July 22

1 Corinthians 9:1-18 / Read

We can infer from Paul’s words that he had come under condemnation for accepting support (financial or material) as he pursued his God-given mission to preach the Gospel to non-Jews (see Acts 9). Paul’s response was both practical and personal, and it provides us with important insight on what it means to work in the kingdom of God.

Practically, Paul argued that it is entirely fair for a person who devotes their life to preaching to “receive their living from the gospel” (vv. 14). The 13 questions that he laid out in vv. 4-13 were a loving challenge to his readers to consider the requirements and the impact of his work.

What does it take to preach a message that connects people with God, that changes their minds, stirs their hearts and moves them to respond in action? Surely it requires that the preacher has an authentic relationship with the Lord; that he has taken the time to reflect on, understand it and apply God’s word to his own life; that he knows and loves his audience; that he bathes his preparation in prayer. How much time and energy does it take to do all of those things well?

We do not think it unreasonable for people in business to be compensated for their goods and services. Paul wrote, in essence, “We compensate people for material services - things that will ultimately pass away. Why, then, shouldn’t we compensate people for spiritual services - things that will last forever?”

“But…” Despite his strong and convincing argument, Paul did not demand his right to be compensated for his work. Why? “Because this is who I am.”

Paul’s motivation for preaching was God-given. Of course he deserved to be supported by those whom he served, but being supported was not what drove his work. His drive was internal because of who Jesus had become to him and how grace had changed him. If he wasn’t paid, he would embrace that weakness and trust that God would provide some other way - but he would never stop doing what he was compelled to do.

  • What kingdom work are you currently doing? When you’re honest, what motivates you to participate in this work? (“Kingdom work” can be understood as sharing and living out the words of Jesus in the world.)

  • Do you expect anything back from other people as you attempt to love and serve them? If so, what and why?

  • Do you have a sense that there is something you must do because of who Jesus is to you? As you spend time in prayer with the Lord, how do you sense him leading you to your next step in that area?