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Devotion for Aug. 18, 2010

In the musical, The Music Man, con man Harold Hill waltzes into River City, Iowa, posing as the organizer of a boys’ band. He wins over the townspeople who pay money for instruments and uniforms, money with which Harold intends to skip town. He’s a fraud, and the town librarian, Marian, knows it and determines to expose him.

Just as Marian questioned Harold, some skeptics had raised doubts about Paul and questioned the legitimacy of his apostleship. In chapter four, Paul announced that he was unwilling to subject himself to the scrutiny of others; God alone would judge his ministry. In chapter nine, however, he seems to offer, if not a defense, then an explanation for his ministry methods.

While it may seem like a digression from the argument of chapter eight regarding the eating of meat in pagan temples, chapter nine is purposefully connected to that conversation. Paul cites his own ministry as an example to imitate when it comes to deciding issues where personal freedoms collide. Though Paul had the right to collect financial compensation for his work as an apostle, he forfeited it for the sake of the gospel.

He gives many reasons for this apostolic right. First, many other apostles received support from the churches where they ministered. Second, he gave the examples of the soldier, the vineyard grower, and the keeper of the flock. Could they be expected to work at their own expense? Then, he asks them to consider the Law of Moses. It prescribes that oxen not be muzzled when treading out grain. Such treatment would be inhuman and cruel. Even the Jewish temple rituals provided for the food of the priests who served there.

By offering himself as an example of setting aside his rights, Paul answers what it might look like to address the questions and divisions emerging from the issue of meat sacrificed to idols in chapter eight. What if the “strong,” like Paul, forfeited their freedom to eat idol meat and chose not to attend feasts in the pagan temples, simply for the sake of the gospel and the community?

Apply the Word

This passage teaches the right every minister of the gospel has to earn his living through his ministry; in fact, on the question of pastors’ salaries, verse 14 sends us right back to the teaching of Jesus! Questions for us to consider: do we pay our pastor(s) a fair and living wage? Do we expect our pastor to work tirelessly for meager compensation? Each of us should be contributing our money generously to a local body of believers as well as to other Christian ministries where the gospel is being preached.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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