NO FLATTERY OR PRETEXT
Verse 5 says, “For neither at any time were we found with a word of flattery, even as you know, nor with a pretext for covetousness—God is witness.” The Greek word rendered pretext also means pretense, cloak. To have any pretext for covetousness is to peddle or adulterate the word of God (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2). It is also to pretend to be godly for gain (1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:3).
According to verse 5, the apostles were never found with a word of flattery. We all must avoid flattery, never speaking in a way to flatter others. In this verse Paul also says that the apostles did not have a pretext, a cloak, for covetousness. They did not have an evil motive that was covered in some way. Because they did not have any pretext or pretense, they did not peddle the word of God or adulterate it. To adulterate something is to mix it with an inferior material, for example, to mix gold with copper or wine with water, and then to sell it as if it were pure. Throughout the centuries, many preachers and teachers have adulterated the word of God in this way. They preached under a pretext in order to make gain for themselves.
From verse 5 we learn to avoid flattery and a pretext for covetousness. In our Christian work we must give no place to such unclean things. No servant of the Lord should use flattery or have some kind of pretext for covetousness. May the Lord have mercy on us and purify us from all these things. May we be able to say that God is our witness that we do not speak words of flattery or have any pretext for covetousness.
NOT SEEKING GLORY FROM MEN
In verse 6 Paul goes on to say, “Nor seeking glory of men, neither from you, nor from others, when we might have stood on our dignity as apostles of Christ.” To seek glory of men is a real temptation to every Christian worker. Many have been devoured and spoiled by this matter.
The Greek words rendered “stood on our dignity” also mean “asserted authority.” A literal translation would be “been able to be in weight,” that is, been burdensome (see v. 9; 1 Cor. 9:4-12). To assert authority, dignity, or right in Christian work also damages it. The Lord Jesus, while on earth, gave up His dignity (John 13:4-5), and the apostle would rather not use his right (1 Cor. 9:12).
Apparently seeking glory from men is not as evil as covetousness. However, it is more subtle. The fall of the archangel was due to the seeking of glory. He became God’s adversary because of his glory-seeking. Even though he was a leading angel with a very high position, he was still seeking glory. That was the cause of his fall. According to the New Testament, anyone who seeks glory of men is a follower of Satan. The seeking of glory is a trap spread by Satan to snare Christian workers. Therefore, it is very important that all Christian workers learn to avoid the snare of glory-seeking. However, not many have escaped this trap.
How much we shall be used by the Lord and how long our usefulness will last depends on whether we seek glory of men. If we seek glory, our usefulness in the hand of the Lord is finished. The seeking of glory for the self always kills one’s usefulness. Therefore, may we all, especially the young, be warned never to seek glory in the Lord’s work.
NOT STANDING ON THEIR DIGNITY
Verse 6 indicates clearly that the apostles did not stand on their dignity as apostles of Christ. They did not assume any standing or dignity. They had to forget that they were apostles and serve God’s people as slaves. They were not to remind others of the fact that they were apostles of Christ. Instead, they were to keep in mind that they were brothers serving believers. They were not to assume any standing or dignity.
Those who are believers and also those who are not believers may consider the leading ones, the elders, or the apostles as dignitaries. However, in the local churches there are no dignitaries. Instead of being dignitaries, we are slaves serving one another. Nevertheless, I know of certain ones who did not assume anything when they did not have a position or title. But as soon as they were given a position, perhaps in a service group, they began to assume dignity. This is shameful. We should learn of Paul never to stand on our dignity or assert authority.
A sister whose husband is an elder should not assume dignity because she is the wife of an elder. An elder’s wife is not the “First Lady.” She is simply a little sister serving the church. Furthermore, her husband is not a dignitary; he is a slave. As an elder, he has been appointed to serve the church as a slave. We all should have this attitude.
Paul’s statement, “We might have stood on our dignity as apostles of Christ,” indicates that even in the early days there was the temptation of assuming dignity. People were the same in Paul’s time as they are today. Then as well as now, there was the temptation to assume some kind of dignity or standing. Paul, however, did not stand on his dignity as an apostle in order to claim something for himself. By refusing to stand on his dignity or assert authority Paul is a good pattern for us all. If we follow this pattern, we shall kill a deadly disease germ in the Body of Christ, the germ of assuming a position.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)