• …If it is giving (μεταδίδωμι/metadidōmi), give generously (ἁπλότης/haplotēs, Rom 12:8)

Paul uses a term for sharing, for transferring part of what you have to another. For example, it’s the same term Jesus uses when he tells the one that has two coats to give one to someone who has none (Luke 3:11). The Philadelphia art museum has a painting of the story of St. Martin. He’s astride a horse, using a sword to split his own cloak so he can give half to a naked beggar. The story continues: In heaven, St. Martin saw Jesus wearing half of a torn coat. When he asked about it, Jesus said, “Don’t you remember? You gave it to me.”1Mark 12:41–44; Luke 21:1–4; 2 Cor 8:2

St. Martin’s Cloak

Translations differ in how to render haplotēs. Some take it to refer to simplicity, as opposed to ostentatious show (KJV) or to sincerity that shows no mixed motives (NET). This would advise against the flamboyant mode of philanthropy that seeks headlines and honors for involvement in charitable causes. Most take ἁπλότης to mean with generosity. Bengel attempts to combine both senses and may hit a good note: “Neither prevented by the desire of private advantage, nor by anxious deliberation whether another be worthy of the favor, and whether proper moderation be observed in giving.”

Although Paul elsewhere uses the term metadidōmi to describe imparting a share of the spiritual gifting he has (Rom 1:11), here it’s certainly about sharing material help. Paul’s own drive to collect an offering for the beleaguered Jerusalem church provides a good example of this practice, describing the proper approach to sharing and its expected outcome. It represents how to exercise this gift so well that it’s worth quoting at length:

I want it to be a willing gift, not given grudgingly. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As Scripture says, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds are remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. (2 Cor 9:5–13)

You can give without stripping yourself

Paul was talking about the Corinthian congregation’s gifts for Christians at Jerusalem. But the same principle would apply to individuals giving to help others who are in need—especially if the needy are fellow believers (Gal 6:10). If God has been generous with you, he’s done so to enable you to be generous to others; if God has lavished wealth on you, he has done so to enable you to give largely—and joyfully. Indeed, if he’s given you gainful employment, it’s so you can “give generously to others in need” (Eph 4:28).


Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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