Peddlers of Christ

I had something interesting and radical to say about something, but I can't remember what it is. I thought of it on the ride home yesterday. However, it has left my mind. Maybe the world is a better place without it.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 reads:

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;16 to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?17 For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many;f{f Other ancient authorities read like the others} but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

The New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989.

I found this on the history of the word translated peddler. (I'm really into history of words right now. Please pardon the fascination.) I copied this from a website article on archeology and its benefits to Bible study. "The foreword to McRay (McRay, J. Archaeology & the New Testament. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1991) gives an example. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 there is a Greek word kapeleuo, which most modern versions translate as peddle. This is the only place in the New Testament the word is used. In other Greek literature, it is translated as peddler, shop keeper or retailer. Several years ago, an archaeologist discovered a perfectly preserved Hellenistic house on the West Bank in Palestine. On the floor were some broken pottery with writing on them. The dialog on one of the pieces contained details of a transaction between two men. One man owed 32 drachma to the other who was called kapelos. However, there were no details of any commodity or service being supplied; therefore the meaning of this word was extended to include money lender."

I'm a retailer, and here is what I do. I create displays to make an item look more appealing. I try to sell people items that I feel they might want in the store. I'm not a high-pressure type of guy and will never pressure someone to buy something they don't want. I actually wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror if I did that, but I do think a "successful" retailer practices that tactic. I try to sell people things they would want if they knew about them. I guess I'm more of an informer than I am a retailer. I try to benefit from everything I sell. I'm in business to make money.

I think Paul is using the negative view of a retailer here. Our typical used car salesman view. I found an interesting link on the internet. It's for Canada, but I doubt the results would differ much. Religious institutions are considered less trustworthy than the judicial system, chiropractors, financial advisors, the environmental movement, and television and radio personalities. Thankfully the religious institutions are more trustworthy than auto mechanics, journalists, lawyers, new home builders, the press, labor unions, CEOs, politicians, and cars salesmen.

So what does it mean to be a salesman of God's word? Would trying to make church as entertaining or emotional as possible in order to manipulate people into a decision for Christ fall into being a peddler of God's word? Would doing neutral events, like sports, to bring an individual in and hook them make us a peddler of God's word? Would watering repentance and the kingdom of God out of the "good news" in order to be more appealing make us a peddler of God's word? What makes us a peddler of God's word?

I would say anything that we use as a tool to win people to the Lord besides the message of Christ, our life lived in obedience to that message, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When we resort to any sort of manipulation, we become a peddler of God's word.

Paul contrasts two lifestyles in this passage. One is that of a peddler. The other is that of a sincere person who stands in God's presence and emits an "aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." The key is us being in God's presence. We do not have to resort to peddling if we are in the grasp of God. When we are the type of people God wants us to be, we will naturally bring people to Christ. No peddling necessary.

So if we notice our spiritual aroma stinks, we need to step back and grow closer to God. God wants us to be the sort of people that others will be able to see him through. We are God's fragrance to the world. If we want people to think highly of God, then we need to live our lives in such a way that God is glorified. God's image is oftentimes linked to his follower's lives. No peddling necessary, just Christ-like living.

Watch out for potholes.