Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
This is my defence to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?
Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever ploughs should plough in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting! If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
In 2017, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, reported that ‘recent research found people with a greater sense of entitlement are less likely to follow instructions than less entitled people are, because they view the instructions as an unfair imposition on them’.
It was once argued that when we are saved, we are sent. All of us, members of the body of Christ have a calling in the world and in the Church. It can be unrewarded, hard work, as Paul has sadly discovered.
Many Christian workers are unsung heroes, who get no credit and respect in their living. A Baptist friend of mine, argued that there is too much reward/credit, given to God’s workers in many parts of Africa; and not enough credit given the UK. He then argued that this lower credit given in the West, can cause workers to be discouraged, disheartened, depressed, less holy, and ultimately less sacrificial in their service.
As a pioneer, Paul certainly did not get enough human credit for his hard work and sacrifices. People took his self-denials for granted, thus taking him for granted. Actually, churches he planted often mocked him and even rejected his authority. Yet Paul did not focus much on what he deserved: his rights. He rather emphasized his duties to people and to the Lord. In a countercultural move, he took pride in working without reward. Paul found it the greatest reward, to fulfil the trust and duties committed to him by the Lord.
Maybe today we feel that we have not always been treated well and rewarded well by those we serve. God is our main ‘employer’ and as long as God is happy with what we do, we ought to be encouraged. May God’s grace help us being more committed and self-giving than entitled.
God of mission, thank you for calling us to work with you and for you. May your amazing love quicken us to serve without counting the cost. Keep us focused on the proclamation of the Good News. May our service be more and more enjoyable and fulfilling. Give us oil in our lamps, that we may keep loving, serving and praising you with joy, passion and thanksgiving. Amen
The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze Yemtsa is a minster in the East Midlands Synod.