Do I not have as much freedom as anyone else? a Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn't it because of my hard work that you are in the Lord?
Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you, for you are living proof that I am the Lord's apostle.
This is my answer to those who question my authority as an apostle. b4
Don't we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?
Don't we have the right to bring a Christian wife c along with us as the other disciples and the Lord's brothers and Peter d do?
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?
What soldier has to pay his own expenses? And have you ever heard of a farmer who harvests his crop and doesn't have the right to eat some of it? What shepherd takes care of a flock of sheep and isn't allowed to drink some of the milk?
And this isn't merely human opinion. Doesn't God's law say the same thing?
For the law of Moses says, "Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain." e Do you suppose God was thinking only about oxen when he said this?
Wasn't he also speaking to us? Of course he was. Just as farm workers who plow fields and thresh the grain expect a share of the harvest, Christian workers should be paid by those they serve.
We have planted good spiritual seed among you. Is it too much to ask, in return, for mere food and clothing?
If you support others who preach to you, shouldn't we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.
Don't you know that those who work in the Temple get their meals from the food brought to the Temple as offerings? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings.
In the same way, the Lord gave orders that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.
Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I would like to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my distinction of preaching without charge.
For preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn't do it!
If I were doing this of my own free will, then I would deserve payment. But God has chosen me and given me this sacred trust, and I have no choice.
What then is my pay? It is the satisfaction I get from preaching the Good News without expense to anyone, never demanding my rights as a preacher.
This means I am not bound to obey people just because they pay me, yet I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ.
When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ.
When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, f I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.
I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings.
Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win.
All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. g27
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)