2 Corinthians 8:12
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not.
It is characteristic of St. Paul that, when dealing with specific questions of duty, he laid down principles of much wider application. Thus, while the immediate topic was a collection for the relief of poor saints, and he acknowledges the liberality of the Corinthians, the apostle takes occasion to explain the value of "readiness," i.e. a disposition stretching forward to serve God and the Church, and not needing to be dragged forward by importunity. This is acceptable to God, the supreme Lover and spontaneous Giver of every good and perfect gift. What he regards is not the amount of the gift laid on his altar, but the disposition which gives promptly and gladly according to the resources at its command. Now, this principle is of wide application. It will prove all kinds of service. God is pleased with those servants of his who have a ready mind. An apt but misleading phrase is sometimes heard - "taking the will for the deed." Too often it is used as an excuse for shirking duty or withholding gifts. Two things must be kept in mind -
I. GOD DOES NOT ACCEPT INTENTION OR GOOD WILL INSTEAD OF THE DEED WHEN IT IS WITHIN ONE'S POWER TO PERFORM. And God looks behind the excuses that a covetous or indolent heart puts forward, and knows the absolute fact regarding what each man has or has not, can or cannot do. In giving to the poor or for the propagation of the gospel, one may obtain praise of men by bestowing a large sum in answer to an urgent appeal; but he has no praise from God if his contribution has been reluctant, or if it does not bear a fair proportion to the resources at his disposal. Sometimes one cannot give as much as formerly or as much as his neighbours, and therefore prays to be excused from giving anything, expressing a hope that the will may be taken for the deed. But it will not be so taken. He is required to give according to what he has, not what he has not. And the willing offering is just as acceptable to God as a gift a thousand times as large from a man a thousand times as rich. So also in regard to personal service. How many who call Jesus "Lord," when any definite piece of Christian work is proposed to them, put it aside, alleging that they have no turn for it or no time for it! So they stand all the day idle. Because they cannot serve with great ability or in a conspicuous station, they do nothing, and simply wish well to the cause of God and of righteousness. But empty good wishes are cheap and little worth, and God will not in such cases take the will for the deed. He who employs two talents with a willing mind will be commended in exactly the same terms as his fellow servant who has had five. And let him who has only one beware of hiding it in the earth. Men are very apt to take gifts from Christ, but not the gift of his "yoke." They are also not unwilling to own their faults, but do not mend them - merely raise a sort of foolish protest against their own weakness. In like manner they hear with muck satisfaction of the efforts made to purify and reform society, but personally they take no trouble about it; devote no time or pains to such endeavours. The hard work of philanthropy they complacently leave to others. Many act in the same way in regard to the expense incurred in a good cause. They are quite proud of the large sums raised in their church, and of the free handedness of their country. But they do not give. They blandly wave their best wishes over the gifts of others. But where there is power to do something for the good cause, God will not accept a wish for the deed. Where there is power to give, he will not accept a smile for a gift.
II. WHERE GOOD WILL SHOWS ITSELF IN DEEDS OR GIFTS, GOD LOOKS NOT SO MUCH ON THE AMOUNT OF THE OFFERING AS ON THE HEART OF THE DOER OR GIVER. It is the prothumia, the readiness of disposition, which pleases him. He loves the earnest worker and the cheerful giver. He approves that doer of the Word who does not need to be coaxed and pressed to undertake some part of Christian service, and that giver who, instead of waiting to be solicited, seeks out the objects most worthy of help, and makes his offering with a simplicity and a spontaneousness which greatly enhance the gift. In fact, while God does not accept the will for the deed from those who are able to do, he always accepts the will in the deed, and is pleased with the evidence of a ready mind. King David was not permitted to build a temple to Jehovah; but it was well that it was in his heart to do so (1 Kings 8:18), and the preparations which he made for the work are recorded with honour (1 Chronicles 29.). The women who prepared spices and ointments for the dead body of Jesus Christ were not allowed to carry out their purpose, for before they reached the sepulchre he had risen; but their readiness of mind was pleasing to the Lord, and they got something better to do than anoint a corpse. They were made the first preachers of his resurrection (Luke 24:10). The men who had followed Jesus were more slow of heart. They brooded over the disappointment of their hopes about the Messiah's kingdom, and the dark storm of odium which had broken on their Master and on his cause. So they had no thought of an early visit to the sepulchre. But the women thought less of the cause and more of the Master. And so with their ready mind they got the highest honour. Learn that the secret of happiness and usefulness lies in having the same ready mind, fastened, not so much on this piece of work or that, as on the Lord himself, for or to whom all Christian work is to be done. You may not get outlet for your readiness in the way that you planned or expected, but you will get outlet and employment for it; and God will accept it according to what it is, not according to its apparent success. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart. - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.