1 Corinthians 13:3
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
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(3) Bestow all my goods.—The Greek word literally means to feed others by giving them morsels of food, and so we have the thought of a charity extensive in its diffusion, as well as complete in its self-sacrifice. The whole of the bestower’s property given in charity, and so divided as to reach the largest number.

I give my body to be burned.—A still greater proof of devotion to some person or cause, is the sacrifice of life; yet even that may be without love. A strange reading has crept into some MSS.—“that I may boast”—which would make the passage mean that a man gave his body to some torture from a wrong motive, viz., vain-glory. But this would weaken the force of the passage. What renders the self-sacrifice valueless is not a wrong cause, but the absence of love as the motive power. Although burning was not a form of martyrdom at this time, yet such histories as that of the three children in Daniel 3:19 would make the expression intelligible and forcible.

These words are historically interesting to the English Church. They formed the text from which Dr. Smith preached at the martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley!

13:1-3 The excellent way had in view in the close of the former chapter, is not what is meant by charity in our common use of the word, almsgiving, but love in its fullest meaning; true love to God and man. Without this, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, of no esteem in the sight of God. A clear head and a deep understanding, are of no value without a benevolent and charitable heart. There may be an open and lavish hand, where there is not a liberal and charitable heart. Doing good to others will do none to us, if it be not done from love to God, and good-will to men. If we give away all we have, while we withhold the heart from God, it will not profit. Nor even the most painful sufferings. How are those deluded who look for acceptance and reward for their good works, which are as scanty and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!And though I bestow - The Greek word used here ψωμίσω psōmisō, from ψάω psaō, to break off) meant properly to break off, and distribute in small portions; to feed by morsels; and may be applicable here to distributing one's property in small portions. Charity or alms to the poor, was usually distributed at one's gate Luke 16:20, or in some public place. Of course, if property was distributed in this manner, many more would be benefitted than if all were given to one person. There would be many more to be thankful, and to celebrate one's praises. This was regarded as a great virtue; and was often performed in a most ostentatious manner. It was a gratification to wealthy men who desired the praise of being benevolent, that many of the poor flocked daily to their houses to be fed; and against this desire of distinction, the Saviour directed some of his severest reproofs; see Matthew 6:1-4. To make the case as strong as possible, Paul says that if all that a man had were dealt out in this way, in small portions, so as to benefit as many as possible, and yet were not attended "with true love toward God and toward man," it would be all false, hollow, hypocritical, and really of no value in regard to his own salvation. It would profit nothing. It would not be such an act as God would approve; it would be no evidence that the soul would be saved. Though good might be done to others, yet where the "motive" was wrong, it could not meet with the divine approbation, or be connected with his favor.

And though I give my body to be burned - Evidently as a martyr, or a witness to the truth of religion. Though I should be willing to lay down my life in the most painful manner, and have not charity, it would profit me nothing. Many of the ancient prophets were called to suffer martyrdom, though there is no evidence that any of them were burned to death as martyrs. Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego were indeed thrown into a fiery furnace, because they were worshippers of the true God; but they were not consumed in the flame, Daniel 3:19-26; compare Hebrews 11:34. Though Christians were early persecuted, yet there is no evidence that they were burned as martyrs as early as this Epistle was written. Nero is the first who is believed to have committed this horrible act; and under his reign, and during the persecution which he excited, Christians were covered with pitch, and set on fire to illuminate his gardens. It is possible that some Christians had been put to death in this manner when Paul wrote this Epistle; but it is more probable that he refers to this as "the most awful kind of death," rather than as anything which had really happened. Subsequently, however, as all know, this was often done, and thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of Christians have been called to evince their attachment to religion in the flames.

And have not charity - Have no love to God, or to people; have no true piety. If I do it from any selfish or sinister motive; if I do it from fanaticism, obstinacy, or vain-glory; if I am deceived in regard to my character, and have never been born again. It is not necessary to an explanation of this passage to suppose that this ever had been done, for the apostle only puts a supposable case. There is reason, however, to think that it has been done frequently; and that when the desire of martyrdom became the popular passion, and was believed to be connected infallibly with heaven, not a few have been willing to give themselves to the flames who never knew anything of love to God or true piety. Grotius mentions the instance of Calanus, and of Peregrinus the philosopher, who did it. Although this was not the common mode of martyrdom in the time of Paul, and although it was then perhaps unknown, it is remarkable that he should have referred to that which in subsequent times became the common mode of death on account of religion. In his time, and before, the common mode was by stoning, by the sword, or by crucifixion. Subsequently, however, all these were laid aside, and burning became the common way in which martyrs suffered. So it was, extensively, under Nero: and so it was, exclusively, under the Inquisition; and so it was in the persecutions in England in the time of Mary. Paul seems to have been directed to specify this rather than stoning, the sword, or crucifixion, in order that, in subsequent times, martyrs might be led to examine themselves, and to see whether they were actuated by true love to God in being willing to be consumed in the flames.

It profiteth me nothing - If there is no true piety, there can be no benefit in this to my soul. It will not save me. If I have no true love to God, I must perish, after all. "Love," therefore, is more valuable and precious than all these endowments. Nothing can supply its place; nothing can be connected with salvation without it.

3. bestow … goods … poor—literally, "dole out in food" all my goods; one of the highest functions of the "helps" (1Co 12:28).

give … body to be burned—literally, "to such a degree as that I should be burned." As the three youths did (Da 3:28), "yielded their bodies" (compare 2Co 12:15). These are most noble exemplifications of love in giving and in suffering. Yet they may be without love; in which case the "goods" and "body" are given, but not the soul, which is the sphere of love. Without the soul God rejects all else, and so rejects the man, who is therefore "profited" nothing (Mt 16:26; Lu 9:23-25). Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity, but not live in its spirit, which is love.

The apostle proceedeth from common gifts, powers, and habits, to actions, and instanceth in two; the first of which might be a great service to men; the latter, an appearance of a great service to God.

Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor; though, saith he, I feed the poor with my goods, and that not sparingly, but liberally, so as I spend all my estate in that way, and make myself as poor as they:

and though I give my body to be burned; though I die in the cause of Christ, for the testimony of his gospel, or for owning of his ways; and that by the sharpest and most cruel sort of death, burning; and be not dragged to the stake, but freely give up myself to that cruel kind of death:

and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing; yet if I have not a root and principle of love to God in my heart, that carrieth me out to these actions and these sufferings, they all will signify nothing to me, as to my eternal salvation and happiness. From whence we may observe, that:

1. The highest acts of beneficence or bounty towards men, (which we usually call good works), are not meritorious at the hand of God, and may be separated from a true root of saving grace in the soul.

2. That the greatest sufferings for and in the cause of religion, may be separated from a true root and principle of saving grace.

3. That no actions, no sufferings, are sufficient to entitle any soul to heaven, further than they proceed from a principle of true love to God, and a desire to obey and to please him in what we do.

Faith and love must be the roots and principles of all those works which are truly good, and acceptable to God, and which will be of any profit or avail to us with reference to our eternal happiness. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,.... Of which the Jews give us instances; they say (n), that R. Ishcab stood, , "and distributed all his goods to the poor"; and a little after they say the same of King Monbaz, that he stood and gave away, or dispersed, "all his goods to the poor"; and elsewhere (o) they say of R. Eliezer ben Judah, that the collectors of alms ran away from him, because he would have given them , "all that he had"; and of another, they say (p), that he took all that he had in his house, and went out to divide it among the poor; but of what avail was all this, when what these men did, they did not from a principle of love to God, nor to Christ, nor even to the poor, to whom they gave their substance; but to have honour and applause from men, and have and obtain eternal life hereafter? for they thought by so doing, that they deserved to behold the face of God, enjoy his favour, and be partakers of the happiness of the world to come (q):

and though I give my body to be burned; which may be done by a man that has no principle of grace in him; the very Heathens have done it; as the Indian queens upon the decease and funeral of their husbands; and Calenus, an Indian philosopher, who followed Alexander the great, and erected a funeral pile, and went into it of his own accord; and Peregrinus, another philosopher, did the like in the times of Trajan. The apostle here respects martyrdom, and by a prophetic spirit has respect to future times, when burning men's bodies for religion would be in use, which then was not; and suggests that there might be some, as according to ecclesiastical history there seems to have been some, who, from a forward and misguided zeal, and to get themselves a name, and leave one behind them, have exposed themselves to the flames, and yet "have not" had "charity", true love to God, a real affection for Christ, or to his saints: wherefore the apostle hypothetically says, supposing himself to be the person that had done all this, it profiteth me nothing: such things may profit others, but not a man's self; giving all his goods to the poor may be of advantage to them, and giving his body to be burned in the cause of religion may be of service to others, to confirm their faith, and encourage them to like sufferings when called to them; but can be of no avail to themselves in the business of salvation; which is not procured by works of righteousness, even the best, and much less by such which proceed from wrong principles, and are directed to wrong ends; the grace of God being wanting, and particularly that of love.

(n) T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 2.((o) Juchasin, fol. 51. 2. Vid. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 148. 2.((p) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 34. fol. 174. 4. & Mattanot Cehunah in ib. (q) T. Pesach. fol. 8. 1, 2. Roshhashanah, fol. 4. 1. Bava Bathra, fol. 10. 1, 2.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3. “And supposing that I do outwardly the very highest works of love, but without really having love as my inward motive, then I have no advantage therefrom, namely, towards attaining the Messianic salvation” (1 John 3:14). Comp Matthew 16:26; Galatians 5:2.

ψωμίζειν τινά τι means properly: to feed any one with something in the way of putting it by morsels into his mouth; then generally, cibare aliquem aliqua re, Romans 12:20. See the LXX. in Schleusner, V. p. 569; Valckenaer, p. 303. Only the thing is mentioned here in connection with the verb, but who the persons (the poor) are, is self-evident, as also the meaning: cibando consumsero. Comp Poll. vi. 33.

καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ κ.τ.λ[2060]] a yet higher eternal work of love, surrender of the body (Daniel 3:28), self-sacrifice.

ἵνα καυθήσομαι] (see the critical remarks) in order to be burned. The reading καυθήσωμαι would be a future subjunctive, a barbarism, the introduction of which in pre-New Testament Greek is due only to copyists. See Lobeck, a[2061] Phryn. p. 720 f.; Buttmann, neut. Gramm. p. 31 [E. T. 35]. The sense should not be defined more precisely than: in order to die the death by fire. To refer it, with most interpreters since Chrysostom, to the fiery death of the Christian martyrs, is without support from the known history of that period, and without a hint of it in the text. Probably such martyr-scenes as Daniel 3:19 ff., 2 Maccabees 7, hovered before the apostle’s mind. Comp Fritzsche, de conform. Lachm. p. 20.

[2060] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[2061] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.1 Corinthians 13:3. The suppositions of these three vv. cover three principal forms of activity in the Church—the spheres, viz., of supernatural manifestation, of spiritual influence, of material aid (1 Corinthians 13:3); loveless men who show conspicuous power in these several respects, in the first instance are sound signifying nothing; in the second, they are nothing; in the third, they gain nothing. Those who make sacrifices to benefit others without love, must have some hidden selfish recompense that they count upon; but they will cheat themselves.—ἐὰν ψωμίσω κ.τ.λ., “If I should dole out all my property”. The vb[1972] (derived from ψωμόςf1ψωμίον, John 13:26 ff.—a bit or crumb) takes acc[1973] of person in Romans 12:20 (LXX), here of thing—both regular: “Si distribuero in cibos pauperum” (Vg[1974]), “Si insumam alendis egenis” (Bz[1975]).—The sacrifice of property rises to its climax in that of bodily life: cf. Job 2:4 f., Daniel 3:28, Galatians 2:20, etc.; John 10:2; John 15:13.—But in either case, ex hypothesi, the devotion is vitiated by its motive—ἵνα καυχήσωμαι, “that I may make a boast” (cf. Matthew 6:1 ff.); it is prompted by ambition, not love. So the self-immolator forfeits the end he seeks; his glorifying becomes κενοδοξία (Galatians 5:26, Php 2:3; cf. John 5:44). οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι signifies loss of final benefit (cf. Galatians 5:2, Romans 2:25, Luke 9:25). This entire train of supposition P. puts in the 1st pers[1976], so avoiding the appearance of censure: cf., for the usus loquendi, 1 Corinthians 14:14-19, 1 Corinthians 8:13, 1 Corinthians 9:26 f.—καυθήσωμαι is a grammatical monstrum,—a reading that cannot well be explained except as a corruption of καυχήσωμαι; it was favoured by the thought of the Christian martyrdoms, and perhaps by the influence of Daniel 3:28. Hn[1977], Gd[1978], Ed[1979], El[1980], amongst critical comment., are in favour of the T.R., which is supported by the story, told in Josephus (B.J., vii. 8. 7), of a Buddhist fakir who about this time immolated himself by fire at Athens.

[1972] verb

[1973] accusative case.

[1974] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[1975] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[1976]ers. grammatical person, or personal.

[1977] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1978] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[1979] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1980] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor] It will be observed that the words ‘the poor’ are not in the original. Coleridge (see Dean Stanley’s note) says, “the true and most significant sense is ‘though I dole away in mouthfuls all my property or estates.’ ” So Olshausen, Meyer, to feed any one by putting morsels into his mouth. Cf. St Matthew 6:1-2. The word here used is akin to ψωμίον, a morsel; see St John 13:26. Were we to take the word charity in its ordinary English sense of liberality to the poor, the passage would contradict itself. It is quite possible to have charity without love.

and though I give my body to be burned] There is such a thing even as martyrdom in a hard, defiant spirit; not prompted by love of Christ, but by love of oneself; not springing from the impossibility of denying Him to Whom we owe all (compare Polycarp’s noble words, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and what has He done that I should deny Him?”), but from the resolution not to allow that we have been in the wrong. Such a martyrdom would profit neither him who suffered it, nor any one else.1 Corinthians 13:3. Καὶ ἐὰν, and if) This is the utmost that the helps and governments can do, ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28.—ψωμίσω, though I should distribute) He puts in the highest place, what refers to the human will and seems to be the most closely connected with love, in regard to acting and suffering. He, who delivers up his goods and his body, has much love, 2 Corinthians 12:15; but he who delivers them up without love, keeps back his soul to himself:[116] for love is a faculty of the soul; therefore he speaks of profit (ὠφελοῦμαι) in the apodosis. On ΨΩΜΊΖΕΙΝ see Romans 12:20.—ΠΑΡΑΔῶ, give up) for others.—ἵνα) even to such a degree as that I be burnt, Daniel 3:28; they gave up their bodies to the fire, παρέδωκαν τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν εἰς πῦρ.

[116] He may give up his body, but he keeps back his soul.—ED.Verse 3. - And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. The five words, "bestow to feed the poor," represent the one Greek word psomiso, and after all do not give its force. It is derived from psomion, a mouthful, and so means "give away by mouthfuls," i.e. "dole away." It occurs in Romans 12:20 for "feed." Attention to this verse might have served as a warning against the often useless and sometimes even pernicious doles of mediaeval monasteries. Much of the "charity" of these days is even more uncharitable than this, and shows the most complete absence of true charity; as for instance the dropping of pennies to professional beggars, and so putting a premium on vice and imposture. To be burned. The reading is extremely uncertain. The change of a letter gives the reading, that I may glory (καυχήσωμαι for καυθήσωμαι). Perhaps the scribes thought that "death by burning" was as yet (A.D. 57) an unheard of form of martyrdom, though it became but too familiar ten or twelve years later in the Neronian persecution. St. Paul was, however, probably referring, not, as some have supposed, to branding, which would bare been expressed differently, but to the case of the "three children," in Daniel 3:23, where the LXX. has, "They gave their bodies into the fire;" or to the various tortures and deaths by fire in 2 Macc. 7. At the burning of Ridley and Latimer, Dr. Smith chose this verse for his text. Its applicability is on a par with millions of other instances in which Scripture has been grossly abused by employing its letter to murder its spirit, and by taking it from the God of love to give it to the devil of religious hatred. The burning of a saint was a singular specimen of the Church's "love." It profiteth me nothing; literally, I am nothing benefited. A consideration of this verse might have shown the Christians of the early centuries that there was nothing intrinsically redemptive in the martyrdom into which they often thrust themselves. Bestow (ψωμίσω)

Only here and Romans 12:20. See on sop, John 13:26. The verb means to feed out in morsels, dole out.

To be burned (ἵνα καυθήσωμαι)

The latest critical text reads καυχήσωμαι in order that I may glory, after the three oldest MSS. The change to burned might have been suggested by the copyist's familiarity with christian martyrdoms, or by the story of the three Hebrews. Bishop Lightfoot finds a possible reference to the case of an Indian fanatic who, in the time of Augustus, burned himself alive at Athens. His tomb there was visible in Paul's time, and may have been seen by him. It bore the inscription: "Zarmochegas the Indian from Bargosa, according to the ancient customs of India, made himself immortal and lies here." Calanus, an Indian gymnosophist who followed Alexander, in order to get rid of his sufferings, burned himself before the Macedonian army (see Plutarch, "Alexander"). Martyrdom for the sake of ambition was a fact of early occurrence in the Church, if not in Paul's day. Farrar says of his age, "both at this time and in the persecution of Diocletian, there were Christians who, oppressed by debt, by misery, and sometimes even by a sense of guilt, thrust themselves into the glory and imagined redemptiveness of the baptism of blood.... The extravagant estimate formed of the merits of all who were confessors, became, almost immediately, the cause of grave scandals. We are horified to read in Cyprian's letter that even in prison, even when death was imminent, there were some of the confessors who were puffed up with vanity and pride, and seemed to think that the blood of martyrdom would avail them to wash away the stains of flagrant and even recent immoralities" ("Lives of the Fathers," ch. vi., sec. 2).

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