Assessing Performance (2 Corinthians 10–13)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

As we noted in the introduction, 2 Corinthians 10 through 13 con­stitute the third section of the letter. The most relevant parts for work come in chapters 10 and 11, which expand the discussion of on-the-job performance that began in chapter 5. Here Paul is defending himself in the face of attacks by a few people he facetiously calls “super-apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5). In doing so, he offers specific insights directly applicable to performance assessment.

The false super-apostles had been criticizing Paul for not measuring up to them in terms of eloquence, personal charisma, and evidence of signs and wonders. Naturally, the “standards” they chose were noth­ing more than self-descriptions of themselves and their ministries. Paul points out what an absurd game they were playing. People who judge by comparing others to themselves will always be self-satisfied. Paul refuses to go along with such a self-serving scheme. As far as he is concerned, as he had already explained in 1 Corinthians 4:1–5, the only judgment—and therefore the only commendation—that is worth its salt is the judgment of the Lord Jesus.

Paul’s perspective has direct relevance to our workplaces. Our per­formance on the job will likely be assessed in quarterly or annual reviews, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Problems arise when the standards by which we measure ourselves or others are biased and self-serving. In some organizations—typically those only loosely accountable to their owners and customers—a small circle of intimates may gain the ability to judge the performance of others primarily based on whether it falls in line with the insiders’ self-interests. Those outside the inner circle are then evaluated primarily in terms being “with us” or “against us.” This is a difficult spot to find ourselves in, yet because Christians measure suc­cess by God’s assessment rather than promotion, pay, or even continued employment, we may be the very people who can bring redemption to such corrupt organizations. If we should find ourselves as beneficiaries of corrupt, self-dealing systems, what better witness to Christ could we find than to stand up for the benefit of others who have been harmed or marginalized, even at the expense of our own comfort and security?