Transparency (2 Corinthians 1:12–23)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

As Paul moves into the body of his second letter to the Corinthians, he addresses the complaint that he had not been open and honest with them. Although he promised to visit Corinth again, Paul had backed out twice. Was Paul being insincere or speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Was he maneuvering behind the scenes to get his way behind others’ backs? Paul addresses these questions in 2 Corinthians 1:12–14. He is proud that his behavior among the Corinthians has been transpar­ent at all times. His actions were not the machinations of what he calls “fleshly wisdom” (2 Cor. 1:12). He cancelled his visits, not to gain an ad­vantage for himself or save face, but because he did not want to shame or rebuke the Corinthians again. Therefore, he delayed coming back to Corinth in the hope that, when he did come, he could bring joy rather than recrimination and reproof (2 Cor. 1:23–24).

Though Paul’s integrity had been questioned, he knew that because of his history of transparency with them, they would continue to trust him. “We have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity,” he reminds them (2 Cor. 1:12). Because they have seen him in action, they know he says what he means without vacillating (2 Cor. 1:17–20). This makes him sure they “will understand until the end” (2 Cor. 1:1–13), once they know all the factors he has had to consider. His proof of their trust is that even without knowing everything, Paul tells them, “You have already understood us in part” (2 Cor. 1:13).

In our work today, are we transparent enough so that people have a reason to trust us? On a daily basis, every person, company, and organiza­tion faces temptations to hide the truth. Are we obscuring our motivations in order to falsely gain trust from a customer or a rival? Are we making de­cisions in secret as a way of avoiding accountability or hiding factors others would object to? Are we pretending to support co-workers in their presence, but speaking derisively behind their backs? Paul’s example shows us that these actions are wrong. Moreover, whatever brief advantage we might gain from them is more than lost in the long term because our co-workers learn not to trust us. And if our co-workers cannot trust us, can God?

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we always reveal all the informa­tion we have. There are confidences, personal and organizational, that cannot be broken. Not everyone needs to be privy to all information. At times the honest answer may be, “I can’t answer that question because I have a duty of privacy to someone else.” But we shouldn’t use confidenti­ality as an excuse to prevaricate, to gain an edge on others, or to portray ourselves in a falsely positive light. If and when questions surface about our motives, a solid track record of openness and reliability will be the best antidote for misplaced doubts.

Transparency is so important to Paul’s work with the Corinthians that he returns to the theme throughout the letter. “We refuse to practice cunning or to falsify Gods word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:2). “We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you” (2 Cor. 6:11).