Friday, July 10, 2009

Devotional - Obligations of Faith

Good morning my friends. I pray it is a beautiful Friday morning for you. We are considering parts of 1 Corinthians 9 today.

There is a lot packed into this little verse so I want to take one thing at a time over the next few days. The first thing I wish to look at is the one thing that will sour people the fastest; money. One of the most difficult things in the Church is getting people to let go of their wallets. That may struck you as odd but follow the scripture here for a moment:

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." vv. 7-9

Obviously there is a problem here. Paul seems to have been treated differently from the other Apostles. He seems to have been criticized for something so Paul is taking the time to correct the attitude by reminding them of their obligation. Yes, I said obligation and it is according to the Word of God:

Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? vv. 9-12

If you hire a babysitter you pay the babysitter. If you go to the grocery store you pay the merchant. You even pay the government. Why should it surprise anyone that God requires his children to support the servants he sends to serve them? It is an obligation. It is also an obligation that can be abused. I have read of a few choice mainstream churches who pay their pastors over $600,000 a year. What person needs that kind of money? Obviously there are abuses and we need to take care of that but it does not give us the right to shrug off our obligation. Just in case it wasn't clear:

Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. vv. 13-14

Paul goes on to say that he did not lay claim to that right of material support but that did not negate the fact that it was his right according to the Word. Paul did not hide his motivation for doing this:

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. vv. 15-18

I have been in this place that Paul is talking about and it is great. It increased my faith, made my relationship vibrant with the Lord, and kept me on my toes spiritually. I have heard people cry over their finances because they can't go on vacation or because they can't buy whatever it is they wanted to buy and there I was wondering how the Lord was going to supply supper. But one thing I noticed; although my sacrifice did wonders for the growth of my faith it did nothing for those who I served. In fact, looking back I think it was damaging to their faith.

Faith is not increased by observing. We are inspired by observing but faith only increases with exercise, like muscles. I am not taking away from Paul's attitude here, I am only qualifying what he is saying. He has not let believers out of their obligation to support those who serve among them, in fact, this chapter emphasizes the obligation people have to share their materials with these servants. Not everyone is given to do what Paul did and I am sure that Paul did that in some places but not others. We know he practiced his trade in Corinth because Acts tells us this for a fact, but in other places he was too busy and had to rely on the support of the believers. It is wrong for believers to force the servants to do something God has not given them to do.

See what I mean? It is hard to separate a believer from his wallet because most of us speak of faith but we do not know how to trust. Learn to trust the Father and all the promises he has given us to look after us and we will all see a vibrant, healthy Church growing around us. Exercise your faith and support the ministers in your life.

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