Paul speaks to his reader about his rights as an apostle. Shouldn’t he share the same rights as any other apostle? Yes. But he forgoes these rights for a purpose.
“The laborer is worthy of his hire.” This concept is present in both new and old testaments. Paul had every right to expect to receive from those he served. Yet he didn’t always avail himself of that right. During his missionary trips he most likely did but when he stayed in Corinth for a year and a half he didn’t. He worked instead as a tentmaker and supported himself the whole time.
I don’t know if Paul set out initially to forego this right or if, while waiting for Silas and Timothy, he couldn’t help but preach the gospel. I’m certain the Holy Spirit directed Paul to Corinth but I don’t believe Paul was expecting to be there as long as he was. He came to Corinth after leaving Athens where he had been sent to escape those who sought his life in Berea. They had come from Thessalonica to Berea to cause him problems. We aren’t told how long he stayed in Athens but we do know that the Holy Spirit urged him to speak even there.
Paul couldn’t keep silent about Jesus. Reminds me of Jeremiah, who couldn’t not speak of God; “But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Paul is not condemning the church in Corinth for his having to work to support himself. He is instead contrasting how he lived with how he could have IF he had asserted his rights as an apostle. He is not bemoaning his previous time with them but offering them an example to follow.
Paul was willing to speak to any one any time about the gospel. He would do whatever it took to avail himself of an opportunity. He submitted to any expectation. He endured any hardship. He used every advantage or disadvantage he could to reach people for Jesus. He went where some couldn’t and others wouldn’t in the name of Jesus.
That is what Paul was calling this group of people to do. Put down their proud behaviors and consider how to reach their brothers. For the sake of the other whom they would be witnessing to, be the humble one. Lay aside any “right” that got in the way of caring for the lost. Paul didn’t consider what he could get from sharing the gospel, only what he could give. He gave Jesus’ love freely to anyone seeking it, and even to some who didn’t know they were in need of that amazing love.
Father God, thank You for Paul’s example. He walked after Your heart. He truly tried to be Jesus’ hands and feet to those he met. Help me remember his example when I’m tempted to assert my “rights.” I want to be Jesus hands and feet to those I meet. Continue working on my heart in this area Father.
Thank You for the opportunity to share Your love. Make that my number one concern in all I do.