Let’s read that verse: “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” (NKJV). Regarding the first part of this verse, there are two views as to what is meant by the words “the third time.” There are many who believe that this would literally be “Paul’s third visit to Corinth” and thus Paul is saying, “I am ready TO VISIT YOU for the third time.” They base this on 13:1 which says, “This WILL BE THE THIRD TIME I am coming to you.” Others believe he had never visited Corinth a “second time” because there is no account given in the book of Acts about a second visit, nor does Paul refer to it specifically in this epistle. So, they believe Paul is saying, “This is the third time I am MAKING PREPARATIONS TO COME TO YOU.” We cannot know for sure which view is right, so it is best to avoid being dogmatic.

As to the main part of this verse, Paul assures them that when he does come, he “will not be BURDENSOME to them.” What does he mean by the word “burdensome?” I believe it simply means that he would not be asking them for financial support, nor would he even accept money from them. Paul was being consistent in saying this, for when he was there during his first missionary journey (see Acts 18:1-11), he refused to be supported by them and he gave them his reasons for this in 1st Corinthians 9:15-18. After showing them that he had every right to be supported financially (in verses 1-14) he said, “But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I HAVE A REWARD; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is MY REWARD THEN? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel WITHOUT CHARGE, THAT I MAY NOT ABUSE MY AUTHORITY IN THE GOSPEL.” What Paul is really saying here is, “I could demand on my right to receive financial support from you, but I have decided to work as a tentmaker to provide for my needs (see Acts 18:1-3 along with Acts 20:34; Romans 16:3 and 1st Thessalonians 2:9) so that I can glory in preaching the gospel freely instead of insisting on my right to support.” This would also serve to silence his critics (who were questioning his apostleship) who may have said that he was only “in it for the money.”

But then Paul goes on in the verse we are considering to cite another reason for not asking them for money; “for I do not seek yours, but you.” Paul was interested IN THEM, NOT IN THEIR MONEY! Paul LOVED THEM and when many of the Corinthians believed the gospel when he first visited them (see Acts 18:8) he looked upon them as his “spiritual children.” Thus, he goes on to say, “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” He draws upon a lesson from everyday life, for just as parents work hard to provide for their small children at home, he too would work hard to provide for their needs as their “spiritual father.” He would NOT expect them to care for him in anyway.

Now we need to be careful not to take Paul’s words and apply them to “parents and their children AFTER children have left home to be on their own.” Some have used this verse to teach that parents should be saving up money and possessions in order to provide a big inheritance for their children after they die. This is simply wrong, for Paul is NOT speaking of the “future needs of children”; he is speaking of “present needs of children living at home,” so he uses that analogy to inform them that as a “faithful spiritual parent” he was caring for the needs of his “young children in the faith.”  (458.3)  (DO)