Lord, give me the ability to always discern the big picture.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 9:1–18
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
New International Version (NIV)
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Paul would rather go without than risk harming the Gospel in any way. What does this say of preachers on TV who preach nothing but money?
For many of us, talking about money can be a subject of embarrassment or awkwardness—but in association with the ministry it cannot be avoided, and Paul tackles it in this chapter. It seems that some Christians in Corinth are questioning his authority because he doesn’t charge for his ministry like other itinerant preachers of the day are doing. It seems that the tensions between money and ministry are as difficult to negotiate for Paul as they are for the modern church. Paul argues that, if he wants to, he has the “right” to charge for his services (4–6,12) but, just as with the issue of food and idols, he is more concerned with appearances and how false impressions may hinder the Gospel. He doesn’t charge because he doesn’t want his motives to be questioned. However, Paul isn’t arguing for a purely voluntary ministry, either. He emphasizes that those who work for the Gospel should be remunerated, not just financially but in other material ways such as food and clothing—and that such support should be free of any notion of control or manipulation.
The heart of the issue for Paul is serving others before oneself. The end game is for nothing to have the potential to corrupt us or others. For Christian workers, this means that integrity and transparency are vital when we receive income for our work. For churches and others, we need to ensure that those whose privilege it is to serve full-time in the Lord’s work receive adequate remuneration.
“If Christian people are giving as they should… a congregation of ten people can support a minister at the same level of their own average income.” How do you respond?
Lord, help us to find the mid-point between adequate and excessive compensation for our ministers.