In 2 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul made the following statement to the Corinthians, “ I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (v. 8)
Why did Paul say he robbed other churches?
Paul was committed to ministering the gospel for free, and he refused to impose his right to support on the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9). If the Corinthians had willingly offered to help Paul’s ministry, certainly Paul would have graciously accepted, but insisting on their support was not something Paul was going to do.
This is the point that does not need to be missed. Though Paul had the right to be supported, he willingly chose not to make it an issue by imposing his needs on the Corinthians.
The words, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service,” is said within a much larger context in which Paul chastises the Corinthians for allowing false apostles to take advantage of them, which included taking their money.
Consider the context:
1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
Note: verse 5 in The Amplified Bible says, “Yet I consider myself in no way inferior to the [so-called] super-apostles.
Paul is not contrasting his ministry with other true apostles in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Paul is contrasting the integrity of his genuine apostleship to those who were taking advantage of the Corinthians for personal gain.
6 But though I be rude (unskilled) in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.
7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
9 And when I was present with you, and wanted (in need), I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia (southern Greece).
11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.
12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
16 I say again, let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:1-21
In these verses, Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for putting up with false ministers (namely, false apostles) who abuse them, take from them, exalt themselves, etc…
Paul and those with him, such as Titus, who served the Corinthians without charge were ministers of integrity. They did not make merchandise of the Corinthians like the false ministers the Corinthians were tolerating.
Later in chapter 12, Paul would once again address his commitment not to be chargeable to the Corinthians for his ministry to them. Consider the following from chapter 12:
11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
Note, again the term “very chiefest apostle” means “those [so-called] super-apostles.”
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
Note: Paul is being sarcastic when he says, “forgive me this wrong!” He had no intention of changing and becoming chargeable to them. In much the same way he doesn’t mean he literally “robbed” other churches, but that the support that the Corinthians did not offer, the other Churches made up the difference. Not because Paul was chargeable to the other churches, but because the other churches graciously gave to support Paul’s ministry.
14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?
18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?
19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
Paul was committed to eternal things and verses 20 -21 speak to this truth regarding Paul’s concerns for the Corinthians to be edified in Christ.
20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:11-21
When Paul says, “ I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service,” he was simply saying that other churches came to his aid when the Corinthians failed to minister to his needs, though the Corinthians had given their support of those false ministers who had taken advantage of them. Paul, however, refused to impose his needs on the Corinthians.
It is good and right for people to support ministers, it is not right for ministers to abuse this privilege, and Paul communicates this to the Corinthians in both of his letters to them.