is laid out upon the poor as given to himself, so he afterwards requites it with large interest. (Proverbs 19:17.)

Now for Paul’s similitude. He that sows sparingly will have a poor harvest, corresponding to the sowing: he that sows bountifully and with a full hand, will reap a correspondingly bountiful harvest. Let this doctrine be deeply rooted in our minds, that, whenever carnal reason keeps us back from doing good through fear of loss, we may immediately defend ourselves with this shield — “But the Lord declares that we are sowing.” The harvest, however, should be explained as referring to the spiritual recompense of eternal life, as well as to earthly blessings, which God confers upon the beneficent. For God requites, not only in heaven, but also in this world, the beneficence of believers. Hence it is as though he had said, “The more beneficent you are to your neighbors, you will find the blessing of God so much the more abundantly poured out upon you.” He again contrasts here blessing with sparing, as he had previously done with niggardliness. Hence it appears, that it is taken to mean — a large and bountiful liberality.

7 Every one according to the purpose of his heart. As he had enjoined it upon them to give liberally, this, also, required to be added — that liberality is estimated by God, not so much from the sum, as from the disposition. He was desirous, it is true, to induce them to give largely, in order that the brethren might be the more abundantly aided; but he had no wish to extort any thing from them against their will. Hence he exhorts them to give willingly, whatever they might be prepared to give. He places purpose of heart in contrast with regret and constraint. For what we do, when compelled by necessity, is not done by us with purpose of heart, but with reluctance. 720720     Auec regret et tristesse;” — “With regret and sadness.” Now the necessity meant you must understand to be what is extrinsic, as it is called — that is, what springs from the influence of others. For we obey God, because it is necessary, and yet we do it willingly. We ourselves, accordingly, in that case impose a necessity of our own accord, and because the flesh is reluctant, we often even constrain ourselves to perform a duty that is necessary for us. But, when we are constrained from the influence of others, having in the mean time an inclination to avoid it, if by any means we could, we do nothing in that case with alacrity — nothing with cheerfulness, but every thing with reluctance or constraint of mind.

For God loveth a cheerful giver He calls us back to God, as I said in the outset, for alms are a sacrifice. Now no sacrifice is pleasing to God, if it is not voluntary. For when he teaches us, that God loveth a cheerful giver, he intimates that, on the other hand, the niggardly and reluctant are loathed by Him. For He does not wish to lord it over us, in the manner of a tyrant, but, as He acts towards us as a Father, so he requires from us the cheerful obedience of children. 721721     “Vne obeissance filiale, qui soit prompte et franche;” — “A filial obedience, which is prompt and cheerful.”

8. And God is able Again he provides against the base thought, which our infidelity constantly suggests to us. “What! will you not rather have a regard to your own interest? Do you not consider, that when this is taken away, there will be so much the less left for yourself?” With the view of driving away this, Paul arms us with a choice promise — that whatever we give away will turn out to our advantage. I have said already, that we are by nature excessively niggardly — because we are prone to distrust, which tempts every one to retain with eager grasp what belongs to him. For correcting this fault, we must lay hold of this promise — that those that do good to the poor do no less provide for their own interests than if they were watering their lands. For by alms-givings, like so many canals, they make the blessing of God flow forth towards themselves, so as to be enriched by it. What Paul means is this: “Such liberality will deprive you of nothing, but God will make it return to you in much greater abundance.” For he speaks of the power of God, not as the Poets do, but after the manner of Scripture, which ascribes to him a power put forth in action, the present efficacy of which we ourselves feel — not any inactive power that we merely imagine.

That having all sufficiency in all things He mentions a twofold advantage arising from that grace, which he had promised to the Corinthians — that they should have what is enough for themselves, and would have something over and above for doing good. By the term sufficiency he points out the measure which the Lord knows to be useful for us, for it is not always profitable for us, to be filled to satiety. The Lord therefore, ministers to us according to the measure of our advantage, sometimes more, sometimes less, but in such a way that we are satisfied — which is much more, than if one had the whole world to luxuriate upon. In this sufficiency we must abound, for the purpose of doing good to others, for the reason why God does us good is — not that every one may keep to himself what he has received, but that there may be a mutual participation among us, according as necessity may require.

9. As it is written, He hath dispersed He brings forward a proof from Psalms 112:9, where, along with other excellencies of the pious man, the Prophet mentions this, too, — that he will not be wanting in doing good, but as water flows forth incessantly from a perennial fountain, so the gushing forth of his liberality will be unceasing. Paul has an eye to this — that we be not weary in well doing, (Galatians 6:9,) and this is also what the Prophet’s words mean. 722722     “Our author, when commenting on the passage here referred to, remarks: “This passage is quoted by Paul, (2 Corinthians 9:9,) in which he informs us, that it is an easy matter for God to bless us with plenty, so that we may exercise our bounty freely, deliberately, and impartially, and this accords best with the design of the Prophet.” — Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 4, p. 329. — Ed.

10. He that supplieth. A beautieth circumlocution, in place of the term God, and full of consolation. 724724     “The words ὁ ἐπιχορηγῶν βρῶσιν are a periphrasis of God (i.e., the Good Being) ‘who giveth us all things richly to enjoy.’ It is formed on Isaiah 55:10.” — Bloomfield. — Ed. For the person that sows seed in the proper season, appears when reaping to gather the fruit of his labor and industry, and sowing appears as though it were the fountainhead from which food flows forth to us. Paul opposes this idea, by maintaining that the seed is afforded and the food is furnished by the favor of God even to the husbandmen that sow, and who are looked upon as supporting themselves and others by their efforts. There is a similar statement in Deuteronomy 8:16,18

God fed thee with manna — food which thy fathers knew not: lest perhaps when thou hast come into the land which he shall give thee, thou shouldst say, My hand and my strength have gotten, me this wealth; for it is the Lord that giveth power to get wealth, etc.

Supply Here there are two different readings, even in the Greek versions. For some manuscripts render the three verbs in the future — will supply, will multiply, will increase. 725725     “The Vatican MS. reads with the futures — χορηγήσει (will supply,) πληθύνεῖ, (will supply,) and αὐξήσει, (will increase) ” — Penn.Ed. In this way, there would be a confirmation of the foregoing statement, for it is no rare thing with Paul to repeat the same promise in different words, that it may be the better impressed upon men’s minds. In other manuscripts these words occur in the infinitive mood, and it is well known that the infinitive is sometimes used in place of the optative. I rather prefer this reading, both because it is the more generally received one, and because Paul is accustomed to follow up his exhortations with prayers, entreating from God what he had previously comprised in his doctrine; though at the same time the former reading would not be unsuitable.

Bread for food He mentions a two-fold fruit of the blessing of God upon us — first, that we have sufficiency for ourselves for the support of life; and, secondly, that we have something to lay up for relieving the necessities of others. For as we are not born for ourselves merely, 726726     Our Author has here very probably in his eye a celebrated passage in Horace — “Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati;” — “We do but add to the numbers of mankind, and seem born only to consume the fruits of the earth.” (Hot. Ep. 1:2, 27.) — Ed. so a Christian man ought neither to live to himself, nor lay out what he has, merely for his own use.

Under the terms seed, and fruits of righteousness, he refers to alms. The fruits of righteousness he indirectly contrasts with those returns that the greater number lay up in cellars, barns, and keeping-places, that they may, every one of them, cram in whatever they can gather, nay, scrape together, so as to enrich themselves. By the former term he expresses the means of doing good; by the latter the work itself, or office of love; 727727     “L’assistance laquelle on fait par charite;” — “The assistance which one gives in love.” for righteousness is taken here, by synecdoche, to mean beneficence. “May God not only supply you with what may be sufficient for every one’s private use, but also to such an extent, that the fountain of your liberality, ever flowing forth, may never be exhausted!” If, however, it is one department of righteousness — as assuredly it is not the least 728728     “Comme a la verite s’en est vne des prineipales;” — “As in truth it is one of the chief’.” — to relieve the necessities of neighbors, those must be unrighteous who neglect this department of duty.

11. May be enriched unto all bountifulness. Again he makes use of the term bountifulness, to express the nature of true liberality — when,

casting all our care upon God, (1 Peter 5:7,)

we cheerfully lay out what belongs to us for whatever purposes He directs. He teaches us 729729     “Or yci il nous remonstre et donne a entendre;” — “Now here he shows us and gives us to understand.” that these are the true riches of believers, when, relying upon the providence of God for the sufficiency of their support, they are not by distrust kept back from doing good. Nor is it without good reason, that he dignifies with the title of affluence the satisfying abundance of a mind that is simple, and contented with its moderate share; for nothing is more famished and starved than the distrustful, who are tormented with an anxious desire of having.

Which produces through you. He commends, in consideration of another result, the alms which they were about to bestow — that they would tend to promote the glory of God. He afterwards, too, expresses this more distinctly, with amplification, in this way: “Besides the ordinary advantage of love, they will also produce thanksgiving.” Now he amplifies by saying, that thanks will be given to God by many, and that, not merely for the liberality itself, by which they have been helped, but also for the entire measure of piety among the Corinthians.

By the term administration, he means what he had undertaken at the request of the Churches. Now what we render functionem (service), is in the Greek λειτουργία term that sometimes denotes a sacrifice, sometimes any office that is publicly assigned. 730730     The term λειτουργία is very frequently made use of in the Septuagint, in connection with the sacrifices and other services of the priests and Levites. (See Exodus 38:21; Numbers 4:24, and Numbers 8:22.) It is commonly employed by the Greek writers to denote a public service, more especially at Athens, discharged by the richer citizens at their own expense, and usually in rotation. The λειτουργοὶ, says Potter, in his Grecian Antiquities, (volume 1,) were “persons of considerable estates, who, by their own tribe, or the whole people, were ordered to perform some public duty, or supply the commonwealth with necessaries at their own expenses. Of these there were diverse sorts, all of which were elected out of twelve hundred of the richest citizens, who were appointed by the people to undergo, when they should be required, all the burdensome and chargeable offices in the commonwealth, every tribe electing an hundred and twenty out of their own body, though this was contrary to Solon’s constitution, by which every man, of what quality soever, was obliged to serve the public according to his ability, with this exception only, that two offices should not be imposed on the same person at once, as we are informed by Demosthenes, in his oration against Leptines, where he likewise mentions an ancient law, requiring every man to undergo some λειτουργία every second year.” — Ed. Either of them will suit this passage well. For on the one hand, it is no unusual thing for alms to be termed sacrifices; and, on the other hand, as on occasion of offices being distributed among citizens, 731731     “Les charges estans distribuees, en vne ville entre les citoyens d’icelle;” — “Offices being distributed in a town among the citizens of it.” no one grudges to undertake the duty that has been assigned him, so in the Church, imparting to others ought to be looked upon as a necessary duty. 732732     “Ainsi en l’Eglise la communication consiste en ce que chacun s’acquitte enuers ses prochains de ce qu’il leur doit en charite;” — “So in the Church, imparting to others consists in every one’s discharging to his neighbours, what he owes them, in love.” The Corinthians, therefore, and others, by assisting the brethren at Jerusalem, presented a sacrifice to God, or they discharged a service that was proper, and one which they were bound to fulfill. Paul was the minister of that sacrifice, but the term ministry, or service, may also be viewed as referring to the Corinthians. It is, however, of no particular importance.

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