You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery. For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 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. (NLT)
It is so easy to do the right thing for the wrong reason. I can preach a message of truth but do so in order to receive flattery and praise. I can preach a message of love without love for those who hear it. Rather I can be a smooth operator out to get their money or their admiration.
Paul wants to assure his readers that he was not like that. He shared the Christian message without resorting to trickery or deceit. In a world like ours which is full of people who want to persuade us to do things which will make a profit for them, it is so important that followers of Jesus are not like that.
We are not religious marketeers who use smooth sales tactics to win approval, get rich, or become well known. We rely on the power of the Spirit to overcome opposition and go on sharing a message that is not always welcome or popular. If we get approval or encouragement, well and good. But that is a by-product, not an overall goal.
It is sad to recognise that the conveying of grace and truth is made so much more difficult by those who would convey a distorted version of it. “Come to Jesus and get rich.” “Come to Jesus and all your problems will be solved.” “Have more faith and your troubles are over.”
Such attractive lies are the enemies of a sometimes-uncomfortable truth. Our opposition is not always aggressive atheists but may well be peddlers of shady religion.