Beyond Cupboard Love
Robert Wurtz II
Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:14–15 NKJV).
I wish to focus our attention on a simple statement that Paul makes in this passage when he wrote, “I do not seek yours, but you.” Let those words sink down into your ears. Clearly, he is telling the Corinthians that he has no intention of receiving (taking or accepting) anything from them monetarily. He doesn’t want their money. He doesn’t want their possessions. He doesn’t want anything that they may bring to the table that he could benefit from; He simply wants them.
“I do not seek yours, but you.” What a refreshing and delightful statement. Have you ever heard someone say that? What a rare thing. Not only does Paul not want their possessions, but he would also gladly spend and be spent for their souls. In other words, he was not there to take but to give. He was prepared to do whatever it took to see the Corinthians saved and living for Christ. He refused to do anything that would harm the Gospel or give people an excuse to walk out on God. He paid his own way and even gave his own hard-earned money in their offerings (if I might so say). He was spending (Greek dapanao… to spend money) and being spent!
Paul didn’t want their stuff. Commenting on these verses, he wasn’t what the late great Greek scholar A.T. Robinson called, a moocher (a person who lives off of others without giving anything in return). He rode into town and paid his own way. Not because he didn’t deserve to receive an offering, but because he wanted to express love to them abundantly and gladly. He was a cheerful giver. He understood that spending and being spent are both expressions of generosity and love. We should always be generous to those in need. We should do it gladly. Nevertheless, Paul writes to the Corinthians… “though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” This could be translated as a statement or a question. How could this be possible?
Reading this passage, “though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” brings a great deal of sadness to me. Here we have Paul not only refusing to accept an offering from these Corinthians but paying his own way and even spending his own money on them–and yet– what did he get in return? He couldn’t even say with certainty that they loved him, but rather, it seemed that the harder he tried to express his love for them the less he was loved in return. Have you ever been in a situation like that? A one-sided relationship?
It’s a terrible thing to feel like the only reason people want you around is because of your generosity. I have seen it happen. When the money or whatever benefit you bring to the relationship dries up, so does the friendship. What a depressing thing. What a disappointment. Proverbs 19:4-6 tells us, “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend. Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts” (Proverbs 19:4, 6 ESV). The British have an expression, “Cupboard Love.” It describes the selfish, greedy or insincere affection displayed towards another person in order to get what they want. If the money dried up or the contribution(s) of ______ dried up and the relationship ended; it was almost certainly based on cupboard love.
Paul didn’t seem to care that they didn’t reciprocate in the relationship because he was moving in agape love. He let the Corinthians know what they were all about (so to speak) and just kept on loving them anyhow. He gladly did it. Why? Because he viewed himself as their spiritual father and they were his children. He said it, “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” The mindset of the ideal parent is such that they feel responsible for taking care of the needs of their children. We have it in Paul’s later writings, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV). Paul is consistent in this view.
Could it be that far too many relationships are nothing more than cupboard love? It seemed to be true in Paul’s day and it ought not so to be. Would to God that He would send some Paul’s into the harvest who have this same attitude that says, “I do not seek yours, but you.” Paul wasn’t for hire, he was an evangelist (among other things). He wasn’t interested in what he had coming to him, he wanted Christ to receive what was rightfully His. As a dear saint once put it to me, “I don’t wish to just be needed, but I want to be wanted.” How can we let people know that they are loved with no strings attached? A love that says, “I love you and I want YOU… I don’t care about your stuff and I don’t want your stuff… I just want you.” May the Lord give us a generation who rejects the cupboard love outlook and are moving in agape love.
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