(As it is written, He has dispersed abroad; he has given to the poor: his righteousness remains forever.
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This is the import of abound; for the words, he has dispersed abroad, signify nothing else but the giving plentifully. For if the things themselves abide not, yet their results 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 makes righteous, consuming sins like a fire when it is plentifully poured out.
3. Let us not therefore nicely calculate, but sow with a profuse hand. Do you see 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 does this deserve, yea, how great a punishment does it not deserve, when he indeed bestows so much upon her that ruins and shames him, but thou not the least thing on Him that saves you and makes you brighter? But as long as you spend it upon your belly and on drunkenness and dissipation , thou never thinkest of poverty: but when need is to relieve poverty, you have become poorer than any body. And when feeding parasites and flatterers, you are as joyous as though you had fountains to spend from ; but if you chance to see a poor man, then the fear of poverty besets you. 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 you, 'Wherefore were you not thus magnanimous in things where it became you? But here is a man who, when giving to an harlot, thought not of any of these things; while thou, bestowing upon your Master Who has bid you not be anxious Matthew 6:25, art full of fear and trembling.' And what forgiveness then shall you deserve? For if a man who has received will not overlook, but will requite the favor, much more will Christ. For He that gives even without receiving, how will He not give after receiving? 'What then,' says one, 'when some who have spent much come to need other men's help?' You speak of those that have spent their all; when you yourself bestowest not a farthing. Promise to strip yourself of every thing and then ask questions about such men; but as long as you are a niggard and bestowest little of your substance, why throw me out excuses and pretenses? For neither am I leading you to the lofty peak of entire poverty but for the present I require you 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 you from these; nor forbids you your 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 you shall have practised living on what is sufficient; then if you have a mind to emulate that widow, we will lead you on to greater things than these. For you have not yet attained to the philosophy of that woman, while you are 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. Will you then still distress yourself about such things as be necessary; and do you 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,' says 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? You see the Lord of the prophets asking an alms, and yet not even so do ye become humane; but though you have coffers spewing one into another, do not even impart of your superfluity. What do you say? 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, does 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 has 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 you may learn that this is the measure of manliness, collect it from this very example. For what could be more manly than that woman who both against the tyranny of nature, and against the force of hunger, and against the threat of death, stood nobly fast, and proved stronger than all? Hear at least how Christ proclaims her. For, says He, there were many widows in the days of Elias, and to none of them was the prophet sent but to her. Luke 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, Genesis 18:7 but by that handful 1 Kings 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 has wrought such great things for us and is made glad and rejoices 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 have you who cast in an hundred staters of gold offered less than he that offered but one obol, for you cast in of your superfluity. Howbeit do if but this, and you will come quickly even to greater munificence. Scatter wealth that you may gather righteousness. For along with wealth this refuses 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 you would obtain the kingdom. For this is the [rightful] queen, and of slaves makes freemen, the contrary of which the other does. 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, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.