That we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:1-18 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?
8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
In today’s text Paul says: For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” … If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? He is making a case for those who earn their living preaching the gospel and in ministry for the Lord. There are many today who work as full time ministers, being compensated at various levels, some minimally and some very significantly for their ministry. There are many others who minister without financial compensation. I am not saying one is right and the other is wrong. There are benefits and challenges in each situation.
Paul though raises an important idea, saying: If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. The most important thing should be the gospel of Christ. For the individual then, preaching and serving the Lord must always remain first and foremost a calling, not a vocation. For the church body, they too cannot allow the idea that there is compensation to hinder the primary mission and calling of the pastor, the preaching of the gospel and the spiritual health and growth of the members. Often, particularly in smaller churches, where the budget only allows for one or perhaps a few people to be financially compensated, the pastor’s job description expands to include many administrative duties along with any number of other things from visitation to lawn care or custodial duties. The end result can be that the pastor, whose gifting and calling is preaching and teaching, is doing many things outside of their gifting. Among the problems which can arise from that are first, a hindrance to the gospel of Christ. In Acts 6:1-4 we see the early churched faced with this same situation: Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” It’s important to understand that it is not that any task is beneath those called and compensated for ministry. Jesus Himself served the disciples and washed their feet. In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus says: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” It is not a matter of preferment, but rather of priority, that nothing would hinder the gospel of Christ.
Another hindrance which can arise from having compensation for ministry, is that in some respects the pastor becomes the employee, subject to the demands of the employer. Of course there is some necessity in accountability to and with a leadership group, but there must also remain a proper chain of authority, with the most important part being that God and Christ are the head. Pleasing God and serving Christ should always come before the preferences of people. A pastor, preacher must not only be focused on His calling, but also free to speak what God is saying not what people want to hear. In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul warns his young protégé Timothy about a time when people will try to dictate the message: I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Surely in our day, there are many times when the desires and feelings of people, the concern with offense rather than truth takes precedence. Certainly it feels better to be exhorted and encouraged, but there are times that a pastor must rebuke and reprove with great patience and instruction.
Perhaps though the greatest detriment and hindrance to the gospel of Christ which can arise is that because of all these things, because ministry becomes a vocation rather than a calling, because there are duties and responsibilities given to the pastor which are not in line with their gifts or call, because people rather than God decide how the church will function and what will be preached; pastors are among the highest vocations in burnout. In John 4:31-38, after ministering to the Samaritan woman at the well, after preaching the gospel of Christ, we see this: Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” Ministry should be life giving not life taking. People don’t burnout doing what they love, they burnout trying to please people. When pastors burnout and leave the ministry it is a loss for everyone, the pastor, the church and the kingdom all lose.
Paul ends today’s text saying: For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, I pray for each one who is called to preach and minister the gospel of Christ, that first and foremost they would do it unto You. That their only compulsion would be their love for You. I pray for each and every church body, that they would raise up those who are gifted and called to fill the positions in the body that are necessary, that preachers would preach, teachers would teach, prophets and evangelist would be raised up and released, that servants would arise, givers would give, administration, helps, crafts and trades would all be used for the good of the body and the kingdom. Where there has been disorder or dysfunction bring order, healing and restoration, that nothing would hinder the gospel of Christ. Amen.