Thursday, 4 September 2014
Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 1 Corinthians 9:7
Paul now continues with three more questions which are rhetorical in nature. Each demands a response of “Nobody!” He begins with warriors. “Who ever goes to war at his own expense?” Do those who fight the battles for king and country do so at their own expense? No. Instead, they are fed, clothed, and paid by whoever they are fighting for. Even those who are mercenaries fight for pay by the power who has hired them.
If a soldier who is enlisted to take life is so paid for his service, how much more then should a soldier who is sent out to preserve life be paid for the warfare he wages. And Paul equates the ministry of Christ to an on-going battle. In Ephesians 6, he notes that, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12, 13).
Likewise, in 1 Timothy 1:18, he notes this to his beloved protégé – “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.” The lesson from this is that the soldier of Christ should, in fact, be paid for his services by the church for whom he wages war.
Next he asks, “Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?” Again, the question demands an answer that the vinedresser does partake of the fruit of the vine. It is right and expected that he should do so. In the very first such example of the planting of a vineyard in the Bible, this is noted –
“And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk…” Genesis 9:20
Noah not only planted a vineyard, he also enjoyed the benefit of what the vineyard produced. Regardless of whether one finds fault in him getting drunk, the fact is that he partook of his vineyard. Later, in the Law itself and certainly the verse to which Paul is speaking, Moses notes these points to the people of Israel prior to their entry into the land of Canaan –
“Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying: ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard and has not eaten of it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it. And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.'” Deuteronomy 205-7
Again as he did concerning the warrior, Paul equates those who labor for Christ as “farmers.” In 2 Timothy 2:6, he shows that the expectation is that the spiritual farmer should be allowed to participate in the benefits of the harvest in which he labors, when he says, “The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.” The lesson from this is that the one who works in Christ’s field should be paid for his services by the church for whom he farms.
In his third question, he asks about the flocks of the field – “Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?” Again, the answer is that those who do so certainly partake of their efforts. Under the law, the tithe of the flocks and herds were taken to where the temple stood and they were eaten by the giver after they were sacrificed. This is found in Deuteronomy chapter 12 –
“There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:6, 7
As before, the work of those in the leadership positions in the church is equated to that of the shepherd. In Acts 20:28, Paul states this to the leaders in Ephesus –
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Peter uses the shepherd terminology again in 1 Peter 5:2. Thus, the lesson from this is that the one who tends to Christ’s flock should be paid for his services by the church for whom he shepherds. From these three examples, Paul clearly defends the principle that it is not out of the ordinary for the one in leadership to expect to receive the benefit of his labors directly from the church.
Life application: In today’s world, it is common for pastors and other clergy to be paid for their services. This is right and appropriate. However, it was never intended for people in such positions to be paid extravagant amounts. Those who have jet planes, million-dollar mansions, and flashy clothing and jewelry make a mockery of the humble, hard-working lives of the apostles who established the church. If your pastor lives a life of flash and pomp, you should find another pastor in more Bible-centered church.
O God, the Father of those who have by faith called on Christ as Lord, thank You for the wondrous hope of the future which You have granted to us. In this life, there are great days, good times, and moments of true elation. But there are also crummy days, times when nothing goes right, and moments of previously unimagined sadness. One day can be completely the opposite of the next. And yet, when things go south and life is dim, we have the assurance that the very best days we’ve had are not even a taste of a regular day when we are brought into Your presence. With this assurance, we can get through the tough times. Someday, we will see Jesus! Amen!