In today’s reading, Paul is speaking about the work that he, Timothy, and Silas had done in Thessalonica when they were there. But there were a couple verses that grabbed me to bring to focus today. “Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.” (2:5-6, NLT).
These verses speak a simple enough message for us to just read and understand. But it goes a bit deeper than that. Paul is saying that at no point in their ministry in Thessalonica, did he tell the people what they wanted to hear. He didn’t try to gloss over the ugly parts and highlight the nice bits. They didn’t just come to them and ask for money. Pretend to be their friends as long as they listened to they listened to Paul’s teachings.
This sounds a lot like the human condition to me. I am of the mind that a consequence of our sinful nature is that we want people to like us, and we will only like others so long as there is something to be gained from that relationship. This is not a godly way to be. He calls us for more than that. Paul says “Never once did we try to win you with flattery”. As Christians, it is hard for us to understand this message. We know that our call to follow Christ means that we must love others, but what does it mean to show that love. The world tells us that if we love someone, we can never be against them or disagree with what they believe. A great quote from Rick Warren that speaks on this issue is this: “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” Paul is writing in this verse that he did not care what the people thought about his message, so long as he was giving the Word of God.
I feel that these issues cause leadership of the church problems. I know I have said myself, “But what if we lose people?” But I’ve realized where this question comes from. It is founded when we view the church as an organization, not the bride of Jesus! Who cares if we lose people? Yes, the money is necessary to keep our buildings running, staff salaries, ministries funded, and anything else that your church needs it for. But the Church is not an organization. It is people spreading the love of and teaching about Christ. Just as Paul came to Thessalonica not worried about money, I think we, as Christians, need to not worry about what we can get out of relationships. Instead, let’s worry about what we put into them. Trust me, no matter the relationship, there is someone wanting to “get something out of it”. But what are you contributing? Are you giving your all to help the Gospel, or are you just interested in your own salvation?
The last verse I feel is the real meat of this section, “As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.” I think of some famous worship leaders and pastors that get some great praise from their fellow humans (myself included), but do you know what they have in common? They aren’t doing for themselves. They are out there doing their ministry in order to further the name of Jesus! They didn’t set out saying, “I want the world to know my name”. Rather it was, “I want the world to know Your name.” If we want further proof that this is the way it is supposed to be, just look at the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, NASB). It’s not baptizing them in the name of whomever brought them to Christ, it is in His name. All of this, everything we do, has nothing to do with us once we surrender our lives to God. We are meaningless. I am reminded of a book I read a few months ago that’s title sounds confusing, but means exactly what I am getting at here: I Am Not But I Know I AM. The pastor is telling us that if God is I AM, then we must be I am not. It’s about God, not me. We are here to further His Kingdom, not our own.
Please reread 1 Thessalonians 2 with me today. Let Paul’s words sink in and show us that it is not about giving people a message they will like, or us trying to get something from them. Instead it is about glorifying God’s name above all other names! We aren’t here for man’s glory, we are here for His!