Throughout 2nd Corinthians Paul’s in an impossible situation, trying—from a distance, without FaceTime or Zoom—to warn a congregation he’s invested heavily in against “money-grubbing ‘preachers’” (11:12; Peterson’s translation) without sounding like it’s simply Paul’s ego at stake. Readers differ on the degree to which Paul succeeds. What does seem to be at stake: what leadership’s about.
That’s a very old question. Well before king David, there’s Jotham’s biting parable. And Jesus sums up the answer we’re too familiar with: “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.” (Here’s where Pharaoh comes into this reflection, with his self-exaltation (v.17) bringing repeated disasters on his people.) And Jesus sets out for the Twelve a different model, ending with “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (10:45).
We could go many directions with that; here are two not related to being in an election year. Jesus regularly claims that he’s just doing what his Father does (e.g., Jn 5:19). So is Jesus’ description of his own work a fair description of the Father’s, of what we encounter from Genesis to Malachi? It’s not the description of God we usually start with; perhaps it should be (Isa 46:3-4)?
Meanwhile, us, the clay jars. Sometimes we have more scope for leadership than others; how are we using whatever scope we have? Dan Schutte has a good song about that; I’ll let him have the last word.