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Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

2 Corinthians 8:13-17

13. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

13. Non enim ut aliis relaxatio sit, vobis autem angustia: sed ut ex aequabilitate.

14. But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

14. In praesenti tempore vestra copia illorum succurrat inopiae: et illorum copia vestrae succurrat inopiae, quo fiat aequabilitas.

15. As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

15. Quemadmodum scriptum est (Exodus 16:18.) Qwui multum habebat, huic nihil superfluit: et qui paulum habebat, is nihilominus habuit.

16. But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.

16. Gratia autem Deo, qui dedit eandem sollicitudinem pro vobis in corde Titi,

17. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.

17. Qui exhortationem acceperit: quin potius, quum esset diligentior, suapte sponte ad vos venerit.

13. Not that others. This is a confirmation of the preceding statement -- that a readiness of will is well-pleasing to God alike in poverty and in wealth, inasmuch as God does not mean that we should be reduced to straits, in order that others may be at ease through our liberality. True, indeed, it is certain, that we owe to God, not merely a part, but all that we are, and all that we have, but in His kindness He spares us thus far, that He is satisfied with that participation of which the Apostle here speaks, What he teaches here you must understand to mean an abatement from the rigor of law. In the mean time, it is our part to stir ourselves up from time to time to liberality, because we must not be so much afraid of going to excess in this department. The danger is on the side of excessive niggardliness.

This doctrine, however, is needful in opposition to fanatics, who think that you have done nothing, unless you have stripped yourself of every thing, so as to make every thing common; and, certainly, they gain this much by their frenzy, that no one can give alms with a quiet conscience. Hence we must carefully observe Paul's (epieikeia) mildness, and moderation, in stating that our alms are well-pleasing to God, when we relieve the necessity of our brethren from our abundance -- not in such a way that they are at ease, and we are in want, but so that we may, from what belongs to us, distribute, so far as our resources allow, and that with a cheerful mind.

By an equality Equality may be taken in two senses, either as meaning a mutual compensation, when like is given for like, or, as meaning a proper adjustment. I understand isoteta simply as meaning -- an equality of proportional right, as Aristotle terms it. In this signification it is made use of, also, in Colossians 4:1, where he exhorts |masters to give to their servants what is equal.| He certainly does not mean, that they should be equal in condition and station, but by this term he expresses that humanity and clemency, and kind treatment, which masters, in their turn, owe to their servants. Thus the Lord recommends to us a proportion of this nature, that we may, in so far as every one's resources admit, afford help to the indigent, that there may not be some in affluence, and others in indigence. Hence he adds -- at the present time. At that time, indeed, necessity pressed upon them. Hence we are admonished that, in exercising beneficence, we must provide for the present necessity, if we would observe the true rule of equity.

14. And their abundance It is uncertain, what sort of abundance he means. Some interpret it as meaning, that this had been the case, inasmuch as the Gospel had flowed out to them from the Church at Jerusalem, from which source they had, in their penury, been assisted by their spiritual riches. This, I think, is foreign to Paul's intention. It ought rather, in my opinion, to be applied to the communion of saints, which means, that whatever duty is discharged to one member, redounds to the advantage of the entire body. |If it is irksome to you to help your brethren with riches that are of no value, consider how many blessings you are destitute of, and these too, far more precious, with which you may be enriched by those who are poor as to worldly substance. This participation, which Christ has established among the members of his body, should animate you to be more forward, and more active in doing good.| The meaning may, also, be this. |You now relieve them according to the necessity of the occasion, but they will have an opportunity given them at another time of requiting you.| I approve rather of the other sentiment, which is of a more general nature, and with this accords what he again repeats in reference to equality. For the system of proportional right in the Church is this -- that while they communicate to each other mutually according to the measure of gifts and of necessity, this mutual contribution produces a befitting symmetry, though some have more, and some less, and gifts are distributed unequally.

15. As it is written. The passage, that Paul quotes, refers to the manna, but let us hear what the Lord says by Moses. He would have this to serve as a never-failing proof, that men do not live by bread alone, but are Divinely supported, by the secret influence of His will, who maintains and preserves all things that he has created. Again, in another passage, (Deuteronomy 8:3,) Moses admonishes them, that they had been nourished for a time with such food, that they might learn that men are supported -- not by their own industry or labor, but by the blessing of God. Hence it appears, that in the manna, as in a mirror, there is presented to us an emblem of the ordinary food that we partake of. Let us now come to the passage that Paul quotes. When the manna had fallen, they were commanded to gather it in heaps, so far as every one could, though at the same time, as some are more active than others, there was more gathered by some than was necessary for daily use, yet no one took for his own private use more than an homer, for that was the measure that was prescribed by the Lord. This being the case, all had as much as was sufficient, and no one was in want. This we have in Exodus 16:18

Let us now apply the history to Paul's object. The Lord has not prescribed to us an homer, or any other measure, according to which the food of each day is to be regulated, but he has enjoined upon us frugality and temperance, and has forbidden, that any one should go to excess, taking advantage of his abundance. Let those, then, that have riches, whether they have been left by inheritance, or procured by industry and efforts, consider that their abundance was not intended to be laid out in intemperance or excess, but in relieving the necessities of the brethren. For whatever we have is manna, from whatever quarter it comes, provided it be really ours, inasmuch as riches acquired by fraud, and unlawful artifices, are unworthy to be called so, but are rather quails sent forth by the anger of God. (Numbers 11:31.) And as in the case of one hoarding the manna, either from excessive greed or from distrust, what was laid up immediately putrified, so we need not doubt that the riches, that are heaped up at the expense of our brethren, are accursed, and will soon perish, and that too, in connection with the ruin of the owner; so that we are not to think that it is the way to increase, if, consulting our own advantage for a long while to come, we defraud our poor brethren of the beneficence that we owe them. I acknowledge, indeed, that there is not enjoined upon us an equality of such a kind, as to make it unlawful for the rich to live in any degree of greater elegance than the poor; but an equality is to be observed thus far -- that no one is to be allowed to starve, and no one is to hoard his abundance at the expense of defrauding others. The poor man's homer will be coarse food and a spare diet; the rich man's homer will be a more abundant portion, it is true, according to his circumstances, but at the same time in such a way that they live temperately, and are not wanting to others.

16. But thanks be to God who hath put. That he may leave the Corinthians without excuse, he now at length adds, that there had been provided for them active prompters, who would attend to the matter. And, in the first place, he names Titus, who, he says, had been divinely raised up. This was of great importance in the case. For his embassy would be so much the more successful, if the Corinthians recognized him as having come to them, from having been stirred up to it by God. From this passage, however, as from innumerable others, we infer that there are no pious affections that do not proceed from the Spirit of God; and farther, that this is an evidence of God's concern for his people, that he raises up ministers and guardians, to make it their endeavor to relieve their necessities. But if the providence of God shows itself in this manner, in providing the means of nourishment for the body, how much greater care will he exercise as to the means of spiritual nourishment, that his people may not be in want of them! Hence it is His special and peculiar work to raise up pastors.

His receiving the exhortation means that he had undertaken this business, from being exhorted to it by Paul. He afterwards corrects this by saying, that Titus had not been so much influenced by the advice of others, as he had felt stirred up of his own accord, in accordance with his active disposition.

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