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“But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. I know how to be abused, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me. Howbeit, ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction.”
I have ofttimes said, that almsgiving hath been introduced not for the sake of the receivers, but of the givers, for the latter are they which make the greatest gain. And this Paul shows here also. In what way? The Philippians had sent him somewhat, after a long time, and had committed the same to Epaphroditus. See then, how when he is about to send Epaphroditus as the bearer of this Epistle, he praises them, and shows that this action was for the need, not of the receiver, but of the givers. This he doth, both that they who benefited him may not be lifted up with arrogance, and that they may become more zealous in well-doing, since they rather benefit themselves; and that they who receive may not fearlessly rush forward to receive, lest they meet with condemnation. For “it is more blessed,” He saith, “to give than to receive.” (Acts xx. 35.) Why then does he say, “I rejoice in the Lord greatly”? Not with worldly rejoicing, saith he, nor with the joy of this life, but in the Lord. Not because I had refreshment, but because ye advanced; for this is my refreshment. Wherefore he also saith “greatly”; since this joy was not corporeal, nor on account of his own refreshment, but because of their advancement.
And see how, when he had gently rebuked them on account of the times that were passed, he quickly throweth a shadow over this, and teacheth them constantly and always to remain in well doing. “Because at length,” saith he. The words, “at length,” show long time to have elapsed. “Ye have revived,” as fruits which have shot forth, dried up, and afterwards shot forth. Here he showeth, that being at first blooming, then having faded, they again budded forth. So that the word “flourished again,” has both rebuke and praise. For it is no small thing, that he who hath withered should flourish again. He showeth also, that it was from indolence all this had happened to them. But here he signifies, that even in former time they were wont to be zealous in these things. Wherefore he addeth, “your thought for me, wherein ye did indeed take thought.” And lest you should think, that in other things too they had been more zealous, and had then withered, but in this thing alone, behold how he has added, “your thought for me.” I apply the words, “now at length,” only to this; for in other things it is not so.
Here some one may enquire, how when he had said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts xx. 25; 34.); and, “These hands ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me”; and again when writing to the Corinthians, “For it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorying void” (1 Cor. ix. 15.); he suffereth his glorying to be made void? And how? By receiving. For if his glorying was, that he received not, how doth he now endure so to do? What is it then? Probably, he then did not receive on account of the false Apostles, “that wherein they glory” (2 Cor. xi. 12.), saith he, “they may be found even as we.” And he said not “are,” but “glory”; for they received but secretly. Wherefore he said, “wherein they glory.” Wherefore he also said, “No man shall stop me of this glorying.” (2 Cor. xi. 10.) And he said not simply, shall not stop me, but what? “in the regions of Achaia.” And again, “I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you.” (2 Cor. xi. 8.) Here he showed that he did receive. But Paul indeed received rightly, having so great a work; if in truth he did receive. But they who work not, how can they receive? “Yet I pray,” saith one. But there is no work. For this may be done together with work. “But I fast.” Neither is this work. For see this blessed one, preaching in many places, and working too. “But ye lacked opportunity.” What meaneth lacked opportunity? It came not; saith he, of indolence, but of necessity.677
“Not that I speak in respect of want.” I said, saith he, “now at length,” and I rebuked you, not seeking mine own, nor censuring you on this account, as if I were in want: for I sought it not on this account. Whence is this, O Paul, that thou makest no vain boasting? To the Corinthians he saith, “For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or even acknowledge.” (2 Cor. i. 13.) And in this case he would not have spoken to them so as to be convicted, he would not, had he been making boasts, have spoken thus. He was speaking to those who knew the facts, with whom detection would have been a greater disgrace. “For I have learnt,” saith he, “in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.” Wherefore, this is an object of discipline, and exercise, and care, for it is not easy of attainment, but very difficult, and a new thing. “In whatsoever state I am,” saith he, “therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things have I learned the secret.” That is, I know how to use little, to bear hunger and want. “Both to abound, and to suffer need.” “But, says one, there is no need of wisdom or of virtue in order to abound.” There is great need of virtue, not less than in the other case. For as want inclines us to do many evil things, so too doth plenty. For many ofttimes, coming into plenty, have become indolent, and have not known how to bear their good fortune. Many men have taken it as an occasion of no longer working. But Paul did not so, for what he received he consumed on others, and emptied himself for them. This is to know. He was in nowise relaxed, nor did he exult at his abundance; but was the same in want and in plenty, he was neither oppressed on the one hand, nor rendered a boaster on the other. “Both to be filled,” saith he, “and to be hungry, both to abound, and to be in want.” Many know not how to be full, as for example, the Israelites, “ate, and kicked” (Deut. xxxii. 15.), but I am equally well ordered in all. He showeth that he neither is now elated, nor was before grieved: or if he grieved, it was on their account, not on his own, for he himself was similarly affected.
“In everything,” saith he, “and in all things I have learned the secret,” i.e. I have had experience of all things in this long time, and these things have all succeeded with me. But since boasting might seem to have a place here, see how quickly he checks up, and says, “I can do all things in Christ678
Seest thou how he sootheth them? How are ye the authors? In that ye hasted to the work before all the others; and have given me confidence to remind you of these things. And observe his elevation; he accuseth them not while they did not send, lest he should seem to regard his own benefit, but when they had sent, then he rebuked them for the time past, and they received it, for he could not seem after that to regard his own benefit.
Ver. 15. “Ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church had communicated with me, as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.”
Lo, how great is his commendation! For the Corinthians and Romans are stirred up by hearing these things from him, whilst the Philippians did it without any other Church having made a beginning. For “in the beginning of the Gospel,” saith he, they manifested such zeal towards the holy Apostle, as themselves first to begin, without having any example, to bear this fruit. And no one can say that they did these things because he abode with them, or for their own benefit; for he saith, “When I departed from Macedonia, no Church had fellowship with me, in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only.” What meaneth “receiving,” and what “had fellowship”? Wherefore said he not, “no Church gave to me,” but “had fellowship with me, in the matter of giving and receiving”? Because it is a case of communication. He saith, “If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things.” (1 Cor. ix. 11.) And again, “That your abundance may be a supply to their want.” (2 Cor. viii. 14.) How did they communicate? In the matter of giving carnal things, and receiving spiritual. For as they who sell and buy communicate with each other, by mutually giving what they have, (and this is communication,) so too is it here. For there is not anything more profitable than this trade and traffic. It is performed on the earth, but is completed in heaven. They who buy are on the earth, but they buy and agree about heavenly things, whilst they lay down an earthly price.
But despond not; heavenly things are not to be bought with money, riches cannot purchase these things, but the purpose of him who giveth the money, his true wisdom, his superiority to earthly things, his love toward man, his mercifulness. For if money could purchase it, she who threw in the two mites would have gained nothing great. But since it was not the money, but the purpose that availed, she received everything, who exhibited a full purpose of mind. Let us not then say, that the Kingdom can be bought with money; it is not by money, but by purpose of mind which is exhibited by the money. Therefore, will one answer, there is no need of money? There is no need of money, but of the disposition; if thou hast this, thou wilt be able even by two mites to purchase Heaven; where this is not, not even ten thousand talents of gold will be able to do that, which the two mites could. Wherefore? Because if thou who hast much throwest in but a small portion, thou gavest an alms indeed, but not so great as the widow did; for thou didst not throw it in with the same readiness as she. For she deprived herself of all she had, or rather she deprived not, but gave it all as a free gift to herself. Not for a cup of cold water hath God promised the kingdom, but for readiness of heart; not for death, but for purpose of mind. For indeed it is no great thing. For what is it to give one life? that is giving one man; but one man is not of worth enough.
Here again is great praise, that he, when dwelling in the metropolis,679
As he said above, “Not that I speak in respect of want”; that is stronger than this. For it is one thing, that he who is in want, should not seek, and another that he who is in want should not even consider himself to be in want. “Not that I seek for the gift,” he says, “but I seek for the fruit, that increaseth to your account.” Not mine own. Seest thou, that the fruit is produced for them? This say I for your sake, says he, not for my own, for your salvation. For I gain nothing when I receive, but the grace belongeth to the givers, for the recompense is yonder in store for givers, but the gifts are here consumed by them who receive. Again even his desire is combined with praise and sympathy.
When he had said, I do not seek, lest he should again render them remiss, he adds,
Ver. 18. “But I have all things and abound,” i.e. through this gift ye have filled up what was wanting, which would make them more eager. For benefactors, the wiser they are, the more do they seek gratitude from the benefited. That is, ye have not only filled up what was deficient in former time, but ye have gone beyond. For lest by these words he should seem to accuse them, see how he seals up all. After he had said, “Not that I seek for the gift,” and “Now at length”; and had shown that their deed was a debt, for this is meant by, “I have all,” then again he showeth, that they had acted above what was due, and saith, “I have all things and abound, I am filled.” I say not this at hazard, or only from the feeling of my mind, but why? “Having received of Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell; a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.” Lo, whither he hath raised their gift; not I, he saith, received, but God through me. Wherefore though I be not in need, regard it not, for God had no need, and He received at their hands in such sort, that the Holy Scriptures shrunk not from saying, “God smelled a sweet savor” (Gen. viii. 21.), which denotes one who was pleased. For ye know, indeed ye know, how our soul is affected by sweet savors, how it is pleased, how it is delighted. The Scriptures therefore shrunk not from applying to God a word so human, and so lowly, that it might show to men that their gifts are become acceptable. For not the fat, not the smoke, made them acceptable, but the purpose of mind which offered them. Had it been otherwise, Cain’s offering too had been received. It saith then, that He is even pleased, and how He is pleased. For men could not without this have learned. He then, who hath no need, saith that He is thus pleased, that they may not become remiss by the absence of need. And afterward, when they had no care for other virtues, and trusted to their offerings alone, behold, how again he setteth them right by saying, “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” (Ps. l. 13.) This Paul also saith. “Not that I seek,” saith he, “for the gift.”
Ver. 19. “And may681
Behold how he invokes blessings upon them, as poor men do. But if even Paul blesseth those who give, much more let us not be ashamed to do this when we receive. Let us not receive as though we ourselves had need, let us not rejoice on our own account, but on that of the givers. Thus we too who receive shall have a reward, if we rejoice for their sake. Thus we shall not take it hardly, when men do not give, but rather shall grieve for their sake. So shall we render them more zealous, if we teach them, that not for our own sake do we so act; “but may my God” fulfill every need of yours, or every grace, or every joy.682
“According to His riches.” That is, according to His free gift, i.e. it is easy to Him, and possible, and quickly. And since I have spoken of need, do not think that he will drive you into straits. Wherefore he added, “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” So shall all things abound to you, that you may have them to His glory. Or, ye are wanting in nothing; (for it is written, “great grace was upon them all, neither was there any that lacked.”) (Acts iv. 33.) Or, so as to do all things for His glory, as if he had said, that ye may use your abundance to His glory.
Ver. 20. “Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” For the glory of which he speaks belongs not only to the Son, but to the Father too, for when the Son is glorified, then is the Father also. For when he said, This is done to the glory of Christ, lest any one should suppose that it is to His glory alone, he continued, “Unto our God and Father be the glory,” that glory which is paid to the Son.
Ver. 21. “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus.” This also is no small thing. For it is a proof of great good will, to salute them through letters. “The brethren which are with me salute you.” And yet thou saidst that thou hast “no one like-minded, who will care truly for your state.” How then sayest thou now, “The brethren which are with me”? He either saith, “The brethren which are with me,” because he hath no one like-minded of those who are with him, (where he doth not speak of those in the city, for how were they constrained to undertake the affairs of the Apostles?) or that he did not refuse to call even those brethren.
He elevated them and strengthened them, by showing that his preaching had reached even to the king’s683
Moral. For affliction is an unbroken bond, the increase of love, the occasion of compunction and piety. Hear the words of David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.” (Ps. cxix. 71.) And again another prophet, who saith, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lam. iii. 27.) And again, “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord.” (Ps. xciv. 12.) And another who saith, “Despise not the chastening of the Lord.” (Prov. iii. 11.) And “if thou come near to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation.” (Ecclus. xi. 1.) And Christ also said to His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.” (John xvi. 33.) And again, “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.” (John. xvi. 20.) And again, “Narrow and straitened is the way.” (Matt. vii. 14.) Dost thou see how tribulation is everywhere lauded, everywhere assumed as needful for us? For if in the contests of the world, no one without this receiveth the crown, unless he fortify himself by toil, by abstinence from delicacies, by living according to rule, by watchings, and innumerable other things, much more so here. For whom wilt thou name as an instance? The king? Not even he liveth a life free from care, but one burdened with much tribulation and anxiety. For look not to his diadem, but to his sea of cares, by which the crown is produced for him. Nor look to his purple robe, but to his soul, which is darker than that purple. His crown doth not so closely bind his brow, as care doth his soul. Nor look to the multitude of his spearmen, but to the multitude of his disquietudes. For it is not possible to find a private house laden with so many cares as a king’s palace. Violent deaths are each day expected, and a vision of blood is seen as they sit down to eat and drink. Nor can we say how oft he is disturbed in the night season, and leaps up, haunted with visions. And all this in peace; but if war should overtake him, what could be more piteous than such a life as this! What evils has he from those that are his own, I mean, those who are under his dominion. Nay, and of a truth the pavement of a king’s house is always full of blood, the blood of his own relations. And if ye will, I will also relate some instances, and ye will presently know; chiefly old occurrences—but also some things that have happened in our own times—yet still preserved in memory. One,684
And say not to me: What do they for whom I grieve gain by my so doing? Though we no way profit them for whom we grieve, at all events we shall profit ourselves. For he who grieveth thus on account of others, much more will so do for himself; he who thus weepeth for the sins of others will not pass by his own transgressions unwept, or rather, he will not quickly sin. But this is dreadful, that when we are ordered so to grieve for them that sin, we do not even exhibit any repentance for our own sins, but when sinning remain without feeling, and have care for and take account of anything, rather than our own sins. For this cause we rejoice with a worthless joy, which is the joy of the world, and straightway quenched, and which brings forth griefs innumerable. Let us then grieve with grief which is the mother of joy, and let us not rejoice with joy which brings forth grief. Let us shed tears which are the seeds of great joy, and not laugh with that laughter, which brings forth the gnashing of teeth for us. Let us be afflicted with affliction, from which springs up ease, and let us not seek luxury, whence great affliction and pain is born. Let us labor a little time upon the earth, that we may have continual enjoyment in heaven. Let us afflict ourselves in this transitory life, that we may attain rest in that which is endless. Let us not be remiss in this short life, lest we groan in that which is endless.
See ye not how many are here in affliction for the sake of worldly things? Consider that thou also art one of them, and bear thy affliction and thy pain, feeding on the hope of things to come. Thou art not better than Paul or Peter, who never obtained rest, who passed all their life in hunger and thirst and nakedness. If thou wouldest attain the same things with them, why journeyest thou along a contrary road? If thou wouldest arrive at that City, of which they have been deemed worthy, walk along the path which leadeth thither. The way of ease leadeth not thither, but that of affliction. The former is broad, the latter is narrow; along this let us walk, that we may attain eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be honor, might, power, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.