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Rights and wrongs

Just as farm workers who plow fields and thresh the grain expect a share of the harvest, Christian workers should be paid by those they serve… Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ. — 1 Corinthians 9:1012

The more civilized a country becomes, the more civil its people tend to be. The more a culture acknowledges the significance of the individual, the more its people recognize the need to treat other people well. But because human beings have a great capacity for behaving badly, they do not always treat each other civilly. So the government steps in and begins to legislate behavior, predicated on real or perceived human and civil rights. Then individuals and businesses take great care not to transgress the law, because failure to observe such legislation can lead to severe penalties.

In the first century, there apparently was no legislation protecting the civil rights of preachers! Not that they did not have rights… They did, as much as anyone else. It was just that no one had gone to the trouble of protecting them from potential abuse. This meant that preachers could be wronged. The question was, “How should they respond?”

Paul spoke quite bluntly to the Corinthians on the subject of preachers’ rights. What he had to say should be required reading for all church leaders! While some of the congregation were questioning his credentials and capabilities, there was no real questioning that he was a bona fide apostle. Even those who were not inclined to acknowledge this could not deny that the only reason they had come to faith was that Paul had exercised an apostolic ministry in their midst. “This is my answer to those who question my authority as an apostle,” he said (1 Corinthians 9:3).

Paul then asked the Corinthian church if he and the other apostles did not have certain basic rights, such as proper support, encouragement, and remuneration for their work. He cited the facts that soldiers don’t pay their own way, that farmers get to eat some of their crops, and that shepherds drink milk from their flocks. So was it not obvious that a preacher should be cared for adequately by the congregations who benefited from his ministry?

Should there be any doubt in the congregation’s mind on the subject, Paul reminded them, “Doesn’t God’s law say the same thing?” (9:8-9). His conclusion was, “Christian workers should be paid by those they serve” (9:10). Christian workers have their rights!

But significantly, Paul then added, “We have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ” (9:12).

Paul believed it was wrong to deny rights, but that it was right to carry on when wronged. Right on, Paul!

For Further Study: 1 Corinthians 9:1-14

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.