A place of writing and reflection…
…”On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”
—1 Corinthians 9: 12b
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
—1 Corinthians 9
The title of this chapter in my Bible says “Paul surrenders His Rights.” Its an interesting statement as Paul actually starts this chapter asking why ministers who are single do not have the right to earn a living from preaching the gospel (still pretty much a contentious topic today with some).
It seems, ministers like Peter, who was traveling with his wife while preaching the gospel, were getting some preference in getting paid to preach, while single ministers like Paul or Barnabas were expected to sacrifice because of the seeming less responsibility for things in life. Paul’s response is that the fruit of the gospel belongs to God, and Paul, for himself, is willing to even sacrifice his own rights if it means people receive the Gospel. That is the context of the rest of the chapter where he says, “To the Jew I became a Jew,….”
This principle that Paul is putting forth makes me think of how often we forget to put ourselves “in others shoes“. Often times we only remember what rights we have and tend to focus on how everyone else’s actions, issues, faults, etc. affect my life and rights. Offense begins to take hold in our thinking and life, and before we know it, I would have not been able to minister the truth of the gospel to anyone else because all I think about is what I should get.
Paul wanted his audience to understand in every circumstance that God wants us to put ourselves “in someone else’s shoes” so that we can help them to the truth of the Christ. The only way to do that is to put our own rights aside for the sake of the person next to us, so that they can see Jesus.
When was the last time you had a conflict or was displeased with a situation? Was it with a leader, boss, neighbor, coworker? Did you try to lay down your rights and put yourself “in their shoes“?
Let me ask this question to start a discussion: Does God really want us to yield all of our rights to His purpose and kingdom?
Have a great day and put yourself “in someone else’s shoes” today.