1 Now we make known to you, brothers and sisters, the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, 2 that during a severe ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in the wealth of their generosity. 3 For I testify, they gave according to their means and beyond their means. They did so voluntarily, 4 begging us with great earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping the saints. 5 And they did this not just as we had hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 Thus we urged Titus that, just as he had previously begun this work, so also he should complete this act of kindness for you. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you—make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too. 8 I am not saying this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love by comparison with the eagerness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich. 10 So here is my opinion on this matter: It is to your advantage, since you made a good start last year both in your giving and your desire to give, 11 to finish what you started, so that just as you wanted to do it eagerly, you can also complete it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to whatever one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not say this so there would be relief for others and suffering for you, but as a matter of equality. 14 At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need, and thus there may be equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
91 It is certainly clear that wealth does no great service to its owners as regards the entertainment of strangers or otherwise. On the contrary, it is more likely to make them stingy and parsimonious, generally speaking, than poverty is. Even if some man of wealth may be found — one perhaps in a million — who is liberal and magnanimous in character, this by no means conclusively proves that the majority do not become worse in this regard than those whose means are limited. 92 A poor man, if he be of strong character, finds the little that he has sufficient both to enable him to regain his health when his body has been attacked by an illness not too severe — when, for example, he is visited by the sort of malady that usually attacks hard-working people whenever they overeat — and also to give acceptable gifts to strangers when they come — gifts willingly given that do not arouse the recipient's suspicion or give him offence — 93 perhaps not silver bowls, or embroidered robes, or a four-horse chariot, which were the gifts of Helen and Menelaus to Telemachus. For the poor man would be unlikely to have such guests to welcome as satraps or kings, for instance, unless they were very temperate and good men in whose eyes no gift is inadequate which is prompted by affection. But guests that are dissolute and tyrannical they would neither be able, I suppose, to serve acceptably nor, perhaps, would they care to extend such hospitality. 94 For it surely did not turn out any better for Menelaus that he was able to receive the wealthiest prince of Asia as a guest and that nobody else in Sparta was equal to entertaining the son of King Priam. 95 For, mark you, that prince despoiled his home, appropriated his wife as well as his treasures, left the daughter motherless, and sailed away. And after that Menelaus wasted a great deal of time travelling all over Greece bewailing his misfortunes and begging every king in turn to help him. He was forced also to implore his brother to give his daughter to be sacrificed at Aulis. 96 Then for ten years he sat fighting in Troy-land, where again both he and his brother kept cajoling the leaders of the army. When this was not done, the soldiers would grow angry and on every occasion would threaten to sail for home. Besides, he endured many hardships and dire perils, after which he wandered about and was able to reach his home only after infinite trouble.