Candidates who interview for a job are often put in the awkward position of trying to sell themselves to a potential employer. They list their accomplishments and describe their strengths in an attempt to portray themselves in the best possible light.
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.2 Corinthians 11:30
Paul found himself in a similar position because of the criticism of those the Corinthians regarded as “super-apostles” but were really false teachers (vv. 5, 13). To counter their false narrative, Paul offered his own resume. Its most notable feature is the list of difficulties he had faced to advance the message of Christ. The result is a study in contrast.
The false apostles enriched themselves at the expense of those they were supposed to serve. One of the telltale signs of this was the way they had treated the Corinthians. They “put on airs” and abused them (v. 20). The more poorly they treated the Corinthians, the more impressed the Corinthians were with them!
These teachers claimed to serve Christ but “exploited” the church instead. The Greek term that the NIV translates as “exploit” in verse 20 literally meant to “eat up.” Paul’s use of such language may be an allusion to the condemnation of Israel’s leaders in Ezekiel 34. The Lord promised to “remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them” (Ezek. 34:10). While the false apostles boasted of their accomplishments and skills, Paul’s resume listed the hardships and difficulties he faced (2 Cor. 11:23–27). One of the most notable differences was Paul’s deep concern for the churches under his care: “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (v. 29).
Narcissistic leaders reverse God’s order. Instead of serving God’s flock, the flock serves them. Their so-called ministries are characterized by ego, abuse, and personal enrichment at the church’s expense. They are false shepherds.