Let me just start today’s study by emphasizing the fact that if I had a choice, I would skip right over this part of the chapter. However, it is part of chapter 9, and I have been asked to write six devotions for chapter 9. We would come up quite short if I skipped over one-third of the chapter because it made me uncomfortable. So here we are…
I would like to do a quick review of 1 Corinthians, so we know where we have come from and where we are headed. Throughout much of this book, Paul has been answering all kinds of questions these church people had been asking. In chapter 8, he introduced the truth of Christian liberty: that we have the right to do certain things because, through Christ, we have been freed from the law. He also explained that our Christian liberty must be controlled by our concern and love for our fellow believers. In other words, there are certain things that we can do that we should not do because of how it will impact those around us. Paul uses all of chapter 9 and some of the next to teach this idea through the example of his own life. Today, let’s take a look at verses 1-11.
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
Did I already mention that if it were my choice, I would have skipped right over these verses? Paul spends 11 verses emphasizing his right to be supported by the church. He gives all kinds of reasons: Other pastors are supported by their churches (v. 6). Soldiers, farmers and shepherds get gain from what they oversee (v.7-9). You reap what you sow (v.11).
The most painful part about teaching on this is that so many pastors throughout the world are taking advantage of verses like these. There will always be those types of people, those who take advantage of God’s Word and abuse it for their own personal gain. Sometimes it is a “pastor” who does not truly want to serve God but serves the almighty dollar. It is not just pastors that misuse God’s Word like this though; people do it all the time as well. They manipulate God’s Word in a way that fits their argument and disregard it when it does not. However, we cannot avoid the truth of the Bible because we are uncomfortable with those who misuse it. God has called us to financially provide for those who care for our churches, and I hope that we do not take that responsibility lightly.