Monday, 1 September 2014
Do we have no right to eat and drink? 1 Corinthians 9:4
Paul’s words concerning his rights as an apostle here have grown naturally out of his previous discussion about food sacrificed to idols. There, in verse 8:9, he said, ” But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” In that verse, the word “liberty” is translated from the same word as “right” which Paul uses here in 9:4. Though the subject has changed – from meat sacrificed to idols to the rights of the apostle, the example remains consistent.
Paul finished chapter 8 by saying that “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” This was immediately followed by his claim to apostleship. He has a “right to eat and drink” at the expense of the church. But he hadn’t exercised that right as will be noted in the verses to come.
In not using this right, however, some may have come to the conclusion that he wasn’t actually an approved apostle. In essence, “If Paul were an apostle, the church would pay his bills and he wouldn’t be working side jobs in order to support himself.” The same could be concluded today – “Peter Preacher isn’t really a pastor because he has several part time jobs. He is just ‘playing pastor’ at the church he preaches at.”
However, Paul has preempted this line of reasoning by stating the somewhat parenthetical thought of verses 9:1-3. His apostleship is, in fact, validated by those in Corinth; they are the seal of his apostleship. As this is the case, then why doesn’t he exercise his rights as an apostle? The answer will come in due time, but before it does, he will continue to rhetorically ask several more questions concerning apostle’s rights. These questions will be answered from the words of Scripture including words from Jesus Himself.
Life application: Is it a mark of an unacceptable ministry that a preacher has side jobs in order to pay his wages? Is a small home-church of less importance than a large mega church? Using Paul as an example, surely the opposite may at times be true. The preacher, pastor, or priest who relies solely on the church for his expenses is in the comfortable position of preaching whatever he wishes without worry of where his bread will come from. Because of this, his heart may or may not truly care about the word which he has been called to present. But the one who stands behind the pulpit without receiving a full measure for his efforts is more than likely doing so because of a profound sense of care and respect for God’s superior word. Which then is more likely to feed, defend, tend to, and be willing to give all for his flock?
Precious heavenly Father! Thank You for those who strive to share Your word without trumpets sounded before them. Thank You for the quiet scholars who sit and analyze Your word, straining to understand every subtle nuance it contains. Thank You for the missionaries who truly care about the lost and not about the exciting travels and surroundings that accompany their duties. Thank You for the pastors of wee little churches off the beaten path who care more for instruction than they do for flash, pomp, and notoriety. And Lord, thank You even for the folks who clean the restrooms so that the church is tidy. Thank You for Your servants who possess a servant’s heart. Amen.