91There is really no need for me to write to you about the help being sent to God's people in Judea. 2I know that you are willing to help, and I have boasted of you to the people in Macedonia. “The brothers and sisters in Achaia,” I said, “have been ready to help since last year.” Your eagerness has stirred up most of them. 3Now I am sending these brothers and sisters, so that our boasting about you in this matter may not turn out to be empty words. But, just as I said, you will be ready with your help. 4However, if the people from Macedonia should come with me and find out that you are not ready, how ashamed we would be — not to speak of your shame — for feeling so sure of you! 5So I thought it was necessary to urge these brothers and sisters to go to you ahead of me and get ready in advance the gift you promised to make. Then it will be ready when I arrive, and it will show that you give because you want to, not because you have to.
6Remember that the person who sows few seeds will have a small crop; the one who sows many seeds will have a large crop. 7You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly. 8And God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good cause. 9
As the scripture says:
“He gives generously to the needy;
his kindness lasts for ever.”10
101I, Paul, make a personal appeal to you — I who am said to be meek and mild when I am with you, but harsh with you when I am away. By the gentleness and kindness of Christ 2I beg you not to force me to be harsh when I come; for I am sure I can deal harshly with those who say that we act from worldly motives. 3It is true that we live in the world, but we do not fight from worldly motives. 4The weapons we use in our fight are not the world's weapons but God's powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; 5we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 6And after you have proved your complete loyalty, we will be ready to punish any act of disloyalty.
7You are looking at the outward appearance of things. Is there someone there who reckons himself or herself to belong to Christ? Well, let them think again about themselves, because we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8For I am not ashamed, even if I have boasted somewhat too much about the authority that the Lord has given us — authority to build you up, not to tear you down. 9I do not want it to appear that I am trying to frighten you with my letters. 10Someone will say, “Paul's letters are severe and strong, but when he is with us in person, he is weak, and his words are nothing!” 11Such a person must understand that there is no difference between what we write in our letters when we are away and what we will do when we are there with you.
12Of course we would not dare to classify ourselves or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. How stupid they are! They make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and they judge themselves by their own standards! 13As for us, however, our boasting will not go beyond certain limits; it will stay within the limits of the work which God has set for us, and this includes our work among you. 14And since you are within those limits, we were not going beyond them when we came to you, bringing the Good News about Christ. 15So we do not boast about the work that others have done beyond the limits God set for us. Instead, we hope that your faith may grow and that we may be able to do a much greater work among you, always within the limits that God has set. 16Then we can preach the Good News in other countries beyond you and shall not have to boast about work already done in someone else's field.
But as the scripture says, “Whoever wants to boast must boast about what the Lord has done.” 18For it is people of whom the Lord thinks well who are really approved, not people who think well of themselves.
111I wish you would tolerate me, even when I am a bit foolish. Please do! 2I am jealous for you, just as God is; you are like a pure virgin whom I have promised in marriage to one man only, Christ himself. 3
I am afraid that your minds will be corrupted and that you will abandon your full and pure devotion to Christ — in the same way that Eve was deceived by the snake's clever lies. 4For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus, not the one we preached; and you accept a spirit and a gospel completely different from the Spirit and the gospel you received from us!
5I do not think that I am the least bit inferior to those very special so-called “apostles” of yours! 6Perhaps I am an amateur in speaking, but certainly not in knowledge; we have made this clear to you at all times and in all conditions.
7I did not charge you a thing when I preached the Good News of God to you; I humbled myself in order to make you important. Was that wrong of me? 8While I was working among you, I was paid by other churches. I was robbing them, so to speak, in order to help you. 9
And during the time I was with you I did not bother you for help when I needed money; the brothers and sisters who came from Macedonia brought me everything I needed. As in the past, so in the future: I will never be a burden to you! 10By Christ's truth in me, I promise that this boast of mine will not be silenced anywhere in all Achaia. 11Do I say this because I don't love you? God knows I love you!
12I will go on doing what I am doing now, in order to keep those other “apostles” from having any reason for boasting and saying that they work in the same way that we do. 13Those men are not true apostles — they are false apostles, who lie about their work and disguise themselves to look like real apostles of Christ. 14Well, no wonder! Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light! 15So it is no great thing if his servants disguise themselves to look like servants of righteousness. In the end they will get exactly what their actions deserve.
16I repeat: no one should think that I am a fool. But if you do, at least accept me as a fool, so that I will have a little to boast of. 17Of course what I am saying now is not what the Lord would like me to say; in this matter of boasting I am really talking like a fool. 18But since there are so many who boast for merely human reasons, I will do the same. 19You yourselves are so wise, and so you gladly tolerate fools! 20You tolerate anyone who orders you about or takes advantage of you or traps you or looks down on you or slaps you in the face. 21I am ashamed to admit that we were too timid to do those things!
But if anyone dares to boast about something — I am talking like a fool — I will be just as daring. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23
Are they Christ's servants? I sound like a madman — but I am a better servant than they are! I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often. 24
Five times I was given the 39 lashes by the Jews; 25
three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent 24 hours in the water. 26
In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from fellow-Jews and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. 27There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. 28And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress.
30If I must boast, I will boast about things that show how weak I am. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus — blessed be his name for ever! — knows that I am not lying. 32
When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas placed guards at the city gates to arrest me. 33But I was let down in a basket through an opening in the wall and escaped from him.