1 Corinthians is a pretty combative letter from Paul – there’s clearly some issues that have been raised by the church and he is not too impressed with all the sin that is being applauded. From today’s passage we can see Paul is answering some criticism about ministry salaries from the church.
John Wesley said people need two salvations – one of the heart and the other of the wallet! Jesus said where we put our treasure shows where our heart is.
Paul’s thrust is this – they have been blessed by his ministry, indeed they are the seal of his apostleship. He’s proud of the church in Corinth, even though there’s a lot of mess. The book of Proverbs tells us that where there is an ox in the stall there is mess. All the mess shows there is life – people getting saved with all their baggage – and so Paul considers this growing messy church to be a sign of his ministry. Therefore doesn’t he have a right to eat and drink and be able to bring a wife along as he visits (although we know he is unmarried!)
Verse 5 is interesting – bring his wife. The sense of that is that a wife shouldn’t necessarily have to work in a secular job so they can survive. Husband and wife teams are so powerful. Please pray for Mike Betts – he has talked of this wife Sue, not in terms of the finances, but that she has a back problem that means she can’t travel. They would love her to be healed so they can travel together.
Verse 14 is the key to this passage – churches need paid staff to do the work of the gospel. In Acts 6 the elders were released by the deacons to focus on prayer and the ministry of the word. It is healthy for churches to pay staff so they have more time to focus on praying and ministering the word of God to people.
The issue Paul is partly addressing is the dichotomy that can happen with paying church staff. The opposite extremes – keep them poor, or make them rich with their jets and helicopters – are both wrong. Paying church staff so they can live and not be worried about their finances is a sensible balance.
I recently asked the trustees for a pay cut – I discovered they were paying me more than friends in Norfolk and that was pressuring the church finances. That has meant the church books are balancing again. I would love to see the finances grow so that we can proclaim the gospel more – not for a pay-rise for me, but to release more people to be able to focus on ministry! Check out our giving page for how to give.