Paul's Miscalculation?

As I read both first and second Corinthians and one of the minor themes was how Paul interacted with this church he’d planted. After he left, they got into a habit of disrespecting him. Paul, in both letters, has to reassert his apostolic and pastoral authority.

What’s interesting is that Paul figures this out and he identifies the cause. He jokes with them: "You guys don’t respect me because I didn’t abuse you financially." Now it’s only half a joke because, from Paul’s perspective, that’s actually a big bit of what’s going on between him and them – and that’s pretty messed up.

Paul got to Corinth and was supported by other churches in order to do his church planting work there. He had very good reasons for doing so, but the Corinthian church consistently misread Paul’s generosity on their behalf.

What is really annoying about the church is that, once the church was established, they still weren’t willing to give to support the work of the gospel! (We see that in 1Cor.9:9-14) Finally, in 2Cor.11:7 Paul says, “Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God without charge?

And I wonder, seriously, was that an error in judgment on Paul’s part?

I remember a while back when we were getting ready to launch a really important ministry initiative that would involve people buying a book. Most of the people in the room said, “This is so important and so beneficial to our people that we should make sure there is absolutely no barrier for them – have the church pick up the tab and give the people the books for free!” But a couple of folks said, more wisely I think: “No, they should be made to pay a few bucks for the book. If they don’t pay even a little bit for it, they won’t value it.”

I wonder if Paul, who would certainly understood this dynamic of human nature, realized what trouble this would eventually cause for him as he worked to effectively minister to Corinthian church.


jps said...

Yep! If it doesn't cost people anything, they don't value it. Think cheap grace :(


Eric said...

James' comment about "cheap grace" is instructive. First, grace is not cheap -- Jesus paid a huge price. However, it's freely given to us and many of us abuse it. It seems like God loves us so much he allows himself to be hurt often and hurt deeply.

Obviously there are times we need to be wise and protect ourselves. As a husband and father I must protect my family rather than be to open with my love to those who will hurt us.

Maybe Paul miscalculated. Maybe he chose to show love and accept the consequences. Some people do respond to love -- not everyone takes advantage.

emesselt said...

Certainly grace isn't cheap - but the point is that God paid the expense. The ultimate lesson seems to be that the Corinthians were so goofed up that they didn't recognize the gracious ministry that Paul offered.