Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 1 Corinthians 9:6
This verse is not actually a new thought which is submitted to the Corinthians, but the completion of the series of questions which began in verse 4. Though stated as questions, they are rhetorical in nature and are to be taken as affirmative statements… “I and Barnabas have a right to earn a living from our preaching.” By asking it rhetorically after having given the evidences of his apostleship though, he is merely showing the ridiculous nature of the situation.
There was seemingly, however, a group that felt that Paul and his ministry wasn’t actually worthy of being supported by the church. It probably goes to the decision rendered in Galatians 2:9, 10 which reads thus –
“James, Cephas, and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”
Maybe it was believed that because Paul was “only” sent to the Gentiles, he wasn’t worthy of support. However, as history has borne out, his ministry and letters have been far more productive in establishing the church than all the other letters combined. His words have comprised the main doctrine of the church for nearly 2000 years. Despite this, and despite the true apostolic ministry that he had, he continued to support himself and work for a living.
It is known from Acts 18:13 that he was a tentmaker by trade. In this, he worked to support himself. The Greek word for “working” is ergazesthai and it indicates manual labor. Despite his tireless efforts in sharing the gospel, he was a man of physical labors as well.
One final note on this verse is that this is the last time Barnabas is mentioned in Scripture. The previous mentioning of him was in Acts 15. In that account, Paul and Barnabas had a great dispute about a matter which caused them to almost come to blows. They divided at that time, and there is no record of them having met up again. However, it appears from this verse that Barnabas took Paul’s example of working for a living to heart and continued to follow this pattern in his own ministry.
Life application: There is nothing wrong with good hard work. In fact, the pastor who gets out and tends to the church grounds, works around his house, or works physically in some other way will be a positive example to those in the church to not sit around collecting welfare or other charity when they are fully capable of earning their own way. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” In this verse, the same word for work, ergazesthai, is used which was used by Paul 1 Corinthians 9:6. Don’t be a sluggard. Rather, if your physical makeup and the economy around you allows it, be productive with your hands, not causing others to support you when you are fully capable of earning a living.
Lord God, thank You for the work of my hands which You have given me to do. There are things to fix and clean around the house. There are lawns to be mowed, trees to be trimmed, and cars to be washed and waxed. And at my regular job, there is always something I can do to be productive. None of these things are demeaning or lowly, but rather they are worthy of my best effort and my sincere, heartfelt attendance to them. And so Lord, establish the work of my hands and be glorified in how I follow through with each task. Amen.