1 Corinthians 9: Ministry & Money

Jim Bakker.  Robert Tilton.  Creflo Dollar.  Kenneth & Gloria Copeland.  Joyce Meyer.

These are all ministers, well-known from their television presence, who have either been convicted of financial malfeasance in their ministry or have been investigated for such because of their lavish lifestyles.  I am afraid that there are whole sections of America that think of people like these first when they think of Christian ministers.  For these people, closely associated with church and church leaders is greed and exploitation of followers in order to line the pockets of those leaders.

Today, we learn that Paul was being accused of the same things.  We have been progressively piecing together a picture of Paul’s opponents in Corinth.  It would appear there is a group of leaders in the Corinthian church who have arrived only recently who are picking away at Paul’s authority in the church by making people question his credentials (chapters 1-4) and now his motives.  We can divine from this chapter that they are suggesting Paul is taking advantage of the Corinthians financially in order to benefit his own bottom-line.

Paul’s response is two-pronged.  First, he defends his right to support.  This is only fair and lawful.  Basic life practices show we owe people for what they do for us.  It is only right to pay those who minister.  For goodness sake, a farmer doesn’t even deprive an ox his due.  It is entirely inappropriate and unbiblical to pay a minister a subsistence wage for his or her work.  On the other end of the spectrum, we should also ask ourselves whether we can pay a minister so much that it actually begins to hurt him or her spiritually?

However, Paul’s second point was that if they remember correctly, he never even exercised his right to support in order not to give people like these accusers a foothold for scandal.  He supported himself through tent-making.  He willfully gave up his freedom so as to be as free from accusation as possible:

But we haven’t made use of this right.  Instead, we put up with everything , so as to place no obstacle in the way of the Messiah’s gospel. . . . I am indeed free from everyone; but I have enslaved myself to everyone, so that I can win all the more. (9:12, 19)

It is unconscionable to think we can pay a minister well below the average income in a church or community just because they are a minister.  Ministers don’t take oaths of poverty.  We are saying how much we value these noble people and their work with we pay them a pittance.  But in a culture where accusations and realities of ministerial greed do exist, we probably ought to consider whether it is wise to compensate a minister well above the median income of the church of a community or for a minister to live a lavish life.  We certainly owe a minister his or her due, but we also owe it to Christ to do whatever we can to “win all the more” and in America that means money is always part of the equation.

 What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 9: Ministry & Money

  1. Paul says it in his second letter to Corinthians

    2 Corinthians 6:8-10
    genuine, yet regarded as impostors;
    known, yet regarded as unknown;
    dying, and yet we live on;
    beaten, and yet not killed;
    sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
    poor, yet making many rich;
    having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

    zooming in to

    ” poor, yet making many rich ”

    I honestly believe, Paul was not referring to spiritual riches.
    Paul was referring to physical wealth

    I have Christians friends who from being poor (we live in a third world country)
    then after a few years transform into a millionaire
    yes, there is work involve.

    the thing is, since we stand on favour/grace ground,
    it seems that everything we Christians put our hands on, prospers.

    I’ve seen and heard a lot of Christians who started poor then ended super rich.
    we can’t blame them for making their pastors wealthy as well,

    last time I heard the riches woman in Asia was a Singaporean.
    and she is a Christian. her story is familiar.
    an average earning employee, then now a billionaire

    back to

    ” poor, yet making many rich
    having nothing, and yet possessing everything. ”

    I love how Paul balances ‘poor’ and ‘possessing everything’
    Paul knows that the greatest riches is not earthly wealth but heavenly wealth.
    one soul is enough for God to send His most precious Son Jesus.

    I got carried away 🙂

    – grace and peace

  2. I think you’re pretty much on point on this one for sure. I had never thought about paying someone so much that it becomes a stumbling block for them spiritually. I also think your concept of figuring the median income for a church and paying the preacher in line with that is interesting as well. I personally think that God is pleased when those who have worked hard or even not worked hard and made substantial amounts of money (from an American point of view) choose to live below their means and give much of their money away. I don’t think it’s wrong to have the capacity to make lots of money. I also believe that storing that money up and/or using it extravagantly to care for only ourselves is another story entirely. My thought has always been that if you get a monetary raise or somehow fall into some funds you should raise your standard of giving not your standard of living. Now, if you have some debt, by all means, be a good steward and pay that debt off but if you were living comfortably before the raise, why not stay in that situation and just give away the extra money that God sent your way?

  3. Two different but interesting ideas! Thanks to both of you.

  4. Eddy

    As I read this through this time, this thought stood out: “I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.” I’ve never thought of seeing another person’s point of view as a form of being a servant. Interesting.

  5. A classic line: “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”

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