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Apostolic Integrity (2)

1 Corinthians 9:13-15
Don't you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. (NIVUK)

Money is not evil in itself but a lust for money is a breeding ground for evil (1 Timothy 6:10). It can be seen in a million different ways in business and the professions. Corinth was full of people trying to make money; some were travelling philosophers and religious people who offered their ideas in exchange for money. Paul was determined that the gospel should not be tainted by the slightest perception of personal greed and so he chose to earn his own living as a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3).
However he did not want to undermine the God-given responsibility of the church to support people who were working full time to serve the church and advance the gospel. It had been established in the Old Testament law that the priests of the tabernacle and temple should live off a share in what was given to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:1). Paul went further and reminded them of the instruction of Jesus to the disciples in Luke 10:7 that they should trust God to provide for their needs through the hospitality of generous believers.
Paul was not deriding that instruction but the Lord gave him wisdom not to compromise the gospel by appearing to charge for it. Nor did he want his explanation to prompt the church to give out of a sense of guilt. He was so committed to the gospel, which had come to him freely, that he wanted to preach it without charge (2 Corinthians 11:9-12). The gospel was not about him, nor was it a means to his welfare; indeed he was willing to suffer danger, pain and insults in order to tell people about Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Underscoring his attitude was another command of Jesus, "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)
Every servant of Christ is a sinner; even the greatest of preachers. Satan is expert in using money as a temptation – inciting greed in God's servants or criticism from the world. Paul did not want either problem to spoil the gospel; nor did he want to prevent congregations from supporting their ministers and missionaries: quite the opposite! The challenge to us is to live trusting the Lord to provide, and yet be willing to be deprived for the sake of the gospel - if that is God’s will. At the same time, we need to be generous to others for the Lord's sake, but be discerning about people's motives so that we do not fuel greed. These are significant spiritual tensions which bring glory to God when handled well, with prayer.

Giving God. Thank You for all You have given to me, especially the knowledge about Jesus Christ and a desire to follow Him. Forgive me when I have allowed money to discredit the gospel, either through my greed or through the criticism of my financial affairs. Please help me to be generous in giving, gracious in receiving, hardworking, careful in accounting and willing to forfeit my rights if that will enhance the integrity of the gospel. Help me to be careful, prayerful and discerning in the way I handle money and my financial relationships with people. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams