Friday, 8 January 2016
But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning! 2 Corinthians 12:16
Paul’s words, “But be that as it may” are based on his previous words which said, “…though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” Despite the attitude towards his loving demonstrations, it was his continued stance to not be a burden on them. This is contrary to nature as most people would simply give up after a while, but Paul knew that changing his tact and accepting assistance from them could only make things worse. And so he determined to continue to be no burden on them at all. The “I” in this clause is emphatic – “I did not burden you.” This leads us to understand the words of the next clause.
As he emphatically asserts that he didn’t burden the Corinthians, then there is another option which he must refute. He does so with the words, “Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!” These words would be as if he were quoting them. “Yes, you were no burden on us, but you deceived us in another way. You have announced that you want to take a collection to the saints in Jerusalem and you have sent others to collect it. However, we are sure that you will profit, at least in part, from the collection.”
This is a possible charge of the false apostles which then infected the minds of the Corinthians. Paul, showing them the silliness of such a charge will defend against it in the verses to come. He has been careful to handle everything in the most professional and open manner possible in order to avoid the very conflict that he is now addressing.
As a way of shining light on the words of this verse, the ISV and God’s Word translations both change it into a question rather than stating it as a fact. Instead of “I caught you by cunning,” they translate it this way –
“Granting that I have not been a burden to you, was I a clever schemer who trapped you by some trick?” ISV
This clears up any misunderstandings by the reader who may assume that Paul actually acted in a deceitful manner. The reason why this is important is that if Paul acted in deceit, then it would imply that this was an acceptable means of acting to achieve one’s goals. In essence, “The ends justify the means.” Such is not the case with Paul’s words.
Life application: One needs to understand when irony is stated or when someone is writing words as if they are spoken by another. This isn’t always easy to do and even learned scholars who understand the original languages will often disagree on what the actual intent of a verse is. This is a good reason for us to refer to many translations and to diligently study the writings of many scholars. In so doing, we can get a better sense of what is probably the correct interpretation of some very difficult verses.
Marvelous Lord God! You have brought each of us to the point where we are at in our lives. Some of us today are filled with abundance. Some of us are facing lack. We may be healthy and filled with pep, or we may be on our death bed. But no matter what our station is at this time, for those of us who have called on Jesus, the best times lie ahead. Thank You for the surety that whatever we are facing is something that can only get better when He comes for us. How great that day will be! Even so, come Lord Jesus! Amen.