Paul Surrenders His Rights
9 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? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 9:1–15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Rights
Individual rights are a huge value in our country and they work their way into our families and church communities as well. That is one way we, as the church in America, bow down to the worldly culture almost every time. I do it more than I realize. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians about his own rights as an apostle precisely because it was and is such a difficult issue. The difficulty is not because individual rights are bad, but because they are good.
The right to receive pay for work is the main right Paul addressed in this passage and it is a good value to have. Paul points out that Moses wrote that commanded it, not just for people, but even for farm animals. Work is valuable and deserves pay. That is not being questioned.
The question comes from the occasional conflict between individual rights and mission. Paul weighed the value of winning the lost people of Corinth for God’s Kingdom and getting paid for serving them and decided that if it would serve God’s mission in Corinth better, he would not exercise his right to be paid. That doesn’t mean he lost that right, it simply means he didn’t use it for his own sake.
We face those kind of situations on smaller levels every day. When you wait in line, have you ever let someone go ahead of you in order to show them the love of Christ? That is waiving your right to your turn in line for the sake of a greater mission. Have you ever paid for someone else’s meal without them asking? That is waiving your right to being financially responsible for only yourself. Have you ever volunteered to serve others in a way probably deserved pay? That is exactly what Paul did in Corinth.
When we waive those rights, we give witness to the greater mission that we work towards. We show the world that there is more to live for than ourselves and that we are not satisfied by just being content ourselves… we won’t quit until we see the world changed.
Reflection: What are the three most important things in your life? What things would you struggle giving up if God asked you to in order to help share His love with the world?
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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