Don't you agree that I'm a free man? Don't you agree that I'm an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord? Aren't you the result of my work for the Lord?
If I'm not an apostle to other people, at least I'm an apostle to you. You are the seal which proves that I am the Lord's apostle.
This is how I defend myself to those who cross-examine me.
Don't we have the right to eat and drink?
Don't we have the right to take our wives along with us like the other apostles, the Lord's brothers, and Cephas do?
Or is it only Barnabas and I who don't have any rights, except to find work to support ourselves?
Does a soldier ever serve in the army at his own expense? Does anyone plant a vineyard and not eat the grapes? Does anyone take care of a flock and not drink milk from the sheep?
Am I merely stating some human rule? Don't Moses' Teachings say the same thing?
Moses' Teachings say, "Never muzzle an ox when it is threshing grain." God's concern isn't for oxen.
Isn't he speaking entirely for our benefit? This was written for our benefit so that the person who plows or threshes should expect to receive a share of the crop.
If we have planted the spiritual seed that has been of benefit to you, is it too much if we receive part of the harvest from your earthly goods?
If others have the right to expect this from you, don't we deserve even more? But we haven't used our rights. Instead, we would put up with anything in order not to hinder the Good News of Christ in any way.
Don't you realize that those who work at the temple get their food from the temple? Don't those who help at the altar get a share of what is on the altar?
In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who spread the Good News should earn their living from the Good News.
I haven't used any of these rights, and I haven't written this in order to use them now. I would rather die than have anyone turn my bragging into meaningless words.
If I spread the Good News, I have nothing to brag about because I have an obligation to do this. How horrible it will be for me if I don't spread the Good News!
If I spread the Good News willingly, I'll have a reward. But if I spread the Good News unwillingly, I'm [only] doing what I've been entrusted to do.
So what is my reward? It is to spread the Good News free of charge. In that way I won't use the rights that belong to those who spread the Good News.
Although I'm free from all people, I have made myself a slave for all people to win more of them.
I became Jewish for Jewish people. I became subject to Moses' Teachings for those who are subject to those laws. I did this to win them even though I'm not subject to Moses' Teachings.
I became like a person who does not have Moses' Teachings for those who don't have those teachings. I did this to win them even though I have God's teachings. I'm really subject to Christ's teachings.
I became like a person weak in faith to win those who are weak in faith. I have become everything to everyone in order to save at least some of them.
I do all this for the sake of the Good News in order to share what it offers.
Don't you realize that everyone who runs in a race runs to win, but only one runner gets the prize? Run like them, so that you can win.
Everyone who enters an athletic contest goes into strict training. They do it to win a temporary crown, but we do it to win one that will be permanent.
So I run--but not without a clear goal ahead of me. So I box--but not as if I were just shadow boxing.
Rather, I toughen my body with punches and make it my slave so that I will not be disqualified after I have spread the Good News to others.