“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Cor 11:13-15)”
St. Paul spends a fair amount of text in his second letter to the Corinthians defending himself against calumny from what he calls in another place “superlative apostles.” I personally love the derogatory nature of that phrase – to me it seems like St. Paul is saying these men, like their fancy speech, are exaggerated and unnecessary. These are men who are apparently better-spoken than him and have no problem taking money in support of their ministry. It’s interesting that St. Paul distinguishes himself by reminding the Corinthians that he didn’t take any money from them, even though he insists he had the right to do so. It wouldn’t be fair, then, to conclude that because someone receives money for preaching that they are thereby to be considered false apostles, or servants of Satan.
I think it does accord with human experience, though, to assume if someone does good things at their own expense, it goes a long way to establishing their sincerity. I imagine that’s what was going on with St. Paul and the early Christian community he helped establish in Corinth. We all instinctively distrust televangelists, especially of the slicked-back hair type, and we should probably all be wary these days of YouTube preachers who understand their revenue stream a little too well. That it can be difficult to detect false apostles shouldn’t surprise us, though, since apparently this has been an issue for Christians since the beginning.