It has often been said in ministry circles that there are three primary categories of sin and failure that can ruin a spiritual leader and his service: money, sex and power. We have surely seen all three of these play out very publicly in the broader evangelical church in America over recent decades. Moral issues have recently been especially publicized in a whole variety of denominations and churches. And since the beginning of this new year, a very prominent pastor of a large church has been removed because of his over-authoritarian and arrogant way of leading. Regarding money, just Google search “richest pastors” and link after link will come up of the “top ## most ridiculously wealthy pastors in America.” (I didn’t make the list.)
These sins ruin the lives of more than merely religious leaders, that is for sure. But there is something more shocking about it when servants of God commit these offences, even pilfering money that was given with the intent of “giving it to the Lord” for spiritual work. It is all very sad.
But the allure of money is nothing new. Paul told Timothy to teach – “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:17) It just is natural to see the possession of money as the possession of security and opportunity. But along with this may come temptation when around a lot of cash in any unaccountable situation.
In the context of the offerings being collected in the Macedonian churches and in Corinth for the purpose of sending it on for the needs in Jerusalem, Paul was acutely aware of the need for secure accountability. Today, this section of chapter 8 addresses this matter. What we have is a letter of commendation of three individuals who will take the gifts to Jerusalem, along with Paul frontally addressing the need for it to all to be done in an openly, honorable fashion that was above reproach. He surely knew that there were opponents in Corinth (and elsewhere) who would like to use this as an opportunity to cast aspersions upon the Apostle.
Paul speaks of the quality of the life of Titus, a man known to the Corinthians already. Not only was he honorable, but of his own initiative he was especially passionate about this particular offering and all that it represented. As well, Paul references two other Godly individuals who would be a part of this effort. They are unnamed, either because they were already known to the Corinthians or that they would be introduced by Titus. In any event, they were highly-regarded in effective ministry and character in Macedonia.
It must have been a difficult and even dangerous undertaking to accomplish this task in that era. It was not like you could put the funds from Thessalonica, Ephesus and Berea in the local branch of the Mediterranean Bank in Macedonia, add to the account in the branch bank in Corinth, and withdraw it from the Jerusalem branch in Palestine.
Recognizing the nature of sinful man, Paul writes a wonderful statement that is timeless in application: For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
2 Corinthians 8:16 – Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.