For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man has, and not according to what he has not.
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Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to give what they are able but not to overdo it, because he did not want them to feel that they were acting under compulsion and thus come to be resentful. Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
"But if there be present readiness of mind, according to what a man hath it is acceptable, and not according to what he hath not: for it is not that there be ease to others, but tribulation to you, but of equality at the present time "and so forth.
Those, who have entertained the wish whose purpose is equal, share in the same honour with those who have the ability, although others have the advantage in point of resources.
It is accepted according to that a man hath. In other words, "Give what you can" (Ambrose, Chrysostom, Anselm). Observe here1. that the perfection and merit of almsgiving and of every virtue consists in the readiness of the will and not in the greatness or the number of the gifts; and, therefore, before God, when this readiness is greater then the virtue is greater, even if, on account of poverty or some other cause, the wish is unable to issue in the external act of giving. Hence S. Paul says that the willing mind is accepted, not the gift. Cf. S. Mark 12:43.
2. Notwithstanding, in order that this readiness be accepted before God, says S. Thomas, as true, earnest, and efficacious, it must issue in act according to what it has, i.e, give of what it has according to its power; otherwise it would be merely a wish, not an earnest and ready will. It is not expected to give what it has not, as S. Paul says. "Let him who has," says Theophylact, "carry out his work; he who has not has alrea...
In the second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: "If there be a ready will, it is acceptable according to what a man hath, not according to that which he hath not; nor let there be to others a mitigation, but to you a burdening.
He tells them that it is the will that chiefly makes their charity acceptable to God, who sees the heart. And that the design is not to make others live at their ease, in a richer condition than those who give, but to make a kind of equality, their brethren in Judea being now in great poverty and want. (Witham)
God regards two things in our alms: first, the zeal and good-will with which we give our alms; secondly, the greatness of our charities, that is, if they be proportionate to our means. If you have little, give a little, but with good-will; if you have much, give also much, but with equal benevolence and zeal. God measures the extent of our charity by the greatness of our zeal, not requiring of us what we have not, but what we have to spare, relieving others, without overcharging ourselves. (Bible de Vence)
Yielding our superfluities, that the poor may not want necessaries. (Menochius)
See wisdom unspeakable. In that (having pointed out those who were doing beyond their power, I mean the Thessalonians, and having praised them for this and said, I bear them record that even beyond their power;) he exhorts the Corinthians to do only after their power, leaving the example to do its own work; for he knew that not so much exhortation, as emulation, incites unto imitation of the like; wherefore he says, For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man has, not according as he has not.
'Fear not,' he means, 'because I have said these things, for what I said was an encomium upon their munificence , but God requires things after a man's power,' according as he has, not according as he has not. For the word is acceptable, here implies 'is required.' And he softens it greatly, in confident reliance upon this example, and as winning them more surely by leaving them at liberty.
Look at how unbelievably wise Paul is. After pointing out the need and showing them an example, Paul leaves the Corinthians to do as much as they can, letting the example of the Macedonians do its own work of persuasion. He knew that imitation was a more powerful incentive than exhortation.