Eschew Outwardly Before the Worlde
In today’s chapter a kinsman of Count Rostov comes begging for some of the Count’s famous philanthropy. Unfortunately for the kinsman the good Count has already evacuated Moscow like pretty much everyone else in the city so the kinsman is left with only Mavra Kuzminishna to beg from. The young man is looking pretty bad, much in need. His coat and his boots are all in tatters. Mavra Kuzminishna provides him with a little bit of money and some blessings that he go with God on his journey.
What emerges from this chapter is the sharp distinction between Count Rostov’s charity and the charity of Mavra Kuzminishna. Count Rostov’s charity, as friend of A Year of War and Peace David Pierce points out, might be more a case of being unable to say no rather than an abiding commitment to altruism. It’s also fairly clear from previous chapters that he likes to boast of his benevolence. He likes to be seen giving and spending on others.
Mavra Kuzminishna is a bit different here. While it’s true that she doesn’t give much she does give some. But look closer at how she gives. She doesn’t offer the Rostov kinsman money to advertise her own beneficence. There is no one left in the city to see, after all. In addition, she makes sure that the kinsman understands that it’s not her giving the money. “If his Excellency had been at home,” she says, “as a kinsman he would of course” have given much more.
This selfless, godly giving juxtaposes perfectly with yesterday’s more brutal display of human nature. It’s a nice little palate cleanser. We need it, too. Things are about to go full Tolstoyan misanthropic up in here.
Keepe God more sparingly in your mouth, but aboundantly in your hart: be precise in effect, but sociall in shew: kythe more by your deeds then by your wordes the love of vertue & hatred of vice: and delight more to be godlie and verteus in deed, then to be thought and called so; . . . inwardly garnished with true Christian humilitie, not outwardly (with proud Pharisee) glorying in your godlinesse: … And … ye shall eschew outwardly before the worlde, the suspition of filthie proud hypocrisie and deceitfull dissumulation.
James I, Basilicon Doran