Chapter 9:16-18 (ESV) - For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
Question to consider: Why did Paul wish to present the gospel free of charge?
From the passage we studied yesterday, we inferred that Paul’s status as an apostle was being brought into question because unlike the apostles in Jerusalem, Paul did not earn his living as an apostle. Instead he worked with his hands to make his own way. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the brothers in Jerusalem making their living by the gospel. Paul pointed out that God supplied the needs of those who served His people through the Law. The priests were not given an inheritance in the land but were charged by God to serve the people whether Pharisees in the synagogues or Sadducees in the temple. To care for the priests and the places in which they served, God required the people to give a tenth of their income, and the temple priests ate from the sacrificial offerings.
If you think about the apostle Peter, he was married before he even met Jesus. This limited the region in which Peter could serve (in the areas around Judea), and Peter devoted whatever time he had outside of ministry to his wife (there is no mention of him ever having children). So Paul reiterated that those who spend their lives proclaiming the gospel should earn a living by it.
However, Paul was known for being a tentmaker who happened to be an apostle as well. He would rather die than have people think he would charge for the free gift of the gospel. When he wrote about “boasting” in this (the Greek word, kauchēma), he was not meaning in a prideful sense but in the sense that when people heard the name Paul, they thought of someone who sacrificed every earthly reward for the sake of the gospel. To Paul, preaching the gospel was not a career but a compulsion. His career was making tents. His passion was to present the gospel free of charge.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for meeting our needs and making us a part of Your ever expanding kingdom. Help us to fulfill the careers to which You’ve called us as redeemed and not defeated people. Put in us a desire to see the name of Jesus glorified in the world. Amen.