TEXT: 1 CORINTHIANS 9:7-17
"Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of gospel. 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."
Every administrator or minister of the gospel of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ is entitled to get his earthly needs met by the same gospel: his maintainace and sustainance are supposed to be taken care of from the very gospel he administers. This is one of the core doctrines in the nineth chapter of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. Once a man is commissioned by God to be a promoter of the gospel, this privileges accrue to him automatically: he sins not if he demands both from God and men for this entitlements! God and the people, he ministers to, become his 'debtor' as it were!
This man takes of his spiritual things and ministers them to men: the men in turn, naturally speaking, becomes his debtors: the debt are their material things! As it is written, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" This text from scripture is mentioned also in Romans 15:27:
"It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things." The New Living Translation renderers same thus: "They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially."
It is inappropriate to receive spiritual help and leave the conduit(the minister) thereof physically helpless! God's expectation of every of His own is that those bringing spiritual assistance to us are supposed to be taken care of by us! This is not meant to say spiritual things are no longer free! This is God's way for us and we must be diligent to follow it! Putting food on our pastors' table is not out of place! Throwing cloths on the back of a minister's family is a godly and responsible acts! To relieve a minister of his earthly anxiety is a show of our reception of the gospel. Change of heart and penitent tears are great token of our acceptation of the word of God: we should not stop there; a further step to make life more comfortable for them would put a smile on the face of God!
Moreover, our text under consideration represents ministers of God with some imagery that need our attention. A minister is looked upon a soldier or warrior, a farmer, a shepherd, an ox and a priest that attend on the alter! A warrior's need is on the country that sends him; a vinedresser or farmer lives on his trade: a shepherd drinks of the milk from his flock and needless to say, an ox that threshes out the corns does help itself with the same corns. God commands these trends! It was a violation of Moses' law for a man to muzzle an ox that is threshing the corn. Paul ties these whole illustration together by saying: "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live ofgospel." The massage translation renders this thus "Along the same lines, the Master directed that those who spread the Message be supported by those who believe the Message."
For a minister to, therefore, think and maintain otherwise, is to but go to war at his own expenses; plants a vineyard and refuses to eat of the fruit thereof; feeds a flock, and refuses to eat of the milk of the flock! He stands to be likened to an ox whose mouth is muzzled while threshing out the corns: woe betide such ox! He would thresh under empty stomach! This is the way of God! God ordained this way for the proper administration of His kingdom here on earth. This is the real import of what is meant by "A labourer is worthy of his wages."
Praise God! "Doth God take care for oxen?" Paul ask, "Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope." Thank God! "For our(the ministers) sakes, no doubt, this is written..."
The above privileges or rights are known as apostolic privileges. God is the author of it! A minister can use it any time any where! But Paul, a proponent of this doctrine, inserts a qualification: "Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." The giving up of this right for the purpose of not putting obstacles on the way of the gospel, is a good fight. As good as this right is, the gospel can be hindered by it! Unduly demand of this right by a Minster can affect the minds of his audience. When a Minster suspends his ministerial privileges just for the purpose of the gospel, he is fighting a good fight.
It takes courage to tend a flock and look other way from the milk thereof! A soldier that careless for the maintenance from his country during war because of his love for her, is a hero indeed. An ox that refuses to eat the corns thrashed by it because of the quantity of the corn, is a good ox. But may unmuzzled ox would finish the whole corn and nothing would remain for the master.
Paul says, "Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." May God give us understanding! This power has been abused by many at the detriment of the gospel and souls of men! We fight a good fight if we learn to say like Paul, when occasion demands, "Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." This was one of Paul's struggles and conflicts in ministry. To be continued!
Emeka Joe Uzosike