13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;
Paul did not ask the Corinthian church to give more or less than other churches. Each church should give according to its capacity.
but by [out of] an equality,
The principle for giving among churches is “equality.” The point is a mutual give and take. Paul did not want one church relieved and another hard pressed because of their gift. The idea is not to rob Peter to pay Paul. The apostle did not suggest that the Corinthians should give more than what they had. The thought is not equality of the amount but equality in equal relief from the burden of want. The Bible nowhere teaches communism, although a few passages might lend themselves to that thought. A careful understanding of those passages teaches otherwise.
that now at this time
The issue about which Paul spoke in this context does not cover all people of all times. Circumstances change. The principle is to be applied differently in different situations.
your abundance may supply their lack,
God calls upon the church with “abundance” to help churches that lack resources. This was the right juncture for the Corinthians to meet this need.
that their abundance also may supply your lack
There could come a time when the Corinthian church would need the help of the Jerusalem church. The shoe, Paul was saying, might be on the other foot one day.
—that there may be equality [fairness, equity].
God does not place an unequal financial burden on those who give. The idea is not to put oneself in debt by giving to the poor. “Equality” is not economic, as in Marxist social justice, but a balancing of resources among churches. The “equality” here is not referring to everything but, in times of urgent need, other churches should share the burden of churches who lack. The determination is to be made based on need.
As it is written,
This verse cites Exodus 16:18. This is a reference to how God sufficiently supplied the needs of Israel with manna in the wilderness. Giving must follow the divine model in Exodus (Ex 16:18-20).
“He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
This quotation references the idea that Israelites gathered enough manna per household according to God’s provision. This is a statement in response to Israel’s grumbling (Ex 16:2-4, 16-17). No one had more or less than others who simultaneously gathered the manna. Paul was not interested in collecting the same amount from each Christian in Corinth.
Israelites who gathered a lot did not have any more than those who gathered a little. God always matches capacity. Each gathered according to his or her ability. The manna only lasted one day at a time; God provides for the believer progressively.
The person who greedily gathered more manna than he needed had nothing left over the next day. He had to accept God’s provision for the next day as well. If one has more than he needs, he should give it to others.
Giving to help other Christians in crisis is a matter of mutual capacity.
Paul did not propose a collection for those in financial trouble to the risk of putting another group of givers in difficulty. It is crucial to keep the principle of equality in view. Burdens need to be balanced.
God gave to the Israelites equally according to their needs; the believer should give this way also. Stingy giving rationalizes its tightfistedness. Someone might say, “Why should others benefit from my hard-earned money?”
It is God who does the equalizing. God gave Israel manna every day; their need was always met. Sharing based on equality is judged by ability. God does not expect the rich to bear the burden of a need and the poor to be excused from their proportionate giving. The equality of our passage is not communism but a balancing of needs. Christians are to give voluntarily and not by force.