The church in Corinth was a lot like us today. Aware of their freedoms and their “rights”. “I have the right” would be a phrase they would have used. In Romans 8, Paul begins a discussion on the “liberty” of the believers in Corinth. He must have been asked the question…Do we have the “right” to eat meat offered to idols? Paul answers “YES”, but adds an asterisk, a “but beware”. Your rights may be a problem for other believers. So it brought up a question that wasn’t being asked. What rights am I willing to give up?
Evidently, there were those in the church who were willing to protect their “rights”, even if it meant that they caused other believers to stumble. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal to us, so let me ask it this way. What “rights” would you be willing to give up? What about the right to say something that is hurtful or offensive to your neighbor, or a careless post or tweet that affects how people view Jesus? Paul tells them that he had given up his “right” to eat meat offered to idols…and was willing to give up ANY or ALL of his rights to win people to Christ….His answer caused people to become defensive, and some in the church began to question his credentials, his “authority” to speak.
So, Paul begins in verses 1 & 2, with questions defendthat his credibility. "Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn't it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord's apostle." THEN Paul lists some of the rights he had given up for them. Since they had to do with finances, it makes me believe that even though this church was very wealthy, they were not very generous.
First, he mentions the “right” to “eat or drink”, or have food provided to them by the church. Next, the “right” to be married, to have a wife that traveled with him, instead of working while he traveled. We are given insight into the personal lives of the other apostles. It seems that all of them with the exception of Paul had wives. James, the half-brother of Jesus, Peter, Andrew, and Matthew, all of them had wives that were involved with them in the ministry. Third, Paul talks about being paid a salary from the church instead of working a secular job. Paul was a tent-maker who worked a secular job while he started this church. There are some who don’t believe the ministry is a full-time job. Paul could be talking to people today who think the pastor should have a secular job while he pastors the church. Listen to the examples he gives in the next verses.
”What soldier has to pay his own expenses?"
In the US, we have a volunteer military…but that doesn’t mean no pay. Men & women make a career of serving in the military.
"What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn't have the right to eat some of its fruit?"
Then he says, Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren't we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? (verse 14) In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. God expects a church, if they are spiritually fed by a pastor, to give of their resources to support him and the other ministries that bless their family. Paul gave up those rights. Paul wasn’t in it for the money. He went to places that didn’t have a church, where there were no believers, found a secular job making tents, and started telling people about Jesus. Paul was willing to give up ALL of his rights, even to become a slave, to win people to Christ.
Slavery was something this people understood. Some of them WERE slaves. Paul’s point…I have become all things to all men, to be able to relate to them. He identified with the customs of the Gentiles. He ate their food, which would not have been kosher. He learned their customs, learned about their “gods”. He went to where they were. He said, "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may, by all means, save some." That’s the challenge for us. To meet people where they are, even if it means that we give up our rights, our comforts, so we can introduce them to Jesus by what we say and how we live our lives. Will we give up our rights? I hope so.