Let’s read what the Apostle Paul taught in 1st Corinthians 9:1, 4, 6-12a: “Am I not an apostle?…DO WE NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAT AND DRINK?…Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Whoever 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? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say that same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain?’ Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? IF OTHERS ARE PARTAKERS OF THIS RIGHT OVER YOU, ARE WE NOT EVEN MORE?”

It is crystal-clear from this passage that the Apostle Paul, who was surely a “servant of God who was fully devoted to the ministry,” had EVERY RIGHT NOT TO WORK AND TO BE SUPPORTED FINANCIALLY by those to whom he ministered the Word. He ministered to them SPIRITUAL THINGS and thus they should, in turn, minister to him MATERIAL THINGS. He closes this argument by saying, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (verse 14).  It should be said that this “financial support” would not be a “stipulated salary” but rather monetary gifts given to the servant of Christ as he looks to the Lord (by faith) to supply his temporal needs (see Philippians 4:10-19).

Yet let’s read on to see what else Paul had to say. “NEVERTHELESS WE HAVE NOT USED THIS RIGHT, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (verse 12b). Again, Paul had every right to receive financial support from the saints at Corinth, for he had faithfully labored in the Word among them and through his ministry many were saved and established in the faith. You can read of Paul’s labors in Corinth (which lasted 18 months!) in Acts 18:1-11. But instead of relying on their financial support we read that he worked as a tentmaker while there. “And he (Paul) found a certain Jew named Aquila…with his wife Priscilla…and he came to them. So because he was OF THE SAME TRADE, he stayed with them and WORKED; for by occupation THEY WERE TENTMAKERS” (Acts 18:2-3). Why did Paul do this? We saw in our verse above that he was willing to “endure all things lest we HINDER the gospel of Christ.” Paul knew that if he had exercised his right for support some may have thought he was doing it simply for financial gain and this would have “hindered the gospel going out through his ministry.” Paul wrote to them later in 2nd Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God, but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” In view of this Paul refused to insist on his right to their support and willingly endured hardships to support himself so that the gospel could still be made known by him. In writing this he was not trying to “lay a guilt trip on them to force them into supporting him” for we read in verse 15, “But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me.” Paul truly loved these souls! He had their spiritual welfare in mind and was willing to “present the gospel of Christ without charge” (verse 18) and to not be a burden to them (see 2nd Corinthians 11:9 along with 1st Thessalonians 2:9 and 2nd Thessalonians 3:8). He did it FOR THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST and he did it FOR THEM!

In closing, we have seen that a servant of Christ may, at times, be “fully devoted to the ministry” and yet “have a secular job” in order to support himself. But we also saw that this is NOT the norm, for “those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel,” which simply means they have every right to financial support from those who are being blessed by their ministry.  (440.3)  (DO)