1 Corinthians 9:15-18

In 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 Paul reminds the Corinthian church that while he has the right for support, he has not played that card. The intent of this part of his letter to them was not to hint for their support at all. He makes clear that there are reasons he is giving up his right for support. “But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.” Paul’s boasting wasn’t that he preached the gospel. He had to do that (for necessity is laid upon me); instead, his boasting was that he was able to do it without asking his hearers for support.

Paul makes clear that being a preacher does not make him special with a place to boast from. “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” He preaches because he was called by God to minister.  Paul’s ministry was not just a matter of choice or personal ambition; it was something he was called to, something he had to do. He did not just have “preacher’s itch.” He was called to preach and felt compelled to fulfill that call. It was the purpose God had for his life, and he couldn’t not do it.

Some are not supported by the ministry, but it has nothing to do with choice, it is just because of their circumstances. There are cases when the church is not able to support a pastor. But if one does not receive support willingly, then they have a reward. They are blessed by God in other ways. However, if it is against my will that I am not supported, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. Paul has a responsibility to steward the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has entrusted him with that task. “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.”

In Paul’s day, there were a lot of religious entrepreneurs, who were out to preach any message to get money. They preached a fake gospel and had their own interest at heart. Paul was happy to distance himself from these by never taking an offering so no one would think he might abuse [his] authority in the gospel. This was Paul’s reward. “What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” He preaches without the strings of support. Most of us will never face this exact situation. But we each have a critical question to answer: what rights are you willing to sacrifice for the cause of Jesus?

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