If you’ve been following the daily devotionals for the past few days, you might remember that the apostle Paul refused money from the Corinthians. This was culturally unheard of and they got upset with him. One, because it made them feel disrespected. Two, they thought Paul must’ve been up to something.
In 2 Corinthians 12:14-18, Paul gives some reasons why he acted like this. Now at first this might seem irrelevant to you – but it’s not. It’s going to give you three insights into ministry. This will help you know what true ministry is, as well as how to spot counterfeit ministry.
As a Christian, you are a minister. You have something specific to do as part of the body of Christ, so these are really insights into what you should be doing.
True Ministry Is About People, Not Profit
The first insight into ministry is this: true ministry is about people, not profit. Paul writes in the first part of 2 Corinthians 12:14:
Here for third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you.
Despite the relational friction, Paul wanted to see the Corinthian Christians. Yet he still wasn’t going to “be a burden” and accept financial support from them. Why? Because he didn’t seek what was theirs but them.
The false apostles were not looking for relationships or to love and serve the Corinthians. They were seeking wealth and resources. Paul, on the other hand, wanted reconciliation and relationships.
What does this mean when looking at ministry?
If someone is seeking your money instead of a relationship, they’re probably false ministers.If a pastor wants you to give so he or she can buy a private jet, they’re probably counterfeit. It’s a bad sign when a minister is constantly asking for money and getting rich off it.
On the flipside, if a minister pursues relationships and reconciliation, he or she is probably a true minister. If ministers are willing to do the hard, dirty, stressful task of working out difficulties in relationships, they’re probably true.
What does this mean for you?
This applies not only to how you view other ministers, but also how you view yourself. One of the truest signs of a mature Christian is when you grow out of a “What’s in it for me?” mindset to a “How can a minister to people?” mindset.
Immature Christians approach church and church programs thinking about what they can get out of it. Mature Christians approach these things looking for ways to invest in other people.
So who in your life can you build up? Who can you intentionally try to influence toward Jesus? It may look like praying for someone, spending time with them or teaching them. This is what it means to be the church.
True Ministry Is About Giving, Not Receiving
The second insight into ministry is that true ministry is about giving, not receiving. Let’s look at the latter part of verse 14:
For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
Parenting is a wonderful example of true ministry. Parents of young children naturally understand that it’s their place to pay for everything. They don’t expect their little kid to pay for those things, and they don’t want them to pay. Children don’t put $20 bills in their Mother’s Day cards.
This parent-child relationship was how Paul viewed ministry. He wasn’t going to be like the false apostles and receive money from the Corinthian church.
What does this mean for you?
In the church, it’s good to think in terms of spiritual family. Think of all the spiritual fathers and mothers God has blessed you with. They’ve related to you in a one-way exchange of spiritual resources, pouring into you like parents pour into their children.
Now think of all the spiritual children you can minister to. Who can you minister to freely without receiving anything in return?
True Ministry Is Glad Work, Not Toilsome
You might think, “Ministering to other people without receiving anything sounds miserable.” But it’s actually not! This is the third insight into ministry: true ministry is glad, not toilsome.
This comes from verses 15-18:
I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
Paul was happy to “spend and be spent” for the Corinthians. He was glad to invest everything he had to see them trust and follow Jesus. Ministry was a wonderful sacrifice for him.
How does this mean for you?
If you’re honest, you might not feel this glad about ministry. You might feel like you have to guard your money, time, energy and stuff from getting consumed by other people. You might think, “I’m not okay with spending and being spent for the sake of others.”
In one sense, that’s okay. None of us are perfect, but we’re growing into this way of life through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. This passage of Scripture is helping you right now to identify true versus false ministry and to become a true minister yourself.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, you may be feeling unhappy and like there’s no sweetness in your life. If so, try ministering to someone – give and serve for the sake of someone else.
To sum it all up . . .
2 Corinthians 12:14-18 gives us three insights into ministry:
- true ministry is about people, not profit
- true ministry is about giving, not receiving
- true ministry is about spending gladly
How should you respond to this? Think about those who have truly ministered to you. And think about the people you can minister to right now. Finally, spend and be spent in ministry – that’s what we’re called to do as Christians.