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2 Corinthians 8:13–15

“I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (vv. 13–14).

Continuing to exhort the Corinthians to donate to the collection for the poor church in Jerusalem, Paul in today’s passage makes clear that he did not want the Corinthians to contribute so much that they themselves would need assistance from others. He has already implied as much by saying that the acceptability of their gift would be measured by their willingness to give and not the amount that they contributed (2 Cor. 8:12). Lest there be any doubt about what he was looking for, the Apostle states in 2 Corinthians 8:13 that he did not mean that the poverty of the Jerusalem Christians should be eased at the expense of burdening the Corinthians. The Corinthians were not required to give up everything they had or to risk the welfare of themselves and their families. This is a vital principle to remember in light of the teaching of all Scripture. Paul himself tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 that “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” In terms of priority, meeting the needs of our own households comes first, and it is possible to fail to provide for our own relatives by unwisely giving so much to others that we have nothing left for our own spouses and children.

So, the Apostle was not seeking for the Corinthians to make themselves destitute to help the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. Instead, he was looking for giving to the degree that it would create “fairness” between the Corinthian and Jerusalemite believers (2 Cor. 8:13–14). If we are not careful, we will miss Paul’s point. He was not promoting equality of outcome such that no believer would own more than another. That is a distinctly modern idea and quite at odds with the fact that the Bible never says that it is inherently evil to be wealthy and never mandates that we all have the same level of riches. Scripture assumes that in the church there will always be some who are wealthy and some who are not (e.g., see 1 Tim. 6:17–19). We sin not in being rich or poor but in showing partiality to the rich or poor (Ex. 23:1–9).

By fairness, Paul does not intend for all to have the same amount but only that no one in the church would go without the basic necessities of life. At various times, some Christians may have an abundance while others might not have enough to sustain themselves. When we find ourselves with an abundance, we should give to help believers who cannot feed, clothe, and shelter themselves and their families. After all, one day, we may need help in return (2 Cor. 8:13–15).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments that Paul does not demand “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 [such] . . . 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 will always be with us (Mark 14:7). So, let us not hoard our possessions but give so that we might help the poor.


For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 15:1–11
  • Proverbs 31:8
  • John 12:1–8
  • James 2:1–13

Willing to Give

Titus’ Generous Love for the Corinthians

Keep Reading The Doctrine of Justification

From the October 2021 Issue
Oct 2021 Issue