Read 1 Corinthians 9
Focus on verse 7
Every once in a while I have been asked what my dream job would be. My answer typically is a job where I get paid gobs and gobs of money and don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. While I suspect there may be a few jobs like that out there, the odds of myself landing one are probably about the same as the odds of my Publishers Clearinghouse Retirement fund coming through for me. Truth be told, I’m not certain I would find much fulfillment in being paid more than I am worth. I have always attempted to work in such a way as to be worth more to my employer or client than it costs them for me to be there. Anything less and I become a liability. On the other hand, I’m also not crazy about being underpaid. If I wanted to volunteer I’d at least like it to be something I enjoy doing.
In today’s reading Paul defends the right of those who serve as a minister of the gospel to expect some compensation from the people they serve.
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? (v. 7)
He is careful to qualify this by also clarifying that though it is his right to do so, it is not a right he has often exercised. Paul took pride in being a self-supported missionary by making tents wherever he went. It is actually where the church gets the term “tent maker” when referring to missionaries who support themselves by some sort of business or occupation.
The point of his defense however is not that Christian workers should be self-supported. It would seem his point rather is that both self supported and church supported positions are legitimate ways to serve the cause of the Kingdom, and that either way, the worker should not be made to feel guilty for earning an honest living by doing the work of ministry. It is one thing for a ministering servant to offer to donate his work and support him or her self, it is quite another for the people who are being served to not even offer to provide some sort of compensation under the assumption that God will provide for His servants. It is entirely likely that the means by which God intends to provide is through the people who are benefiting from their service.