“If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” 1 Cor. 9: 12-13 (NIV)
After making a huge case for why Paul has a right to be paid for his labor of preaching, he says that he chooses not to use the right so that it doesn’t hinder the Gospel. I totally get that. After all, when a salesperson pitches their product to me I am less likely to be convinced of the superiority of the product if I know they are getting a commission from the sale. I also understand the concept of forfeiting your rewards here on earth, trusting that your reward in heaven will be much greater.
Now, just because I understand it doesn’t mean I live it! I think I am getting better with this, but I have far to go. I think part of the problem is that American culture emphasizes our right to this and that, and we are to “fight for our rights”, and we are encouraged to ensure that we get every benefit that we can. The idea of giving up rights is just foreign sometimes. But claiming your right is not always the right thing to do. Paul says “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. […] I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” Wow. I might be accomodating in different groups of people out of general respect, but I admit that my motivation is not quite so pure. I totally get that you are more effective coming alongside others as their friend rather than beating them over the head with Scripture, but I still admit that my goal is not usually winning souls for Christ.
Lord, help me know when asserting a right is the wrong thing to do. You tell us over and over that it’s all about love, relationships, people, and souls, not about our comfort or sense of personal entitlement. This is a dangerous prayer, though – please be gentle with me if you will!