Pauline Bragging Rights

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #96

“But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void” (1 Cor. 9:15).

So Paul has been going on and on about money, and since I am commenting on 1 Corinthians verse by verse, so have I been. In fact, we have been harping on this point so much (Paul and I) that one begins to suspect an ulterior motive. It is sort of like when the minister starts preaching “Stewardship Sunday” messages every third week or so—one begins to wonder if the old budget is having any difficulties.

No, that is not the issue. Paul knows that he is ministering among sinful men, and he knows the ranks of the ministers are also filled up with sinful men. There is the sin that doesn’t want to give, and there is the sin that just wants to take. He knows that people naturally begrudge giving money to ministers who are well worth it—and whose first reasonable paycheck will come at the last day in front of all the angels—and he knows that plenty of ministers who are not worth a thin spiritual dime have taken full advantage of the flock—shepherds who feed only themselves. The problem with Brother Love’s Old Time Holiness Hour is not the pay he gets—it is the slipshod nature of his work.

This is why Paul fights for the principle that insists that good and godly ministers should be paid well, and why he fights also for the (equally important) principle that defines good and godly ministers as those who are willing to forego what is their due for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the mission. That foundational reality comes to the front in this verse.

 

Paul says that there are certain financial prerogatives that he refused to draw on. He had an account that he refused to open. Moreover, he did not teach the Corinthians about the existence of this account as a sneaky and surreptitious way of tricking them into opening it for him. He has not taken advantage of his right, and he makes that point first—“I have used none of these things.” And he did not teach on it in order that it should “be so done unto me.” He did not write this letter with one eye on the budget meeting that was coming up. Not only does he make this point, he glories in it. He would rather die than to have any money come to him in a way that would deprive him of these bragging rights.

But it is crucial that we get this right because we are so prone to slip off the point in either direction. Some ministers say that if they claim the right and privilege to the money, then they must get the money necessarily. Others say that since it is a disgrace for a minister to make all that money, they must not have the right to it. Robbing ministers is to them an act of justice, instead of what Paul would call it, an act of sacrificial love.

So Paul rejects both options—if Paul were paid like a televangelist, we shouldn’t begrudge a penny of it. He would be worth it all. And because he is the kind of man who would deserve it we find out that he is the kind of man who would refuse every penny of it rather than jeopardize the mission.

Paul feels strongly on the point. He would rather die than to give it up. And a good word to ministers here would be to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Unless, of course, ministerial pay has not gotten in the way of the mission since A.D. 64, when the good apostle died.

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