Chrysostom on 2Cor 1800
1800 Which put the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. (2Co 8,16-24)
1801 Again he praises Titus. For since he had discoursed of almsgiving, he afterwards discourseth also of those who are to receive the money from them and carry it away. For this was of aid towards this collection, and towards increasing the forwardness of the contributors. For he that feels confidence as to him that ministereth, and suspects not those who are to be receivers, gives with the fuller bountifulness. And that this might be the case then also, hear how he commends those that had come for this purpose, the first of whom was Titus. Wherefore also he saith, “But thanks be to God, Which put (literally, ‘gave’) thesame earnest care into the heart of Titus.” What is “the same?” Which he had also in respect to the Thessalonians, or “the same” with me. And mark here wisdom. Showing this to be the work of God, he also gives thanks to Him that gave, so as to incite by this also. ‘For if God stirred him up and sent him to you, He asks through Him. Think not therefore that what has happened is of men.’ And whence is it manifest that God incited him?
2Co 8,17. “For indeed he accepted our exhortation, but being himself very earnest, he went forth of his own accord.”
Observe how he also represents him as fulfilling his own part, and needing no prompting from others. And having mentioned the grace of God, he doth not leave the whole to be God’s; again, that by this also he may win them unto greater love, having said that he was stirred up from himself also. For, “being very earnest, he went forth of his own accord,” ‘he seized at the thing, he rushed upon the treasure, he considered your service to be his own advantage; and because he loved you exceedingly, he needed not the exhortation I gave; but though he was exhorted by me also, yet it was not by that he was stirred up; but from himself and by the grace of God.’
2Co 8,18. “And we have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the Gospel is spread through all the Churches.”
And who is this brother? Some indeed say, Luke, because of the history which he wrote, but some, Barnabas; for he calls the unwritten preaching also Gospel. And for what cause does he not mention their names; whilst he both makes Titus known (vid. also ver. 23). by name, and praises him for his cooperation in the Gospel, (seeing that he was so useful that by reason of his absence even Paul could do nothing great and noble; for, “because I found not Titus my brother, I had no relief for my spirit,”—c. 2,13). and for his love towards them, (for, saith he, “his inward affection is more abundant towards you;”—c. 7,15). and for his zeal in this matter (“for,” he saith, “of his own accord he went”)? But these he neither equally commends, nor mentions by name? What then is one to say? Perhaps they did not know them; wherefore he does not dwell upon their praises because as yet they had had no experience of them, but only saysso much as was sufficient for their commendation unto them (i.e. the Corinthians,) and to their escaping all evil suspicion. However, let us see on what score he eulogizes this man himself also. On what score then does he eulogize? First, praising him from his preaching;that he not only preached, but also as he ought, and with the befitting earnestness. For he said not, ‘he preaches and proclaims the Gospel,’ but, “whose praise is in the Gospel.” And that he may not seem to flatter him. he brings not one or two or three men, but whole Churches to testify to him, saying, “through all the churches.” Then he makes him respected also from the judgment of those that had chosen him. And this too is no light matter. Therefore after saying, “Whose praise in the Gospel is spread through all the churches,” he added,
2Co 8,19. “And not only so.”
What is, “and not only so?” ‘Not only on this account,’ he says, ‘is respect due to him, that he is approved as a preacher and is praised by all.’
“But he was also appointed by the churches along with us.”
Whence it seems to me, that Barnabas is the person intimated. And he signifies his dignity to be great, for he shows also for what office he was appointed. For he saith,
“To travel with us in the matter of this grace which is ministered by us.” Seest thou how great are these praises of him? He shone as a preacher of the Gospel and had all the churches testifying to this. He was chosen by us; and unto the same office with Paul, and everywhere was partner with him, both in his trials and in his dangers, for this is implied in the word “travel.” But what is,” with this grace which is ministered by us?” So as to proclaim the word, he means, and to preach the Gospel; or to minister also in respect of the money; yea rather, he seems to me to refer to both of these. Then he adds,
“To the glory of the same Lord, and to show your readiness.” What he means is this: ‘We thought good,’ he says, ‘that he should be chosen with us and be appointed unto this work, so as to become a dispenser and a minister of the sacred money.’ Nor was this a little matter. For, “Look ye out,” it saith, “from amongyou seven men of good report;” (Ac 6,3)and he was chosen by the churches, and there was a vote of the whole people taken. What is, “to the glory of the same Lord, and your readiness?” ‘That both God may be glorified and ye may become the readier, they who are to receive this money being of proved character, and no one able to engender any false suspicion against them. Therefore we sought out such persons, and entrusted not the whole to one person only, that he might escape this suspicion also; but we sent both Titus and another with him. Then to interpret this same expression, “to the glory of the Lord and your ready mind:” he added,
2Co 8,20. “Avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us.”
What can this be which is said? A thing worthy of the virtue of Paul; and showing the greatness of his tender care and his condescension. ‘For,’ he says, ‘that none should suspect us, nor have the slightest cavil against us, as though we purloined aught of the money placed in our hands; therefore we send such persons, and not one only, but even two or three.’ Seest thou how he clears them of all suspicions? Not on account of the Gospel, nor of their having been chosen merely; but also, from their being persons of proved character, (and for this very reason) having been chosen, that they might not be suspected. And he said not ‘that ye should not blame,’ but ‘that no other person should,’ And yet it was on their account that he did this; and he implied as much in saying, “to the glory of the same Lord, and your readiness:” however, he does not wish to wound them; and so expresses himself differently,
“Avoiding this.” And he is not satisfied with this either, but by what he adds, soothes again, saying,
“In the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us,” and mingling his severity with praise. For that they might not feel hurt, and say, ‘Is he obliged then to eye us stealthily, and are we so miserable as ever to have been suspected of these things?’ Providing a correction against this too, he says, ‘the money sent by you is of large amount, and this abundance, that is, the large amount of the money, is enough to afford suspicion to the evil-minded had we not offered that security.’
2Co 8,21. For “we take thought for things, honorable not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”
What can compare with Paul? For he said not, ‘Perdition and woe to him who chooses to suspect anything of the kind: so long as my conscience does not condemn me, I waste not a thought on those who suspect.’ Rather, the weaker they were, the more he condescended. For it is meet not to be angry with, but help, him that is sick. And yet from what sin are we so removed as he was from any such suspicion? For not even a demon could have suspected that blessed saint of this unfaithfulness. But still although so far removed from that evil suspicion, he does everything and resorts to every expedient; so as not to leave a shadow even to those who might be desirous in any way of suspecting something wrong; and he avoids not only accusations, but also blame and the slightest censure, even bare suspicion.
[2.] 2Co 8,22. “And we have sent with them our brother.”
Behold, again he adds yet another, and him also with an encomium; both his own judgment, and many other witnesses [to him].
“Whom,” saith he, “we have many times proved earnest in many things, but now much more earnest.” And having praised him from his own good works, he extols him also from his love towards them; and what he said of Titus, that “being very earnest he went forth of his own accord;” this he says of this person also, saying, “but now much more earnest;” laying up beforehand for them the seeds of [the proof of their] love toward the Corinthians.
And then, after having showed forth their virtue, he exhorts them also on their behalf, saying,
2Co 8,23. “Whether any inquire about Titus; he is my partner and my fellow-worker to youward.”
What is, “Whether about Titus?” ‘If,’ says he, ‘it be necessary to say any thing, this I have to say,’ “that he is my partner and fellow-worker to youward.” For he either means this; or, ‘if ye will do anything for Titus, ye will do it unto no ordinary person, for he is “my partner.”’ And whilst appearing to be praising him, he magnifies them, showing them to be so disposed towards himself as that it were sufficient ground of honoramongst them that any one should appear to be his “partner.” But, nevertheless, he wasnot content with this, but he also added another thing, saying, “fellow-worker to youward.” Not merely “fellow-worker,” ‘but in matters concerning you, in your progress, in your growth, in our friendship, in our zeal for you;’ which last would avail most especially to endear him unto them.
“Or our brethren:” ‘or whether you wish,’ he says, ‘to hear any thing about the others: they too have great claims to be commended to you. For they also,’ he saith, ‘are our brethren, and,
“The messengers of the Churches,”’ that is, sent by the Churches. Then, which is greater than all,
“The glory of Christ;” for to Him is referred whatever shall be done to them. ‘Whether then ye wish to receive them as brethren, or as Apostles of the Churches, or as acting for the glory of Christ; ye have many motives for good will towards them. For on behalf of Titus, I have to say, that he is both “my partner,” and a lover of you; on behalf of these, that they are “brethren,” that they are “the messengers of the churches,” that they are “the glory of Christ.” Seest thou that it is plain from hence also, that they were of such as were unknown to them? For otherwise he would have set them off by those things with which he had also set off Titus, namely, his love towards them. But whereas as yet they were not known to them, ‘Receive them,’ he says, ‘as brethren, as messengers of the churches, as acting for the glory of Christ.’ On which account he adds;
2Co 8,24. “Wherefore show ye unto them, to the person of the churches, the proof of your love, and of our glorying on your behalf.”
‘Now show,’ he saith, ‘how ye love us; and how we do not lightly nor vainly boast in you: and this ye will show, if ye show forth love towards them.’ Then he also makes his words more solemn, by saying, “unto the person of the churches.” He means, to the glory, the honor, of the churches. ‘For if ye honor them, ye have honored the churches that sent them. For the honor passeth not to them alone, but also to those that sent them forth, who ordained them, and more than these, unto the glory of God.’ For when we honor those that minister to Him, the kind reception passeth unto Him, unto the common body of the churches. Now this too is no light thing, for great is the potency of that assembly.
[3.] Certain it is at least that the prayer of the churches loosed Peter from his chains, opened the mouth of Paul; their voice in no slight degree equips those that arrive unto spiritual rule. Therefore indeed it is that both he who is going to ordain calleth at that time for their prayers also, and that they add their votes and assent by acclamations which the initiated know: for it is not lawful before the uninitiated to unbare all things. But there are occasions in which there is no difference at all between the priest and those under him; for instance, when we are to partake of the awful mysteries; for we are all alike counted worthy of the same things: not as under the Old Testament [when] the priest ate some things and those under him others, and it was not lawful for the people to partake of those things whereof the priest partook. But not so now, but before all one body is set and one cup. And in the prayers also, one may observe the people contributing much. For in behalf of the possessed, in behalf of those under penance, the prayers are made in common both by the priest and by them; and all say one prayer, the prayer replete with pity. Again when we exclude from the holy precincts those who are unable to partake of the holy table, it behoveth that another prayer be offered, and we all alike fall upon the ground, and all alike rise up. Again, in the most awful mysteries themselves, the priest prays for the people and the people also pray for the priest; for the words, “with thy spirit,” are nothing else than this. The offering of thanksgiving again is common: for neither doth he give thanks alone, but also all the people. For having first taken their voices, next when they assent that it is “meet and right so to do,” then he begins the thanksgiving. And why marvellest thou that the people any where utter aught with the priest, when indeed even with the very Cherubim, and the powers above, they send up in common those sacred hymns? Now I have said all this in order that each one of the laity also may be wary, that we may understand that we are all one body, having such difference amongst ourselves as members with members; and may not throw the whole upon the priests but ourselves also so care for the whole Church as for a body common to us. For this course will provide for our greater safety, and for your greater growth unto virtue. Here, at least, in the case of the Apostles, how frequently they admitted the laity to share in their decisions. For when they ordained the seven, (Ac 6,2-3). they first communicated with the people; and when Peter ordained Matthias, with all that were then present, both men and women. (Ac 1,15, &c). For here is no pride of rulers nor slavishness in the ruled; but a spiritual rule, in this particular usurping most, in taking on itself the greater share of the labor and of the care which is on your behalf, not in seeking larger honors. For so ought the Church to dwell as one house; as one body so to be all disposed; just as therefore there is both one Baptism, and one table, and one fountain, and one creation, and one Father. Why then are we divided, when so great things unite us; why are we torn asunder? For we are compelled again to bewail the same things, which I have lamented often. The state in which we are calls for lamentation; so widely are we severed from each other, when we ought to image the conjunction of one body. For in this way will he that is greater, be able to gain even from him that is less. For if Moses learnt from his father-in-law somewhat expedient which himself had not perceived, (Ex 18,14, &c). much more in the Church may this happen. And how then came it that what he that was an unbeliever perceived, he that was spiritual perceived not? That all those of that time might understand that he was a man; and though he divide the sea, though he cleave the rock, he needeth the influence of God, and that those acts were not of man’s nature, but of God’s power. And so let another rise up and speak; and so now, if such and such an one doth not say expedient things, let another rise up and speak; though he be an inferior, yet if he say somewhat to the purpose, confirm his opinion; and even if he be of the very meanest, do not show him disrespect. For no one of these is at so great a distance from his neighbor, as Moses’ father-in-law was from him, yet he disdained not to listen to him, but even admitted his opinion, and was persuaded, and recorded it; and was not ashamed to hand down the circumstances to history; casting down [so] thepride of the many. Wherefore also he left thisstory to the world engraven as it were on a pillar, for he knew that it would be use fill to many. Let us then not overlook those who give us behoveful counsel, even though they be of the meaner sort, nor insist that those counsels prevail which we have ourselves introduced; but whatever shall appear to be best, let that be approved by all. For many of duller sight have perceived things sooner than those of acute vision, by means of diligence and attention. And say not, “why dost thou call me to council, if thou hearkenest not to what I say?” These accusations are not a counsellor’s, but a despot’s. For the counsellor hath only power to speak his own opinion; but if something else appear more profitable, and yet he will carry his own opinion into effect, he is no longer a counsellor but a despot, as I said. Let us not, then, act in this manner; but having freed our souls from all arrogancy and pride, let us consider, not how our counsels only may stand, but how that opinion which is best may prevail, even though it may not have been brought forward by us. For no light gain will be ours, even though we should not have discovered what behoveth, if ourselves accepted what has been pointed out by others; and abundant is the reward we shall receive from God, and so too shall we best attain to glory. For as he is wise that speaketh that which is behoveful, so shall we that have accepted it, ourselves. also reap the praise of prudence and of candor. Thus if both houses and states, thus too if the Church be ordered, she will receive a larger increase; and so too shall we ourselves, having thus best ordered our present lives, receive the good things to come: whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1900 it is superfluous for me to write to you. (2Co 9,1-10)
1901 Though he had said so much about it, he says here, “It is superfluous for me to write to you.” And his wisdom is shown not only in this, that though he had said so much about it, he saith, “it is superfluous for me to write to you,” but in that be yet again speaketh of it. For what he said indeed a little above, he said concerning those who received the money, to ensure them the enjoyment of great honor: but what he said before that, (his account of the Macedonians, that “their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality,” and all the rest,) was concerning loving-kindness and alms-giving. But nevertheless even though he had said so much before and was going to speak again, he says, “it is superfluous for me to write to you.” And this he does the rather to win them to himself. For a man who has so high a reputation as not to stand in need even of advice, is ashamed to appear inferior to, and come short of, that opinion of him. And he does this often in accusation also, using the rhetorical figure, omission, for this is very effective. For the judge seeing the magnanimity of the accuser entertains no suspicions even. For he argues, ‘he who when he might say much, yet saith it not, how should he invent what is not true?’ And he gives occassion to suspect even more than he says, and invests himself with the presumption of a good disposition. This also in his advice and in his praises he does. For having said, “It is superfluous for me to write to you,” observe how he advises them.
“For I know your readiness of which I glory on your behalf to them of Macedonia.” Now it was a great thing that he even knew it himself, but much greater, that he also published it to others: for the force it has is greater: for they would not like to be so widely disgraced. Seest thou his wisdom of purpose? He exhorted them by others’ example, the Macedonians, for, he says, “I make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia.” He exhorted them by their own, for he saith, “who were the first to make a beginning a year ago not only to do, but also to will.” He exhorted them by the Lord’s, for “ye know” he saith, “the grace of our Lord, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor.” (Ac 9). Again he retreats upon that strong main point, the conduct of others. For mankind is emulous. And truly the example of the Lord ought to have had most power to draw them over: and next to it, the [consideration] of the recompense: but because they were somewhat weak, this draws them most. For nothing does so much as emulation. But observe how he introduces it in a somewhat novel way. For He did not say, ‘Imitate them;’ but what?
“And your zeal has stirred up very many.” What sayest thou? A little before thou saidst, [they did it] “of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty,” how then now,” your zeal?” ‘Yes,’ he saith, ‘we did not advise we did not exhort, but we only praised you, we only boasted of you, and this was enough to incite them.” Seest thou how he rouses them each by the other, these by those, and those by these, and, along with the emulation, has intermingled also a very high encomium. Then, that he may not elate them,he follows it up in a tempered tone, saying, “Your zeal hath stirred up very many.” Now consider what a thing it is that those who have been the occasion to others of this munificence, should be themselves behind hand in this contribution. Therefore he did not say, ‘Imitate them,’ for it would not have kindled so great an emulation, but how? ‘They have imitated you; see then that ye the teachers appear not inferior to your desciples.’
And see how, whilst stirring up and inflaming them still more, he feigns to be standing by them, as if espousing their party in some rivalry and contention. For, as he said above, “Of their own accord, with much entreaty they came to us, insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he had made a beginning before, so he would complete this grace;” so also he says here,
2Co 9,3. “For this cause have I sent the brethren that our glorying on your behalf may not be made void.”
Seest thou that he is in anxiety and terror, lest he should seem to have said what he said only for exhortation’s sake? ‘But because so it is,’ saith he, “I have sent the brethren;” ‘so earnest am I on your behalf,’ “that our glorying may not be made void.” And he appears to make himself of the Corinthians’ party throughout, although caring for all alike. What he says is this; ‘I am very proud of you, I glory before all, I boasted even unto them, so that if ye be found wanting, I am partner in the shame.’ And this indeed he says under limitation, for he added,
“In this respect,” not, in all points;
“That even as I said, ye may be prepared.” ‘For I did not say, ‘they are purposing,’ but ‘all is ready; and nothing is now wanting on their part. This then,’ he says, ‘I wish to be shown by your deeds.’ Then he even heightens the anxiety, saying,
2Co 9,4. “Lest by any means if there come with me any from Macedonia, we, (that we say not ye,) should be put to shame in this confidence.” The shame is greater when the spectators he has arrayed against them are many, even those same persons who had heard [his boasting.] And he did not say, ‘for I am bringing with me Macedonians;’ ‘for there are Macedonians coming with me;’ lest he should seem to do it on purpose; but how [said he?] “Lest by any means, if there come with me any from Macedonia?” ‘For this may happen,’ he says, ‘it is matter of possibility.’ For thus he also made what he said unsuspected, but had he expressed himself in that other way, he would have even made them the more contentious. See how he leads them on, not from spiritual motives only, but from human ones as well. ‘For,’ says he, ‘though you make no great account of me, and reckon confidently on my excusing you, yet think of them of Macedonia,’ “lest by any means, if they come and find you;” and he did not say ‘unwillingly,’ but “unprepared,” not having got all completed. But if this be a disgrace, not to contribute quickly; consider how great it were to contribute either not at all, or less than behoved. Then he lays down what would thereupon follow, in terms at once gentle andpungent, thus saying, “We, (that we say not ye,) should be put to shame.” And he tempers it again, saying, “in this confidence” not as making them more listless, but as showing that they who were approved in all other respects, ought in this one also to have great fearlessness.
[2.] 2Co 9,5. “I thought it necessary therefore to entreat the brethren, that they would make up beforehand this your bounty, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty and not of extortion.“
Again, he resumed the subject in a different manner: and that he may not seem to be saying these things without object, he asserts that the sole reason for this journey was, that they might not be put to shame. Seest thou how his words, “It is superfluous for me to write,” were the beginning of advising? You see, at least, how many things he discourses concerning this ministering. And along with this, one may further remark that, (lest he should seem to contradict himself as having said, “It is superfluous,” yet discoursing at length about it,) he passed on unto discourse of quickness and largeness and forwardness [in contributing,] by this means securing that point also. For these three things he requires. And indeed he moved these three main points even at the first, for when he says, “In much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their I liberality,” he says nothing else than that theycontributed both much and gladly and quickly; and that not only did not giving much painthem, but not even being in trials, which is more grievous than giving. And the words,“they gave themselves to us;” these also show both their forwardness and the greatness of their faith. And here too again he treats of those heads. For since these are opposed to [each other,] munificence and forwardness, and one that has given much is often sorrowful, whilst another, that he may not be sorry, gives less; observe how he takes care for each, and with the wisdom which belongs to him. Forhe did not say, ‘it is better to give a little and of free choice, than much of necessity;’ because he wished them to contribute both much and of free choice; but how saith he? “that they might make up beforehand this your bounty, that the same might be ready as a matter of bounty, and not extortion. He begins first with that which is pleasantest and lighter; namely, the ‘not of necessity,’ for, it is “bounty” he says. Observe how in the form of his exhortation he represents at once the fruit as springing up, and the givers as filled with blessing. And by the term employed he won them over, for no one gives a blessing with pain. Yet neither was he content with this; but added, “not as of extortion.” ‘Think not,’ he says, ‘that we take it as extortioners, but that we may be the cause of a blessing unto you.’ For extortion belongs to the unwilling, so that whoso giveth alms unwillingly giveth of extortion. Then from this he passed on again unto that, the giving munificently.
2Co 9,6. “But this I say:” that is, along with this I say also that. What?
“He that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” And he did not say niggardly, but a milder expression, employing the the name of the sparing. And he called the thing sowing; that thou mightest at once look unto the recompense, and having in mind the harvest, mightest feel that thou receivest more than thou givest. Wherefore he did not say, ‘He that giveth,’ but “He that soweth:” and he said not ‘ye, if ye sow,’ but made what he said general. Neither did he say, ‘largely,’ but “bountifully,” which is far greater than this. And again, he betakes himself to that former point of gladness; saying,
2Co 9,7. “Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart.” For a man when left to himself, does a thing more readily than when compelled. Wherefore also he dwells upon this: for having said, “according as he is disposed,” he added,
“Not grudgingly, nor of necessity.” And neither was he content with this, but he adds a testimony from Scripture also, saying,
“For God loveth a cheerful giver.” Seest thou how frequently he lays this down? “I speak not by commandment:” and, “Herein I give my advice:” and, “as a matter of bounty, and not as of extortion,” and again, “not grudgingly, nor of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” In this passage I am of opinion that a large [giver] is intended; the Apostle however has taken it as giving with readiness. For because the example of the Macedonians and all those other things were enough toproduce sumptuousness, he does not say many things on that head, but upon giving without reluctance. For if it is a work of virtue, and yet all that is done of necessity is shorn of its reward, with reason also he labors at this point. And he does not advise merely, but also adds a prayer, as his wont is to do, saying,
2Co 9,8. “And may God, that is able, fulfill all grace towards you.”
By this prayer he takes out the way a thought which lay in wait against this liberality and which is now also an hinderance to many. For many persons are afraid to give alms, saying, ‘Lest perchance I become poor,’ ‘lest perchance I need aid from others.’ To do away with this fear then, he adds this prayer, saying, May “He make all grace abound towards you.” Not merely fulfil, but “make it abound.” And what is “make grace abound?” ‘Fill you,’ he means, ‘with so great things, that ye may be able to abound in this liberality.’
“That ye, having always all sufficiency in every thing, may abound to every good work.”
Observe, even in this his prayer, his great philosophy. He prays not for riches nor for abundance, but for all sufficiency. Nor is this all that is admirable in him; but that as he prayed not for superfluity, so he doth not press sore on them nor compel them to give of their want, condescending to their weakness; but asks for a“sufficiency,” and shows at the same time that they ought not to abuse the gifts received from God. “That ye may abound,” he saith, “to every good work.” ‘It is therefore,’ saith he, ‘I ask for this, that ye may bestow on others also.’ Yet he did not say, ‘bestow,’ but ‘abound.’ For in carnal things he asks for a sufficiency for them, but in spiritual things for abundance even; not in almsgiving only, but in all other things also, “unto every good work.” Then he brings forward unto them the prophet for a counsellor, having sought out a testimony inviting them to bountifulness, and says, 2Co 9,9. “As it is written,He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor; His righteousness abideth for ever.”
This is the import of “abound;” for the words, “he hath dispersed abroad,” signify nothing else but the giving plentifully. For if the things themselves abide not, yet theirresults abide. For this is the thing to be admired, that when they are kept they are lost; but when dispersed abroad they abide, yea, abide for ever. Now by “righteousness,” here, he means love towards men. For this makethrighteous, consuming sins like a fire when it is plentifully poured out.
[3.] Let us not therefore nicely calculate, but sow with a profuse hand. Seest thou not how much others give to players and harlots? Give at any rate the half to Christ, of what they give to dancers. As much as they give of ostentation to those upon the stage, so much at any rate give thou unto the hungry. For they indeed even clothe the persons of wantons with untold gold; but thou not even with a threadbare garment the flesh of Christ, and that though beholding it naked. What forgiveness doth this deserve, yea, how great a punishment doth it not deserve, when he indeed bestoweth so much upon her that ruineth and shameth him, but thou not the least thing on Him that saveth thee and maketh thee brighter? But as long as thou spendest it upon thy belly and on drunkenness and dissipation, thou never thinkest of poverty: but when need is to relieve poverty, thou art become poorer than any body. And when feeding parasites and flatterers, thou art as joyous as though thou hadst fountains to spend from; but if thou chance to see a poor man, then the fear of poverty besets thee. Therefore surely we shall in that day be condemned, both by ourselves and by others, both by those that have done well and those that have done amiss. For He will say to thee, ‘Wherefore wast thou not thusmagnanimous in things where it became thee? But here is a man who, when giving to an harlot, thought not of any of these things; whilst thou, bestowing upon thy Master Who hath bid thee “not be anxious” (Mt 6,25), art full of fear and trembling.’ And what forgiveness then shalt thou deserve? For if a man who hath received will not overlook, but will requite the favor, much more will Christ. For He that giveth even without receiving, how will He not give after receiving? ‘What then,’ saith one,when some who have spent much come to need other men’s help?’ Thou speakest of those that have spent their all; when thou thyself bestowest not a farthing. Promise to strip thyself of every thing and then ask questions about such men; but as long as thou art a niggard and bestowest little of thy substance, why throw me out excuses and pretenses? For neither am I leading thee to the lofty peak of entire poverty but for the present I require thee to cut off superfluities and to desire a sufficiency alone. Now the boundary of sufficiency is the using those things which it is impossible to live without. No one debars thee from these; nor forbids thee thy daily food. I say food, not feasting; raiment, not ornament. Yea rather, if one should enquire accurately, this is in the best sense feasting. For, consider. Which should we say more truly feasted, he whose diet was herbs, and who was in sound health and suffered no uneasiness: or he who had the table of a Sybarite, and was full of ten thousand disorders? Very plainly the former. Therefore let us seek nothing more than this, if we would at once live luxuriously and healthfully: and let us set these boundaries to sufficiency. And let him that can be satisfied with pulse and can keep in good health, seek for nothing more; but let him who is weaker and requires to be dieted with garden herbs, not be hindered of this. But if any be even weaker than this and require the support of flesh in moderation, we will not debar him from this either. For we do not advise these things, to kill and injure men but to cut off what is superfluous; and that is superfluous which is more than we need. For when we are able even without a thing to live healthfully and respectably, certainly the addition of that thing is a superfluity.
[4.] Thus let us think also in regard of clothing and of the table and of a dwelling house and of all our other wants; and in every thing inquire what is necessary. For what is superfluous is also useless. When thou shall have practised living on what is sufficient; then if thou hast a mind to emulate that widow, we will lead thee on to greater things than these. For thou hast not yet attained to the philosophy of that woman, whilst thou art anxious about what is sufficient. For she soared higher even than this; for what was to have been her support; that she cast in, all of it. Wilt thou then still distress thyself about such things as be necessary; and dost thou not blush to be vanquished by a woman; and not only not to emulate her, but to be left even of her far behind? For she did not say the things we say, ‘But what, if when I have spent all I be compelled to beg of another?’ but in her munificence stripped herself of all she had. What shall we say of the widow in the Old Testament in the time of the prophet Elias? For the risk she ran was not of poverty, but even of death and extinction, and not her own only, but her children’s too. For neither had, she any expectation of receiving from others, but of presently dying. ‘But,’ saith one, ‘she saw the prophet, and that made her munificent.’ But do not ye see saints without number? And why do I speak of saints? Ye see the Lord of the prophets asking an alms, and yet not even so do ye become humane; but though ye have coffers spewing one into another, do not even impart of your superfluity. What sayest thou? Was he a prophet that came to her, and did this persuade her to so great a magnanimity? This of itself deserves much admiration, that she was persuaded of his being a great and wonderful person. For how was it she did not say, as it would have been likely that a barbarian woman and a foreigner would Have reasoned, ’ If he were a prophet, he would not have begged of me. If he were a friend of God, He would not have neglected him. Be it that because of sins the Jews suffer this punishment: but whence, and wherefore, doth this man suffer?’ But she entertained none of these thoughts; but opened to him her house, and before her house, her heart; and set before him all she had; and putting nature on one side and disregarding her children, preferred the stranger unto all. Consider then how great punishment will be laid up for us, if we shall come behind and be weaker than a woman, a widow, poor, a foreigner, a barbarian, a mother of children, knowing nothing of these things which we know! For because we have strength of body, we are not therefore manly persons. For he alone hath this virtue, yea though he be laid upon his bed, whose strength is from within; since without this, though a man should tear up a mountain by his strength of body, I would call him nothing stronger than a girl or wretched crone. For the one struggles with incorporeal ills, but the other dares not even look them in the face. And that thou mayest learn that this is the measure of manliness, collect it from this very example. For what could be more manly thanthat woman who both against the tyranny of nature, and against the force of hunger, andagainst the threat of death, stood nobly fast, and proved stronger than all? Hear at least how Christ proclaimeth her. For, saith He, “there were many widows in the days of Elias, and to none of them was the prophet sent but to her.” (Lc 4,25-26) Shall I say something great and startling? This woman gave more to hospitality, than our father Abraham. For she “ran” not “unto the herd,” as he, (Gn 18,7) but by that “handful” (1R 17,12) outstripped all that have been renowned for hospitality. For in this was his excellence that he set himself to do that office; but hers, in that for the sake of the stranger she spared not her children even, and that too, though she looked. not for the things to come. But we, though a heaven exists, though a hell is threatened, though (which is greater than all) God hath wrought such great things for us and is made glad and rejoiceth over such things, sink back supinely. Not so, I beseech you: but let us “scatter abroad,” let us “give to the poor” as we ought to give. For what is much and what little, God defines, not by the measure of what is given, but by the extent of the substance of him that gives. Often surely hast thou who didst east in an hundred staters of gold offered less than he that offered but one obol, for thou didst cast in of thy superfluity. Howbeit do if but this, and thou wilt come quickly even to greater munificence. Scatter wealth that thou mayest gather righteousness. For along with wealth this refuseth to come to us; yet through it, though not with it, it is made present to us. For it is not possible that lust of wealth and righteousness should dwell together; they have their tents apart. Do not then obstinately strive to bring things together which are incompatible, but banish the usurper covetousness, if thou wouldest obtain the kingdom. For this is the [rightful]queen, and of slaves makes freemen, the contrary of which the other doth. Wherefore with all earnestness let us shun the one and welcome the other, that we may both gain freedom in this life and obtain the kingdom of heaven, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, new and for ever, and world without end. Amen).
Chrysostom on 2Cor 1800