Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Providing for honest things . . .—Many of the best MSS. give: “For we provide for honest things,” as though he gave the general principle on which he was now acting in this particular instance. The rule of life is repeated, a few months afterwards, in Romans 12:17. The English reader does not recognise the fact, which the Greek reader would see at once, that the words are a quotation from Proverbs 3:4. where the Greek version has: “Write them upon the table of thine heart, and thou shalt find favour. Provide things honest in the sight of God and man. The citation is interesting, as showing that even one who was taught by the Spirit, as St. Paul was, could yet find guidance for his daily conduct in a book which seems to many almost to be below the level of the spiritual life. In this case, had the Apostle had only the judgment of God to consider, he could with a pure conscience have taken up the money to Jerusalem by himself. But he had to consider that men were judging him, and might suspect him, and therefore he insisted, as has been said above, on having his accounts audited.Romans 12:17; see the note on that place. In that place, however, it refers to the manner in which we are to treat those who injure us; here it refers to the right way of using property; and it seems to have been a kind of maxim by which Paul regulated his life, a "vade mecum" that was applicable to everything. The sentiment is, that we are to see to it beforehand that all our conduct shall be comely or honest. The word rendered "providing for" (προνωύμενοι pronōumenoi) means foreseeing, or perceiving beforehand; and the idea is, that we are to make it a matter of previous calculation, a settled plan, a thing that is to be attended to of set design. In the middle voice, the form in which it occurs here, it means to provide for in one's own behalf; to apply oneself to anything; to practice diligently - Robinson. The word rendered "things honest" (καλὰ kala) means properly beautiful, or comely.
The idea which is presented here is, that we are to see beforehand, or we are to make it a matter of set purpose that what we do shall be comely, that is, just, honorable, correct, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of mankind. Paul applies this in his own case to the alms which were to be entrusted to him. His idea is, that he meant so to conduct in the whole transaction as that his conduct should be approved by God, but that it should also be regarded as beautiful or correct in the sight of people. He knew how much his own usefulness depended on an irreproachable character. He, therefore, procured the appointment of one who had the entire confidence of the churches to travel with him. But there is no reason for confining this to the particular case under consideration. It seems to have been the leading maxim of the life of Paul, and it should be of ours. The maxim may be applied to everything which we have to do; and should constantly regulate us.
It may be applied to the acquisition and use of property; to the discharge of our professional duties; to our contact with others; to our treatment of inferiors and dependents; to our charities, etc. - in all of which we should make it a matter of previous thought, of earnest diligence, that our conduct should be perfectly honest and comely before God and man. Let us learn from this verse also, that ministers of the gospel should be especially careful that their conduct in money matters. and especially in the appropriation of the charities of the church, should be above suspicion. Much is often entrusted to their care, and the churches and individual Christians often commit much to their discretion. Their conduct in this should be without reproach; and in order to this, it is well to follow the example of Paul, and to insist that others who have the entire confidence of the churches should be associated with them. Nothing is easier than to raise a slanderous report against a minister of the gospel; and nothing gratifies a wicked world more than to be able to do it - and perhaps especially if it pertains to some improper use of money. It is not easy to meet such reports when they are started; and a minister, therefore, should be guarded, as Paul was, at every possible point, that he may be freed from that "whose breath outvenoms all the worms of Nile" - Slander.
honest things—"things honorable."Romans 12:17. In both places he instructeth us, what is the great duty of all Christians, but of ministers especially, (who are as cities built upon a hill, and cannot be hid, and against whom ill men are much more ready to open their mouths, than against private Christians of a more obscure condition), viz. to provide things honest, not only in the sight of God, ( having an eye, that in our actions we do nothing which God hath forbidden us, nor omit any thing which God hath commanded us), but also looking that in our conversation we (as much as in us lies) do those things which have a good report amongst men, Philippians 4:8. For besides that we are obliged to give no offence to Jews or Gentiles, nor any way to alienate them from the ways of God, we are also obliged to do what in us lieth to win and gain them to Christ; to which, the doing of actions which they account dishonest (though, it may be, some are not so upon a strict inquiry) is no fitting mean.
not only in the sight of the Lord: the same Lord as before, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a diligent searcher of the hearts, and discerner of the thoughts, and observer of the ways and actions of all his people;
but also in the sight of men; not that the apostle affected a mere outside show, popular applause, and the praise of men; but was concerned lest any weak persons, by their conduct, should be stumbled and fall, the edification of any should be hindered, and their ministry become unprofitable.Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2 Corinthians 8:21. Ground of this precautionary measure. For our anxiety is directed to what is good, not merely before the Lord, not merely so that we set before us God in this way (Proverbs 3:4), but also before men. Comp. on Romans 12:17. Were it merely the former, we should not need such precautionary measures, since to God we πεφανερώμεθα, 2 Corinthians 5:11; but “propter alios fama necessaria est,” Augustine. The misuse of the latter consideration is guarded against by ἐνώπ. κυρίου.
προνοεῖν, prospicere, also in the active; comp. Plato, Clit. p. 408 E; Xen. Mem. ii. 10. 3; Aelian, V. H. ii. 21; Wis 6:7; Hesych.: προνοεῖ· ἐπιμελεῖται.
For analogous Rabbinical sayings, see Wetstein.2 Corinthians 8:21. προνοοῦμεν γὰρ κ.τ.λ.: for “we provide things honest” not only “in the sight of the Lord,” but also “in the sight of men,” an injunction in the Proverbs which the Apostle quotes again at Romans 12:17. Where other people’s money is in question, one cannot be too careful; and the prudence of the method pursued in this collection, whereby the contributing Churches appointed colleagues to accompany St. Paul and to check his accounts, is worthy of close imitation in the ecclesiastical finance of a later age (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:3).providing] Most MSS. and editors here read for we provide, or rather, take care beforehand to do, i.e. it is our custom to give no occasion for suspicion. See Romans 12:17, where the same words occur. They are, as Dr Plumptre has reminded us, a quotation of Proverbs 3:4. Cf. also Romans 14:6; 1 Timothy 5:14; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:8. Also ch. 2 Corinthians 6:3.
honest things] Rather, what is honourable. The word implies what is of good repute among mankind, and hence what is honourable and noble in itself. See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:2.
also in the sight of men] It is not enough for the Christian to have a clear conscience. He must give no man an opportunity of insinuating that his conscience is not clear. See Matthew 5:14-16.2 Corinthians 8:21. Ἐνώπιον Κυρίου, in the sight of the Lord) in private, in truth: comp. Romans 12:17, note.Verse 21. - Honest things. The word "honest" means "honourable" (Romans 12:17; Proverbs 3:4, LXX.). Not only in the sight of the Lord. Such precautions would be unnecessary if others were not concerned, for God knows our honesty (2 Corinthians 5:11). But also before men. Although the text "avoid all appearance of evil" should be rendered "avoid every species of evil," the mistranslation conveys a wise lesson. "In a field of melons," says the Chinese proverb. "do not stoop to tie your shoe;" for that will look as if you wanted to steal one of the melons.
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