We heard during the teaching last Sunday, that Paul raised the theme of “FREEDOM” with the believers of Corinth. Paul must have picked up within their letter to him, that the freedom of some was being diminished. Others within the church were using their newfound freedom to continue eating food sacrificed to idols, and even participating in the pagan worship of other deities.
I can just imagine their thinking… “I can do anything I want, now that I’m free in Christ Jesus”.
As Paul writes to them, he helps them to understand that their freedom isn’t just for their benefit alone, but for the benefit of their brothers and sisters in Christ also. They were in fact leading others back into slavery, as they lived their lives with no concern for the spiritual welfare of others around them (who were falling back into idolatrous patterns of thinking and behaviour). Deep down this was an issue of the heart. They had knowledge, but lacked true love.
True love means the giving up of ones rights for the sake of another!
To be honest with you, most of the time I don’t really “deserve" what I think I do. I suspect most of us find ourselves at times believing that we truly ought to receive something, when in fact we’re just accustomed to living in privilege. That holiday, new car, pay rise, whatever…
But Paul makes a pretty solid case for his right, under Jewish law, to draw a wage from his work as an apostle. Although there might be some (as seems to be the case) that contests his apostleship, the Corinthians are not such people. They are the very very people that prove his apostleship, because of the way he has served them, and worked faithfully for their maturity in Christ.
For Paul to draw an income from his ministry, this wouldn’t simply be a freedom or luxury as such. But rather, just as a worker deserves his wage, Paul truly does deserve an income from his ministry. Yet he has chosen to forsake this right of his for the benefit of the church in Corinth.
In those days it was common for individuals to have patrons or sponsors. These patrons were wealthier individuals (or communities) who supported the work financially, enabling the person to do what they did without having to draw a regular income, since their work was maybe a little different. We still have the same system today in different forms. There’s even a organisation called Patreon, enabling communities of people to financially support individuals in a similar fashion.
The challenge back then, as it is today, is that there are always strings attached with patronage. Paul was prepared to give up what he might have deserved in the way of income from the church in Corinth, so that there could be no suggestion in the slightest way that his allegience to the Corinthians sat above that of Christ and the gospel.
As Paul calls for the believers in Corinth to give up something they enjoy for the sake of their brothers and sisters in Christ, they can rest assured that he practices what he preaches.
What about your life? Maybe as you’re thinking about this, you might like to consider the same questions that I consider…
What do I take for granted as something I incorrectly believe I “deserve”?
What idols do I struggle with, but enjoy, and would be better staying away from?
What idols do those around me struggle with, even though they may not be evil in their own right?
What might I need to give up, for the sake of another, to further the kingdom of God?