Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 5:42; LUKE 6:34-35
42. Give to him that asketh of thee: and from him who desires to borrow from thee, turn not thou away.
34. If you shall lend to those from whom you hope that you will receive, what kindness will it be in you? for sinners also lend to sinners, that they may receive the like. 35. Lend ye, expecting nothing again, and your reward shall be great.
Matthew 5:42. Give to him that asketh of thee. Though the words of Christ, which are related by Matthew, appear to command us to give to all without discrimination, yet we gather a different meaning from Luke, who explains the whole matter more fully. First, it is certain, that it was the design of Christ to make his disciples generous, but not prodigals and it would be a foolish prodigality to scatter at random what the Lord has given us. Again, we see the rule which the Spirit lays down in another passage for liberality. Let us therefore hold, first, that Christ exhorts his disciples to be liberal and generous; and next, that the way of doing it is, not to think that they have discharged their duty when they have aided a few persons, but to study to be kind to all, and not to be weary of giving, so long as they have the means.
Besides, that no man may cavil at the words of Matthew, let us compare what is said by Luke. Christ affirms that when, in lending or doing other kind offices, we look to the mutual reward, we perform no part of our duty to God. He thus draws a distinction between charity and carnal friendship. Ungodly men have no disinterested affection for each other, but only a mercenary regard: and thus, as Plato judiciously observes, every man draws on himself that affection which he entertains for others. But Christ demands from his own people disinterested beneficence, and bids them study to aid the poor, from whom nothing can be expected in return. We now see what it is, to have an open hand to petitioners. It is to be generously disposed to all who need qur assistance, and who cannot return the favor.
Luke 6:35. Lend, expecting nothing again. It is a mistake to confine this statement to usury, as if Christ only forbade his people to be usurers. The preceding part of the discourse shows clearly, that it has a wider reference. After having explained what wicked men are wont to do, — to love their friends, — to assist those from whom they expect some compensations, — to lend to persons like themselves, that they may afterwards receive the like from them, — Christ proceeds to show how much more he demands from his people, — to love their enemies, to show disinterested kindness, to lend without expecting a return. We now see, that the word nothing is improperly explained as referring to usury, or to any interest that is added to the principal: 418 whereas Christ only exhorts us to perform our duties freely, and tells us that mercenary acts are of no account in the sight of God. 419 Not that he absolutely condemns all acts of kindness which are done in the hope of a reward; but he shows that they are of no weight as a testimony of charity; because he alone is truly beneficent to his neighbors, who is led to assist them without any regard to his own advantage, but looks only to the necessities of each. Whether it is ever lawful for Christians to derive profit from lending money, I shall not argue at greater length under this passage, lest I should seem to raise the question unseasonably out of a false meaning which I have now refuted. Christ’s meaning, as I have already explained, is simply this: When believers lend, they ought to go beyond heathens; or, in other words, they ought to exercise pure liberality.
“De l’usure et accroissement qui vient outre le principal;” — “of usury and increase which comes beyond the principal.” On the lawfulnesss of lending money at interest, the most enlightened men, at the time when our author wrote, were strangley divded in sentiment. His own views were unfolded in a small work, which has been admired by competent judges for the purity of French style, and for enlarged views of Political Economy. After suffering not a little obloquy for his manner of applying the law of God to commercial questions, he has been vindicated by the unanimous opinion of posterity; and his performance, having served its purpose, has been quietly laid on the shelf. We allude to it only to account for the rapid and cursory manner in which he disposes here of a question, on which all who wish to know his opinions may satisfy themselves by perusing his own complete and elaborate statement of the argument. — Ed.
“Que les plaisirs lesquels les hommes se font les uns aux autres, sous esperance de recompense, ne viennent point en conte devant Dieu.” — “That the gratifications which men give to each other, in expectation of reward, come not into reckoning before God.”