1 Corinthians 9 (NIV)
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
9 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? 2 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. 3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 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? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living? 7 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? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 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? 10 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. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 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. 13 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? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 15 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. 16 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! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 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.
Paul’s Use of His Freedom
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
The Need for Self-Discipline
24 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. 25 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. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 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.
Have you ever denied yourself of any basic rights for the sake of the Gospel?
Lord, as a society we are obsessed with our rights. Not only civil rights like freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and to bear arms, but also our personal right of freedom to have material possessions, do what we want with our time and choose how to spend our financial resources. Sometimes our focus is so self-centered that the pursuit of our own rights conflict with the rights of others. We have distorted basic rights into demands for entitlements. Forgive us. As we enter into the season of Advent, I think of how You relinquished Your rights as God to come to earth and be confined in the body of a vulnerable baby. To give without expecting anything in return is the character of the gospel. It is not until I recognize that You are the true center of life, that I can renounce myself as the center of my existence and be open to denying myself for the sake of the gospel. Change my perspective to view what I have been given as gifts from You, rather than a right that I am owed. Allow me to consider sharing of my time and resources as a privilege instead of an infringement of what is mine. Take away my selfishness and teach me to be a giving, generous person, not expecting something back that benefits me. As a Christian, help me to be willing to set aside my own personal desires in order that I may serve the greater good of Your kingdom. Help me to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions. Guide me to live a self-controlled, upright and a godly life in this present age. Teach me how to be like You, Lord, Allow me to be filled with Your contentment and joy as I give freely, even though nothing is given back. In Jesus’ name, Amen.