“Willing to spend and be spent” (2 Cor 12.15)

I have fallen in love with 2 Cor 12.15: “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”

Here’s why I love that line.

The Corinthian church was what we might call “a problem church.”  Paul loved Corinth; he founded the church there (Acts 18). He spent several years living there, it was his “base of operations” for a while.  He probably wrote Romans while living in Corinth.

But the Corinthian church was far from perfect.  Compared to others of Paul’s churches, the believers in Corinth were financially better off.  The people of the church were gifted, charismatic (in the general and spiritual sense), upwardly mobile; the “middle class” of the new Roman cities.

And they had “daddy issues.”  Paul may have been their spiritual father, but they disrespected him, lavished praise and honor on other leaders who disrespected Paul, etc.  Paul’s relationship with Corinth was PAINFUL.

(A letter written at the end of the 1st century from the church at Rome to the church at Corinth, which we know as 1 Clement, shows that the Corinthian church’s problems with authority and rebelliousness didn’t end with Paul and his competitors.  Apparently, Corinth was ALWAYS a problem church.)

So: at the end of 2 Corinthians, at the end of this painful correspondence which is itself a relic of Paul’s painful relationship with his spiritual children, Paul writes that incredible sentence.

“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”

  • … even though they had hurt him.
  • … even though they hadn’t honored him like he deserved to be honored.
  • … even though they thought they had no need of him, and no obligation to him.

“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”

Ministry can be difficult.  (It’s always difficult in some ways.)  Churches can be toxic.  Christians can be just as hateful, sinful, self-righteous, arrogant, etc., as any nonbeliever.

If you’re in a painful ministry, I pray that you (like Paul) can give the pain to Jesus.

If the people you serve are dishonoring you, let Jesus carry the shame of how they treat you; it is not yours to carry.  “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, …” (Heb 12).

Be willing to spend and be spent.

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