Paul’s Behavior At Thessalonica

“For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness; nor seeking glory of men, neither from you nor from others, when we might have claimed authority, as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children: even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:5-8).

In these verses Paul continued to remind the Thessalonian brethren of his conduct in their midst. Paul had used no flattering words to ensnare these brethren and the Thessalonians knew such to be so: “as ye know” is the way Paul put it. Flattery is defined by Websters as “excessive, often insincere praise.” An example of this can be see in Acts 24:2 when a lawyer named Tertullos opened his address to Felix in saying, “Seeing that by thee we enjoy much peace, and that by thy providence evils are corrected for this nation, we accept it in all ways and in all places, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness.” Few men were despised and hated more than Governor Felix. He was a cruel, vicious ruler who was not concerned with true justice, but with his own interests. He was a man without scruples. But Tertullos wanted a favor from Felix and he would bow, scrape, and insincerely flatter Felix to get what he wanted. Without doubt, Felix was not deceived by the flattery the lawyer lavished on him. The Thessalonians knew Paul had offered no such speech to them.

The Thessalonians could judge Paul’s words and deeds, but they could not judge his heart, so he calls God as witness that he had not used a “cloak of covetousness” when among them. A cloak of covetousness would mean that Paul pretended to be interested in the brethren’s spiritual well-being but was really only concerned with lining his own pockets. If there was ever a preacher who bent over backward to avoid taking advantage of those to whom he preached, it was Paul. As this epistle reveals, he worked to support himself there and followed that path later on in Corinth (Acts 18:3). To the Ephesian elders Paul said, “I coveted no man’s silver or gold, or apparel, ye yourselves know that these hands ministered unto my necessities and to them that were with me” (Acts 20:33-34). What a contrast to modern day mega “pastors” who amass millions, a yacht, private planes, and massive homes. It is right that preachers be supported, so the Lord decrees (1 Cor. 9:14), but the lavish lifestyle of many modern preachers shows what truly motivates them in their preaching.

Paul, likewise, sought not the glory of the Thessalonians. He had right to their respect; he was an apostle of Christ! But coveting the glory of man is a sure path to losing the glory of God. Paul wrote the Galatians, “Am I now seeking the favor of men or of God? or am I striving to please men? If I were still pleasing men I should not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). John wrote of those who loved the glory of men: “Nevertheless, even of the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess it less they should be put out of the synagogue: for the loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God” (Jn. 12:42-43).

Yet, although Paul neither used flattery among the Thessalonians nor sought their glory, nor wore a cloak of covetousness among them, he was deeply concerned about them. He was gentle among them just as a nurse cheriseth her own children. This is a tender illustration. Picture a nurse who, to provide for her children, hires herself to a family to care for their children. Paul was like a new mother who fed an infant in her employers’ home. At day’s end she was reunited with her own children whose care she had worked for all day. In real life, picture Jocabed, Moses’ mother, who to save him had abandoned him to the dangers of the river, hoping that some person would find him and show compassion on him. And picture her when her fond wishes were realized, and for a time was allowed to nurse her own son, considered every moment with Moses precious because ultimately he would be taken from her arms. But, he would be saved. Such was Paul’s care for these brethren. He imparted to them the gospel — the saving and powerful gospel. But he imparted something else: he own soul! These brethren had become very dear to him. And if past experiences was any gauge for the future, he knew separation from them would shortly come, which of course it did.

These letters to that beloved church reflect just what care this apostle had for them. Such love should exist between all brethren. “In love of the brethren be ye tenderly affectioned one toward another …”

Jim McDonald