In 2 Corinthians we see St. Paul walking a tight rope. St. Paul spends a good deal of the first part of the letter saying that he does not “peddle” the Word of God, he is not commending himself, and he sincerely preaches the Gospel; yet in many respects, 2 Corinthians could be read basically as a fund raising letter. The letter reveals the awkward position “bondservants” (slaves) of the Church–ministers–find themselves in. On the one hand, like St. Paul, many ministers of the Church would rather earn their own living so that they may “boast” that they have not put a stumbling block in front of anyone in the preaching of the Gospel. On the other hand, as he explains in chapters 7 and 8 using the churches of Macedonia as an example, it is the joyful, generous giving (out the “deep poverty”) of one’s resources that often manifests the giving of oneself to God and to God’s servants “by the will of God.” God has ordained that those who preach the Gospel should live by it; and this is sometimes embarrassing.
Part of the embarrassment comes from the reality that ministers, even saints, are being saved too. That is, whatever treasure a priest or minister of God has, he or she has in an “earthen vessel.” The Good News comes to us through men and women who themselves struggle with weaknesses, passions, likes and dislikes. If my weaknesses were not so glaring, I imagine I would be less embarrassed; but I think that is a lie that I tell myself. The reality is probably more along the line of not wanting to endure false accusation–as St. Paul did.
St. Paul asked for money because A) others needed it, B) because it is good for those with material resources to give them away for spiritual reasons, and C) because God has ordained that each part of the Body of Christ should depend on the other parts. God gives different gifts to different members so that the Body will be knit together “by what each joint supplies.”
Misunderstandings are inevitable. The shining Glory of God is hidden in clay pots that the Life of Jesus may be manifest in mortal (dying) flesh (4:11). Wow! What a humble God! What a high calling for men and women! I guess that’s why St. Paul follows up this passage with an exhortation to faith and not to lose heart, for we do not look to the things that are seen… (4:13-18). And if dying flesh can manifest the Life of Jesus, perhaps also even “filthy lucre” and any other aspect of our mortal life can be a gift of grace, a manifestation of the giving of one’s self to God.