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1 Corinthians 9

Paul does not exercise his right to be paid
1And in relation to all these questions let that be your first thought. Do not think only of the freedom that your faith and knowledge give you. Remember that knowledge may make a man self-sufficient and self-important. It is love that builds. I for instance am free — I am an apostle. I have seen the Lord Jesus myself. 2-5At Corinth, at any rate, my apostleship is unquestioned, because I have there a very certain witness to, and evidence of, the authenticity of my credentials; you yourselves are my credentials. I am the founder of your faith, your church. I repeat then that I have all the rights of this position. 6I have the right to live on the gospel, yes, and to support a wife, if I so choose, on the gospel, to take her with me, as do the other apostles, and our Lord's brethren in the flesh, and Cephas also. 7-8The vinedresser, the shepherd, the soldier earn their living by what they do. We have the same right ourselves. 9“Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.” (Deut xxv. 4) These ideas are not my own — they are laid down in scripture. 10Moses' words have a spiritual meaning, they refer to us and our faith. Do you think that anything in that law merely refers to cattle, and has not some moral or spiritual significance? This text means the law of supply whereby the worker lives through his work and is glad and hopeful thereby, partakes in the blessing he bestows. 11And such rights have I, they are mine according to the scriptures — I have a right to be paid by you, and to exercise authority over you. 12Others already do this, but I have more right than anyone, since it is I who am the founder of your spiritual good fortunes, and that includes also material well-being. But I have never exercised this right, my own idea has been that the gospel of Christ should not bind any burden upon men, however small, that is to say, so far as I was concerned. 13And yet you know that the priests who serve the altars and sacrifices make a living out of it, 14and similarly the Lord expressly declared that those who teach the gospel should live by it. 15But you know that I do not exercise the right and never have.
The reason for his unwillingness to receive pay
And why not? Well, that is my affair! At any rate, I am not writing this now preparatory to claiming any compensation in the future. Far from it — I would rather anything than that my special reason for satisfaction and self-congratulation should be taken away. What is that? you ask. 16The gospel? Oh no, that does not affect me in a personal sense — I have to preach the gospel, woe unto me, if I preach it not. 17If I enjoy it, and do it willingly, I am well paid. If it is distressful to me, still I have my stewardship to fulfil, and must be faithful to it. 18But what is my special reward, what is the peculiar compensation which accrues to me out of the pains I take in spreading this teaching? Why, just the doing it for nothing, — preaching the gospel at no man's charges — that is my special privilege. In other words, the privilege and the right which I most relish and cling to most earnestly, is just this — to make no use of my rights and privileges!
What it means to be all things to all men
19And I declare I carry that principle through all that I do. I absolutely neglect my own point of view. 20Other people's opinions, other people's beliefs and creeds and traditions, other people's weaknesses — these all become my own. The freer I am myself, the more I seem to become the slave of others! And though this is past a joke, yet I do it willingly, because thereby I win people. At one time the Jewish tradition and the law are everything to me — that is because I am with Jews. 21And now they are nothing to me — because I am with Gentiles. Oh yes, the law is something to me, the divine law, Christ's laws I mean, but not the law of the Jews. 22But with the weak I become weak myself — all things to all men in fact, if only I can win a few. 23And why do I do all this? Why do I take everybody else's point of view except my own? For the sake of the Gospel, because I wish to have a share in it myself — on just the same principle as the athlete trains for a contest. 24He sacrifices everything to the one end, if he can only carry off those much coveted laurels. 25And so a man must sacrifice himself, his own prejudices and predilections, and self-esteem, if he is to gain that immortal chaplet. 26That is the secret of my life. I do not hit out at random, but I go to work in a scientific manner, like one who trains for a boxing match. My blows are well and cunningly directed. 27They are aimed at myself, my physical being, my physical ego; otherwise what guarantee is there that I shall be saved myself, even though I have preached to others.
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
1Aren’t I free? Aren’t I an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? Aren’t you the result of my work for the Lord? 2Others might not think of me as an apostle, but I’m certainly one to you! You’re the proof that I am the Lord’s apostle.
3This is how I defend myself when people judge me. 4Don’t we have the right to eat and drink? 5Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us when we travel? That’s what the other apostles do, and the Lord’s brothers and Peter do the same. 6Or are Barnabas and I the only ones who have to do other work to support ourselves while we serve as apostles?
7Who serves as a soldier but has to pay his own expenses? Who plants a vineyard but doesn’t get to eat any of its grapes? Who takes care of a flock but doesn’t get to drink any of the milk from the sheep? 8Do I say this only on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9It’s written in the Law of Moses, “Don’t stop an ox from eating while it helps separate the grain from the straw.” But is God concerned only for oxen? 10Isn’t he saying that for all of us too? Yes, it was written for us. Whoever plows and whoever separates the grain has a right to hope that they will share in the harvest. 11We have planted spiritual seed among you. Is it too much for us to expect to receive some material things from you? 12If others have the right to receive support from you, don’t we have an even greater right?
But we haven’t used that right. No, we’re prepared to make any sacrifice we have to, rather than let anything get in the way of the good news of Christ.
13Don’t you know that people who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that people who serve at the altar eat the food that’s offered on the altar? 14So those who preach the good news should also receive their living from that work. That’s what the Lord has commanded.
15But I haven’t used any of those rights. And I’m not writing this because I want you to do things like that for me. I’d rather die than let anyone take away the satisfaction I get from bragging about this. 16I’m not bragging about preaching the good news. I have to preach the good news—woe to me if I don’t! 17If I preach because I want to, I get a reward. If I preach because I have to, I’m only doing my duty. 18So what reward do I get? Here’s my reward: being able to offer the good news free of charge, without claiming all my rights as a person who preaches the good news.
Paul Uses His Freedom to Share the Good News
19I’m free and I don’t belong to anyone, but I’ve made myself a slave to everyone. I’ve done that to win as many people as I can to Christ. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, in order to win the Jews. To those who are under the law, I became like one who was under the law, even though I’m actually not under the law myself, in order to win those under the law. 21To those who don’t have the law, I became like one who didn’t have the law (even though I’m not free from God’s law, but under Christ’s law), in order to win those who don’t have the law. 22To those who are weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all of this for the sake of the good news, so that I can share in its blessings.
Training to Win the Prize
24Don’t you know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? So run in a way that will get you the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games trains hard. They do that to get a crown that won’t last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26So I don’t run like someone who doesn’t know where the finish line is. I don’t fight like a boxer who hits nothing but air. 27No, I train my body and bring it under control, so that after I’ve preached to others, I won’t be disqualified myself.