16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning! 17 Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
The same people who criticized Paul for not accepting support from the church were the ones who charged him with pilfering the Jerusalem offering.
This verse asks four questions. The Greek questions give a “yes” and a “no” answer. I have put the answer to each question.
But be that as it may,
The apostle could live with the idea that the Corinthian church did not love him (2 Co 12:15), but it was intolerable to him that they charged him with self-interest.
I [emphatic] did not burden you.
Paul did not saddle the Corinthian church with the responsibility of supporting him financially.
Nevertheless, being crafty [villainy, treachery], I caught you by cunning [trickery]!
This is sarcasm again. Paul probably repeated the denunciations of his accusers here. The false apostles may have charged him with dipping into the funds that he was collecting for the Jerusalem church. The church accused him of deceiving them because the apostle did not accept their financial support. They said he was “crafty” in his approach to them. He sarcastically spoke of their concern for his welfare (2 Co 12:14). The idea that Paul would scam them was absurd. He did nothing unscrupulous with the church. There is no way that he would take advantage of them.
Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? No
By a series of questions, Paul asked the church to give specific instances of his taking advantage of them. He wanted the evidence of their accusation that he used “cunning” in his approach to them.
The answer to this first question in Greek is “no.” The apostle did not seek what belonged to them, but he, and those he sent, sought the church’s welfare. They did not seek financial gain from the Corinthians. The false apostles were in it for themselves (2 Co 11:20).
I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him.
Paul urged Titus and another brother to go to Corinth leading up to his visit to collect relief funding for the Jerusalem church.
Did Titus take advantage [exploit] of you? No
As Paul, Titus did not take financial aid from the Corinthian church. There would have had to be a collusion within Paul’s team to cheat the church. Again, the Greek answers “no.”
Did we not walk in the same spirit? Yes
Paul’s team never exploited the church. Their “spirit” was to serve, not be served. Both Paul and Titus walked in the same spirit of serving, not to be served. The answer was “yes,” that neither of them ministered for their own welfare.
Did we not walk in the same steps? Yes
If Titus operated with integrity, would not also the person who sent him? Paul and Titus walked in the same steps. They were in one accord in their approach to ministry. It was an intolerable thought that Paul or his representatives would take advantage of the Corinthians. In Greek, the answer again expects a “yes” response.
Integrity is essential for a Christian leader.
Some leaders in Christianity are in it for financial gain or fame. They use underhanded methods to serve themselves, promising people what they cannot deliver. On the other hand, faithful servants of Christ are selfless and sacrificial (2 Co 1:12; 4:2; 11:31; Ga 1:20; 1 Ti 2:7).