For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
St Paul feels a need to defend his ministry in the letters he writes to various churches. He tries to make it very clear that his message (The Gospel) is straightforward. He, like all the apostles, was not proclaiming the Gospel in order to be enriched from proclaiming it. St Paul speaks in sincerity about God’s Kingdom and he accepts the fact that he has to suffer for this proclamation. St Paul does not try to make the message obscure and understandable only to the intellectually elite. The message is not comprehensible only to the few, but is meant for everyone in the world. He makes no false promise that following Jesus will help us become prosperous. Paul is not a gimmicky swindler nor a salesman on commission. Biblical scholar Morna Hooker comments:
“Contrast with this the promise of one of the evangelists who is well known to those who are familiar with the North American phenomenon known as ‘electronic religion’, who every week assures his audience on television and radio: ‘Something good is going to happen to you today – spiritually, physically, financially.’ It is fairly easy to see that something is wrong with this message, for what have promises of financial success to do with the Christian gospel? Why should Christians expect material benefit from the gospel? Such promises of physical and financial benefit are crude appeals to self-interest; religion is being sold to viewers as a way to success. Religious men and women will do well because God will reward them. What sort of a gospel is this? Christ died – and I am cured from my cancer. He became poor – and my bank balance gets steadily healthier. He was hung on a gibbet – and I am a great success.
Now of course this is a travesty of religion – so much so, that we find ourselves amazed that anyone is taken in by it. But perhaps the travesty is only an extreme example of an attitude which is much more pervasive – and therefore much more dangerous. When Christianity is marketed in this way, then the Church has totally succumbed to the values of the outside world. Religion is being sold like any other commodity, and the vital question is ‘What do I get out of it?’ But what sort of values should Christians be maintaining – in a world which esteems self-reliance and applauds success? What sort of values should they be maintaining in a world where millions have no hope of being self-reliant or successful?
Christians are no more likely than anyone else to find the solution to problems of inflation and unemployment, and justice and famine. What they can do is to show the relevance of the Christian gospel to all those problems. When the world is divided between rich and poor, prosperous and starving, those with jobs and those without, strong and weak, where should Christians be found? Looking for something good to happen, spiritually, physically, and financially – or concerned about the welfare of others? Maintaining the rights of the strong, or standing up for the weak? Enjoying the success that has come to them through their own efforts or through good fortune – or identifying with those who have no hope of ever experiencing anything good? (FROM ADAM TO CHRIST, pp 68-69)