Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you? I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course? (verses 14-18)
It seems Paul has been accused by the false teachers in Corinth (the so called “super-apostles,” verse 11) of being inferior because he didn’t charge the Corinthians for his services. At the same time, remarkably, they seem to have accused him of exploiting the Corinthians. They want to have it both ways, attacking him from both sides.
So Paul answers with twin defences: compassion and integrity.
Starting with compassion, he calls the Corinthians his “children” and casts himself in the role of loving, sacrificial parent. Don’t parents expend financial resources on their children, rather than the other way round? Of course! They love their children. No wonder Paul didn’t charge them for ministering the gospel. How could he? Indeed, he says, he will gladly expend not only his physical resources, but the whole of his being. Such is his love for the Corinthians.
He turns, then, to integrity. Apparently, the false teachers have accused him of being a “crafty fellow,” using trickery to ensnare the Corinthians. Paul sarcastically turns it aside, beckoning the Corinthians to actually examine his record. What do you see?, Paul asks. Did Titus exploit you? Did the other brother? Both were sent directly from Paul himself, commissioned by him with full trust and confidence. Weren’t they exemplary in terms of character? And didn’t their behaviour fall completely in line with what they had already known of Paul himself? Both Paul and his messengers could stand up to the test. They were full of integrity. They carried the very Spirit of Christ.
Once again, in all of this, Paul is clearly pained that he needs to defend himself. “I have made a fool of myself,” he says, “but you drove me to it” (verse 11). He’s done it to uphold the very authority of the gospel he has preached, and to ensure that the Corinthians themselves don’t get sidelined from the truth.
Oh, may we have the same commitment today. May we be filled with the very compassion of Christ. May we love one another, so that the world may truly know that Jesus came from the Father. May we so love our neighbour as ourselves, that our light shines bright before all people, causing them to look to the Father in praise. May we live with compassion.
And may we live such lives of integrity, both in the church and in the world, that no stumbling block is placed in the pathway of the gospel. Integrity with money. Integrity with truth. Integrity with sexual behaviour. Integrity when we claim our citizenship is in heaven, so that rather than focusing our energies on earthly power and wealth, we constantly seek his kingdom to come, his will to be done here as in heaven.
Compassion and integrity. Oh, may it be.
Oh Lord, so live your life in us that we may shine forth your compassion and integrity in the world around us. Use it all for your glory and for the advance of the gospel. May it be. Amen.
Reflect: Where in your own life does compassion need to be deepened and integrity strengthened? Ask the Lord to show you how. Take the next step forward.