Day 75…1 Corinthians 9:7-18
1 Corinthians 9:7-18: Proper wages for Christian workers
Jesus said in Luke 10:7 that Christian workers deserve their wages and in this section Paul echoes this thought and urges the church to pay Christian workers that minister to the church–Pastors, elders and spiritual leaders.
v.7, This whole section is a continuation of Paul discussion about his apostleship that he and Barnabas were indeed apostles, even though they didn’t take advantage of the rights they deserved. Paul also made it clear in the list of questions that he asks that he is not above other apostles. They all, including him, have the right to be supported by the churches they serve. Just like a “soldier” has all his “expenses” covered by the military, and a “farmer” who plants a “vineyard” can enjoy the fruits from it. And a “shepherd fare for his flock of sheep” should be allowed to enjoy the “milk” from the sheep. All were cared for by their occupation. The same holds true for Christian workers they should be cared for by their congregation or church.
v.8-10, “Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing?” To most what Paul was saying made common sense from a human point of view, he even had Scripture (or the law) to back up his statement: “the law of Moses says” in Deuteronomy 25:4 “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” In those days grain was “threshed” by placing sheaves on a hard surface and having oxen pull a very heavy object back and forth over it. The law said that oxen should be allowed to eat some of the grain while they worked. The law made a very clear point, God’s people were to care for their animals by allowing their to eat while they worked. Paul asks “wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.” In other words Christian workers deserve to be cared for by those they minister to–the congregation or the church.
v.11-12, Paul then uses the farming analogy to talk about “plant[ing] spiritual seed among” the people of Corinth. Those who planted this spiritual seed “aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?” Again Paul drives the point across that those who laboured in planting spiritual should be compensated physically for what they did spiritually. Paul continues “if you support others who preach to you” most likely Apollos and Peter then those who brought the Gospel message to the Corinthian people and planted this church (Paul) should have “an even greater right to be supported.” But Paul chose to give up the right to be supported so that his being payed by the church would not be“an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.” Paul’s only reason for not accepting support from the churches he planted was he would not be an obstacle or some translations say “hinder.” This implies breaking up a road to prevent the enemy’s advance. Paul wanted to have a clear road for spreading the Good News or Gospel. He “put up with anything” [working two jobs] so that no unbeliever inquiring about Christianity would be put off by the financial obligation of supporting him as a missionary.
v.13, Paul gives two more examples of his right to receive support: “those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple” and “those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings.” Those who had “sacred jobs” received livelihood from their occupations. They did not have to go elsewhere to find food. It was part of the pay to receive a portion of the offering as their food. Both in Christian temples and pagan ones.
v.14, “In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.” Paul is probably referring to Luke 10:7 where those who benefit (congregation or church) from the preaching of the Gospel should support the preacher. This command allowed the preacher of the Gospel to focus entirely on preaching and the growth of the church and not to have to be concerned with making money.
v.15-17, Even though the churches were commanded to support God’s preachers and workers and they had a right to expect it, Paul chose to “never used any of these rights” at least in Corinth. Because he felt it would hinder the Gospel in that city. Maybe he felt by accepting money from the Corinthians would have caused some to think he was after money and not souls, that his motives were impure. Then he writes “I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact I would rather die than loose my right to boast about preaching without charge.” Paul wanted the Corinthians to know he would continue to preach the Gospel without expecting support, this was his “boast.” Even though Paul boasted in serving the Corinthian believers freely, he could not boast about what he did–preaching the Gospel. Paul was “compelled by God” or called by God, to preach the Gospel. Paul then said “how terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!” Some translation use “woe” which refers to an undescribed calamity that would happen to him if he stopped preaching the Gospel. However the reason Paul continued to preach was not because something terrible would happen to him but because “I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust” Paul saw his call from God to be a sacred trust so he had no choice but to freely serve God as an apostle / preacher without expecting payment.
v.18, “What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.” Paul’s pay or reward was preaching the Gospel without financial support so that the Gospel would not be hindered. His reward was being able to show genuine love and concern for the Corinthian believers.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Instead of giving my opinion because this topic is so close to me being I am a full-time pastor, I want to quote something I found in a commentary about his passage that I agree with:
“These verses concerning Paul’s rights and the church’s responsibility have a two-part challenge for the church today. First, the church must support its workers in a fair and equitable way. That is the church’s responsibility. It can research pay scales, examine the standard of living in its community, and do what is right and fair. Second, Christian workers must not let their attitude about pay and benefits hinder the Gospel. It is too easy to desire for more pay to enter into a person’s mind and distract from serving. Ministers need Paul’s attitude: I have not used any of these right.” — Life Application Bible Commentary.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? I think the thing I took away from today’s study is as a pastor I should not focus on pay or be distracted by it so much so that my ministry and caring of the Saints gets affected. I know that there have been times when we were living from pay cheque to pay cheque were I was very much distracted. Worrying about how we were going to pay rent, etc. But thankfully at my current position I am being taken care of. Yes, I am human, I do think about how we are going to pay for this or that, but I don’t allow it to distract away from my true calling–teaching and caring for the Saints.