With the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, you may watch or listen to multiple sermons on Sunday. This can be a good thing, but you have to be careful. The more preachers you pay attention to, the more careful you have to be to make sure they aren’t leading you astray. That doesn’t mean be paranoid or suspicious – just realize that false ministers have been an issue throughout the history of the church.
The big idea from 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 is don’t be led astray. All of Christian ministry is about sincere and pure devotion to Christ. We must not be led astray by ministers who drift away from this. Specifically, don’t be led astray by those who only minister for money.
Money Issues with the Corinthians
In verses 7-10, we see that the apostle Paul refrained from accepting money from the Corinthians. He didn’t accept any financial support from them.
Paul refused to accept any financial support from the Corinthian church. He writes in verse 7:
Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge?
The Corinthians loved the “super-apostles” who were wealthy and impressive. But Paul refused their support and instead did manual labor. Why was this such a problem? Well first of all, it embarrassed and likely disrespected the givers. Secondly, it lowered Paul’s social status.
Because of this, Paul seemed like an illegitimate minister. But he goes on in verse 8:
I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.
So Paul accepted money from the Macedonians – just not the Corinthians. This made the Corinthians think he didn’t love them, which wasn’t at all the case. As Paul explains:
And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
Why Did Paul Refuse Support from the Corinthians?
What was the reason for Paul not accepting financial support from the Corinthian Christians? He wanted to undermine the false apostles.
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.
Paul wanted to separate himself from these “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (v. 13). He figured the best way to do this was by refusing financial support.
It wasn’t that these ministers had good intentions or were doing the best they could. They were serving Satan, not Christ. As Paul points out, they disguised themselves:
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
What Does This Mean for Us?
You can see how this would have applied to the Christians in Corinth back then. But how does it apply to us as Christians nowadays?
There are three main takeaways for us:
1. There are times when ministers should refuse compensation
Sometimes when we pursue true, Christian ministry, we should refrain from being paid. It’s not wrong to be paid for ministry (see 1 Corinthians 9:13-14), but pastors and other ministers should consider being bivocational. If receiving money for ministry creates a stumbling block, it’s probably time to find other means of financial support.
2. False ministers can often be identified by their pursuit of money
Many pastors and ministers have built empires around money instead of Christ. And many Christian leaders have been exposed for fraud and embezzlement. It’s a real issue.
Who are the most influential ministers in your life? Do you suspect they might be in it just for the money? If so, approach them or the church leadership about it or move away from them. We need to be discerning about who we follow.
3. We need to check ourselves related to money
1 Timothy 6:8-10 says that “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content … But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation … For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”
The question for us is, “Could I be content with just the essentials? Or do I desire to be rich?” Are you content with just food and clothing, or do you want to have lots of wealth? You will never be satisfied if all you want is more stuff.
If we fall into the trap of desiring to be rich, it can lead us away from the faith. The aim of all true ministry is to cultivate a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. That’s what true ministers want. And that’s what we must pursue.
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