3My defense to those who examine me is this: 4Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 7Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
My defense to those who examine me is this:
Paul defends his rights by using the word “examine” – a legal term to inquire or to examine thoroughly before a verdict in a case. Evidently, critics in the Corinthian church questioned his right to receive payment for ministry. He had his critics just like everyone in ministry, so Paul gives a “defense” of his rights.
Do we have no right to eat and drink?
Paul has a right to receive rock-bottom financial support for eating and drinking. The word “right” is the word freedom or delegated authority. “Right” occurs six times in this chapter indicating its theme (9:4,5,6,12 [two references],18).
Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
Other apostles married and took their wives on ministry trips, so Paul has that right as well. The Greek word for “take along” means to lead about in one’s company. Paul did not exercise the right of marriage and taking his wife on his missionary journeys. “Cephas” was Peter, and he exercised the right of marriage (Mark 1:29-31). Even the physical brothers of the Lord born to Joseph, and Mary exercised that right. Thus, Paul had the right to lead a normal life, as well.
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
Barnabas and Paul were partners in ministry on the first missionary journey. Why should they be exceptions to receiving pay for ministry? The word “right” occurs again to demonstrate the privilege of liberty. Paul has the right not to work in the secular world for a living. He gave up that right and worked as a tentmaker, but he had the right to receive a salary from the church at Corinth nonetheless.
Who ever goes to war at his own expense?
Now Paul introduces three metaphors about his right to be paid – from the military, farming, and tending flocks. The first metaphor is of soldiers who do not go to work at night to pay for their own service in the army.
Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?
This second metaphor is of a farmer who eats the produce of his farm. He does not farm solely for other people.
Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
The third metaphor is a common expectation that a person who tends a flock will drink from the flock. These three illustrations are an appeal to a common sense of justice.
Christian leaders have the right to financial support.
Some Christian leaders forgo their right to receive a salary so that people do not question their motive for ministry. Others claim that right so they can serve the Lord to a greater degree from a time perspective. Christian leaders have the right to receive payments, but some sacrifice salary in terms of the amount they could earn in the open market while others serve without pay. All this is a matter of personal choice, but the leader has the right to be paid in any case, for he has the right to benefit from his labors. In a day when those who receive pay for ministry are vilified at every turn, it is good to get God’s perspective on this.