Continuing in Paul’s chapter of defense against accusations that he is using his position as an apostle to trick communities into giving money, he now moves into explaining that not only does he deserve to receive wages for sustenance, but also that he doesn’t do it to earn a living.
1 Corinthians 9:15-18
15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
Paul’s work in spreading the gospel of Christ has never been about earning wages. Jesus spoke of this a few times that if we do things to be honored by men, then we have already received our reward; but if instead we act in order to honor God, we must not worry about earthly reward for it is already set aside for us. If we remain in God’s will for our lives on earth, we don’t have to worry about being taken care of. This is the difference between just doing stuff for God and doing stuff with God. If we seek out answers from Him what our real purpose is in this life, we get to enjoy what we do, we are always taken care of, and we won’t be as easily distracted from our purpose.
Paul’s point in this passage is that he doesn’t preach for food or sustainment, even though he has every right to receive support from others, but because he is under compulsion by God, through the Holy Spirit, he knows it is what he was saved for. People struggle to understand why they are on earth, but God wants you to realize what your purpose is so you can live this way. I love how Paul mentions that in preaching the gospel, it really isn’t any credit to him. It’s like giving all the credit to the pot for how functional and beautiful it is. Rather, God designed us with a specific purpose, unique to our individual design and it is when we are functioning in these parameters that we flourish the most. So, did Paul have an option not to do the work he did? Absolutely, but he also realizes how foolish it would be.
As a missionary in another country, I try to relate to people that my wife and I didn’t necessarily choose to come to Guatemala. It wasn’t like we figured that it was a nice place to work, so why not? Rather, God revealed to us His plans for us to be a part of what He is doing here and we had a choice of complying and realizing it is our purpose or stay in the U. S. working jobs just to make money all the while being miserable because we would be working outside of our design. A table isn’t happy when it is being used as a skateboard and a pot isn’t happy when it is being used as a car. It seems simple enough, but we fail to look at our own lives this way.
What has God created you to do? Why are you still alive today? Why are you dissatisfied with certain things in your life? Stop wasting time and ask God to guide you in discovering the purpose of your existence today!