Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord? Aren't you the result of my work for the Lord?
Even though others may not think of me as an apostle, I am certainly one to you! You are the proof that I am the Lord's apostle.
That is what I say to stand up for myself when people judge me.
Don't we have the right to eat and drink?
Don't we have the right to take a believing wife with us when we travel? The other apostles do. The Lord's brothers do. Peter does.
Or are Barnabas and I the only ones who have to work for a living?
Who serves as a soldier but doesn't get paid? Who plants a vineyard but doesn't eat any of its grapes? Who takes care of a flock but doesn't drink any of the milk?
Do I say that from only a human point of view? The Law says the same thing.
Here is what is written in the Law of Moses. "Do not stop an ox from eating while it helps separate the grain from the straw."#1(Deuteronomy 25:4)#2 Is it oxen that God is concerned about?
Doesn't he say that for us? Yes, it was written for us. When a farmer plows and separates the grain, he does it because he hopes to share in the crop.
We have planted spiritual seed among you. Is it too much to ask that we receive from you some of the things we need?
Others have the right to receive help from you. Don't we have even more right to do so? But we didn't use that right. No, we have put up with everything. We didn't want to keep the good news of Christ from spreading.
Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple? Don't you know that those who serve at the altar eat from what is offered on the altar?
In the same way, those who preach the good news should receive their living from their work. That is what the Lord has commanded.
But I haven't used any of those rights. And I'm not writing because I hope you will do things like that for me. I would rather die than have anyone take away my pride in my work.
But when I preach the good news, I can't brag. I have to preach it. How terrible it will be for me if I do not preach the good news!
If I preach because I want to, I get a reward. If I preach because I have to, I'm only doing my duty.
Then what reward do I get? Here is what it is. I am able to preach the good news free of charge. And I can do it without making use of my rights when I preach it.
I am free. I don't belong to anyone. But I make myself a slave to everyone. I do it to win as many as I can to Christ.
To the Jews I became like a Jew. That was to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one who was under the law, even though I myself am not under the law. That was to win those under the law.
To those who don't have the law I became like one who doesn't have the law. I am not free from God's law. I am under Christ's law. Now I can win those who don't have the law.
To those who are weak I became weak. That was to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that in all possible ways I might save some.
I do all of that because of the good news. And I want to share in its blessings.
In a race all the runners run. But only one gets the prize. You know that, don't you? So run in a way that will get you the prize.
All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
So I do not run like someone who doesn't run toward the finish line. I do not fight like a boxer who hits nothing but air.
No, I train my body and bring it under control. Then after I have preached to others, I myself will not break the rules and fail to win the prize.