1 Corinthians 13:3

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,a but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Read 1 Corinthians 13:3 Using Other Translations

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.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What does 1 Corinthians 13:3 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
1 Corinthians 13:3

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor
Of which the Jews give us instances; they say F14, that R. Ishcab stood, (Myynel wyokn lk qylxhw) , "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 F15 they say of R. Eliezer ben Judah, that the collectors of alms ran away from him, because he would have given them (wl vyv) (hm lk) , "all that he had"; and of another, they say F16, 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 F17:

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.


FOOTNOTES:

F14 T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 2.
F15 Juchasin, fol. 51. 2. Vid. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 148. 2.
F16 Vajikra Rabba, sect. 34. fol. 174. 4. & Mattanot Cehunah in ib.
F17 T. Pesach. fol. 8. 1, 2. Roshhashanah, fol. 4. 1. Bava Bathra, fol. 10. 1, 2.
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