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Faith Community Bible Church

Disarming The Motive Police

Introduction

Let's begin this morning with the concept of rights and entitlements. As Americans we are certainly fond of our rights. We defend our rights, we fight for our rights, we boast of our rights. Nothing sounds the injustice alarm quite like when we feel that our rights are being violated. Much of the political debate we find ourselves embroiled in has to do with rights.

"A right to life, a right to choose; a right to vote, to work, to strike; a right to a phone call, a right to marry, a right to speak our minds, a right to equal treatment before the law, a right to a distinct genetic identity."

The question that is going to feature in the text today is this, when do you exercise those rights? We certainly do not exercise every right we have.

For example, an officer might pull you over for speeding. In that moment according to the law, you have the right to remain silent. But it's better to just say I'm sorry.

Paul in this passage is going to reshape our thinking. What if we cared less about our rights and more about gospel effectiveness? What if, we stopped fighting for our rights and started voluntarily surrendering them for the sake of gospel effectiveness.

So let's see how this concept plays itself out in the text.

Review

It's worth just taking a second to show the big picture here because it's easy to get lost in the flow of thought. We are going to try and do this graphically through text blocks.

Here are three columns Chapter 8, chapter 9 and chapter 10. The idea of course is not to read anything but just see how these blocks of text relate.

So last week we looked at the entirety of chapter 8 which addressed this whole issue of meat sacrificed to idols. And it seems pretty clear that at the end of chapter 8 Paul is done addressing this issue, because chapter 8:13 concludes,

So it sounds like he's made is final point. And we jump into chapter 9 and all of the sudden we are talking about money and apostleship and oxen and grain. Then chapter 10 is all about idolatry. He's done with the whole idol-meat thing, right? But he's not done. Because if we read far enough ahead, in chapter 10:19 we see Paul return to it.

So just big picture, know that Paul is establishing principles here that he's going to pull in when we get to chapter 10.

And the principle he's going to establish is this: sometimes surrendering our rights increases gospel effectiveness. Paul has just counseled them to surrender their right to eat meat for the sake of the weaker brother. But the application of that principle is vast and wide. There are many times when we may have the right to do something, but that doesn't mean we should.

  • Here's the question God wants us to ask ourselves today, "If surrendering my rights would make me more effective in sharing Christ, would I be willing to do it?
  • Am I willing to surrender some of the rights I clearly deserve for the sake of the gospel?"
  • Or to state the question the other way, "How is my witness for Christ tainted because I am choosing to exercise some of my rights?
  • What opportunities am I missing because I'm not willing to surrender my rights?"

Now to get at this point Paul is going to begin chapter 9 with a discussion of some of the rights he has surrendered as an apostle for the sake of the gospel.

If you read between the lines here, Paul is being questioned on some pretty basic things that he clearly he has the right to do. So these rhetorical questions are intended to point out how silly these accusations are. If you are the CEO of Micron and get stopped by a security guard and he started questioning you, "Why are you here?" You might say, "Am I not an employee here? Do I not have a badge? Is not my picture up on the wall?"

This is what Paul is doing. A rhetorical question as a literary device simply invites the reader to answer the question being asked. And that's what Paul wants them to do.

  • Is Paul as an apostle free? Meaning what? Free to eat meat. Yes.
  • Has Paul seen the Lord? Yes. Part of the qualification for being apostle was having seen the Lord. Paul saw the Lord on the way to Damascus. It's retold three times in the book of Acts. So Yes, Paul is a legitimate apostle.
  • Are the Corinthians not the fruit of his labor? Yes. Without Paul there would be no Corinthian church.

Paul is establishing himself as an authority. Why is he going through this exercise? Because he wants the Corinthians to consider the facts that as a leader he has certain rights. in fact, normally the leaders have the most rights, the most privileges, the most freedom. They have to so they can lead well. If they are overly restricted, they have a hard time leading. Freedom is a gift they are given so they can lead others well.

The idea is hey, if anyone has a right to things, it ought to be the leader, the guy whose highest in charge? He continues to give examples of the kind of rights he has.

There's no reason why Paul can't get married. He has that right. This is a right he has. There is no rule that he can't take a wife. He certainly has the right.

So yes all this is available to him. He even has the right to be compensated for his gospel labor.

Paul says, as apostle, as a leader, I have the right to eat meat, and marry and even get paid for serving in the church.

Now in all this you can sense a little undertone of skepticism toward Paul. Some are apparently questioning Paul as a legitimate apostle. Back in verse 2 he says, "Even if to others I'm not an apostle, I certainly am to you, right?" which implies that some don't think he's legit. In verse 6 he says, "Is it only Barnabas and I who have to work for a living?" which is Paul's way of pointing out that for some reason Paul and Barnabas have been singled out to not deserve a compensation while others apparently were.

Why is Paul's apostleship under question? You have to remember that Paul doesn't fit into any known category for the Corinthians. There is no established roll of clergy and denominational structure or anything like that. The closest category thing they could compare to would have been a politician or rhetoric teacher. And they conducted themselves quite differently than Paul. When asked a question, it was their job to give a definitive answer. So when the Corinthians come to Paul and say, "What should we do about this whole business of meat sacrificed to idols they want a definitive answer."

Paul's advice seems cowardly and duplicitous. Sometimes he's willing to eat meat with the strong, but other times he's timid and caves into the dietary restrictions of the weak. Paul, aren't you the boss. Be more definitive.

This suspicion was re-enforced by Paul's practice of supporting himself as a tentmaker.

There were four ways that these politicians or rhetoric teachers made a living in Paul's day.

  1. They charged fees for people to attend their classes. This would have been the most ideal but rare to be this desired.
  2. They could be supported by a wealthy businessman. This kind of support my also come with the expectation that you take a part in the education of the children in the home. So while you might have your economic needs met, it came with a certain loss of freedom. If your agenda didn't line up with your benefactors agenda, you could expect the check to dry up real quick.
  3. They could look for handouts. This wasn't quite begging but it was something like it. People understood what they were trying to do and many would actually support in meaningful ways.
  4. You could work a job and do your teaching on the side.

Now you can imagine that the respect levels for these various means of getting what you want was not equal. Your legitimacy went up if you could charge for your classes. If you made a living by selling your books, that equalled credibility. If you could support yourself because the appetite for your material was so large, that increased your credibility. But look at Paul. The guy claims to be an apostle of the God of the Universe and doesn't even get supported for his work? How legitimate can he really be?

We all have these markers that legitimize someone as an authority. We do this in our culture at least as much as people did in Paul's day. If you have a really big spiritual problem, where do you turn? You probably think to turn to someone with experience. You go to someone who has the label, the title, maybe an elder or maybe a pastor maybe a professional counselor who has some impressive sounding degree. But if you really need advice and direction you kind of dream of going to the big guns, the guy who has an impressive-church and a podcast and a few books and is a conference speaker. Those are the markers of legitimacy.

Paul wasn't that. He was an elder at the church who worked at Cabellas. That threw a lot of people off. Can we trust him? Certainly he can't be more authoritative that some of these well-known, well-respected names?

Paul, says I want you to know that my decision to support myself in ministry is a decision that I have consciously made for a very specific reason. He says, "It certainly would be acceptable for me to draw a paycheck." And he argues for that.

The logic here is sound enough. Who can deny the logic of this. The ox gets fed because he works. If you starve the ox he can't work. He's either got to spend all day with his head down eating grass, or you work him all day and then at the end of the day you feed him grass that you harvested for him. You can't expect him to spend his entire day pulling a plow and then go all night and get his own grass. That doesn't work.
This is the rationale for paying ministers in the Bible.

I'm one of those guys. Certainly, I could go find a job somewhere. It could easily be argued that any part of a ministers job could be handled by a lay person. Non paid people in the body here preach. Non paid people in the body counsel people. Non paid people in the body do administration. So why should we spend the church's money paying people for what lay people could do. Because, freeing a few people up to do full time ministry can go a long way in equipping the church to be effective.

Does it make sense for some people to be freed up to do ministry full-time and not have to spend a giant portion of their time just trying to eat and make rent. Yes, that makes sense.

Paul says, many have done that. Some right now are doing that among you. It would be within my rights to ask for that support. But listen to what Paul says next.

So Paul says,

  • you can argue from the law that compensation for gospel ministry is a legitimate concept.
  • You can argue this from the temple example.
  • You can argue this from the very words of Jesus.

However you do it, there's no question that God wants ministers to be paid.

Paul, if you have the right to get paid, why do you choose not to? He answers. Here's the real climax of the passage. Why would you surrender your right to get paid. That's a pretty big deal.

Here's what he is saying, "

  • If I get paid to do ministry, well, then doing ministry is what people ought to expect from me.
  • If I get paid to pick strawberries, well, I'd better pick strawberries.
  • If I get paid to write code, well, I'd better write code.
  • And if I get paid to preach the gospel, well, I had better preach the gospel.
    How absolutely terrible would that be for anyone to not do what they are being paid to do. That would be like the lowest of low. Woe to me. The problem is when you get paid you also, remove your 'ground for boasting.' What does he mean by that?

Here it is - he means by getting paid you make your behavior explainable. Prior to getting paid, people might say, "Wow, why is he doing that?" As soon as you get paid, people stop asking. Why? Because they know. I know for certain, he's not out there picking strawberries for the fun of it. You see Paul out there being nice to people and preaching the gospel. He's not doing that for the fun of it. He has to do that, he's paid to be a pastor."
When Paul says, "I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting" what he is saying is I see how absolutely critical it is in my current situation that I not be accused of being motivated by money.

There will always be certain contexts in which your credibility will be destroyed by being motivated by money. And Paul was highly aware of this.

Now notice, this is not Paul saying that people who get paid in ministry are doing something wrong. What's he's doing is comparing the advantages of the two different ways of doing ministry.

Paul says, if I preach the gospel of my own will, I have a reward. What does he mean? He means if I preach the gospel of my own will, meaning I'm not getting paid to do it, then I have a reward. And what is the reward? He defines it. I can present the gospel free of charge. Free of charge in both senses. He doesn't charge people for it. But people also can't charge him with the accusation of doing it for financial gain. So that's one way of doing ministry, doing it off your own will, not getting paid.

But if not of my own will, meaning what? Meaning he's getting paid, then he is entrusted with a stewardship. If you are paid, then it's your job to be attentive to the gospel. It's a precious stewardship. If a landlord entrusted you with his estate for a year, you'd better take care of it. That's your job. It's not time to slack off. It's time to put your full effort into it. It's a privileged position. Your choice is reward or stewardship neither of which are bad.

Speaking personally, I am in that latter category. I am a steward. And I love being a steward. I put my full effort into what we do here and I see it as an absolute privilege and honor and exactly what Paul says, a stewardship. It's an honor to get paid to do gospel ministry.

But guess what. I feel the trade-off. Because I get paid, I can't do things you can do. I remember when I was a college student and I'd listen to my pastor talk and I'd just think his words were like golden pearls. I'd think, man, if only my unbelieving neighbor could listen to him, then they'd get saved in four seconds. He says everything so good. He sits in that position of authority. I wish I could say it like that with his authority.

But what I realize now as a pastor, when I try to speak to my neighbors, my words are tainted from the get-go. Any time I meet anyone, invariably the conversation drifts into occupation. And the second they learn I'm a pastor, my words take on a different sort of meaning. If I try to bring God into the equation they go, "Well, that's nice but you have to say that. Your paid to say that. Your a man of the cloth. You have to represent the church."

Paul is saying, it's not wrong to get paid, but just think about how that changes your influence. It's very similar to the marriage discussion back in chapter 7. You have a different platform as a married person vs a single person. Before you change your status from single to married, just think about how that will change your gospel effectiveness.

In a similar way, your vocational status in ministry will change your gospel effectiveness.

And in Paul's case he was convinced that his right to get paid interfered enough with his effectiveness that he would find a different way to support himself. I am more effective to certain people if I don't get paid. Paul just wanted it to be a non-issue. He wanted to entirely remove the accusation that he's in it for the money. He wanted to disarm the motive police.

We run into this motive judgment all the time in our society. If someone knocks on your door and you open it up and the guy has a clipboard and he's wearing a century link embroidered polo with a smile on his face and he says to you, "Good evening, man that is a fabulous hat your wearing."

What do you do with that compliment? There are two possible reasons he is complimenting you.

  • Possibility #1 He really does like your hat.
  • Possibility #2 His manager said, "A good technique to disarm people is to compliment them, so even if you absolutely think their hat is hideous, tell them that it looks great. That will increase your likeliness of making a sale."

When money is involved, it calls into question every act of benevolence, kindness, altruism. What was the motive that led you to be kind to me? Money is the easy one to point to. When money is involved it gives people motive options to pick from, and given the choice between being motivated by money or motivated by virtually anything else, people will always assume you were motivated by money.

You look at wealthy businessmen with a supermodel on their arms and no matter how unfair it is, everybody can't help but wonder, "Does she love him or does she love his money?""

That's why Paul says, if that gets in the way, then let me remove that obstacle. I'm not going to let that silliness get in the way.

I've appreciated so much Christian book authors who recognize this as a real threat to the ministry. We live in a bizarre point of history where if a book is super successful in the Christian world, it's possible to make millions of dollars. And from a purely logical, legal point of view, of course it's their right to accept the money that comes in from a book they wrote. But some pastors will say, "For the sake of optics, I just don't want that accusation that I'm for some reason in it for the money." And they will setup a foundation or give it away or something.

That's a pretty impressive noble thing to do. It's very hard to do something like that. We can applaud it from a distance but that is not easy. I am thankful for those pastors that have done this. It really does free them from the accusation that they are in it for the money.

Paul wants to disarm the motive police. There's always policeman out there waiting to blow their whistle and let you know about your motive infractions. This has been going on since the dawn of time.

The oldest book in the Bible from a textual point of view is probably the book of Job. And what's the story? It's exactly this. Was this not the very accusation that Satan brought against Job. He approached God and said, "Does not Job follow you for nothing?

Satan blows the whistle on Job. He's only in it for the money! Look at the guy. He's loaded. Of course he loves you God, look at the 6 figure income.

Had Paul collected a salary from his churches he would open himself up to this kind of accusation. Paul's challengers might have blown the whistle, "Wait, wait, wait.... Does Paul not preach the gospel for no reason? Does he not get compensation from every church he plants? He's building a pyramid scheme. The more churches he plants, the more money he gets. But take away his commission and you will watch his gospel ambition dry up over night." Paul avoided this accusation entirely by sewing tents and volunteering his work.

In Job's case and in Paul's case it was necessary that the material benefit be removed to demonstrate the purity of the motives.

So what's the principle here? You've heard the phrase follow the money. The idea is if you want to know what motivates people, follow the economic incentives and you will discover the reason why people do what they do. Paul says, "Don't give them a trail to follow."Of course this is wildly unfair. You have a right to get paid. And your motives might be pure as crystal. But sometimes it just doesn't matter. Even if money is absolutely not your driving reason for why you do what you do, if people are determined to see things through those lenses, you will be eternally misunderstood until you remove that obstacle.

Application

So now we turn the spotlight onto us. Where is our use of money undermining our gospel witness?

  • Perhaps it's unwise extravagant spending.
  • Or maybe it's actually the opposite. Your just always asking for money, or always just commenting on how poor you are. If that gets out enough, people think, he's no different than anyone else. She doesn't really think she can be happy in her poverty. You undermine the gospel.
  • When the spreading of the gospel and our own financial gain are in competition with one another, which one wins? Which one is most important to you?

Now here's what we really need to think through. We might in theory say, "I'd be willing to make some lifestyle changes regarding money if it could be proved to me that this is really negatively impacting the gospel." But let me ask you, "How will you ever know that? How can that ever be shown to you?"

How do you know when it's finally gotten to the point where, yeah, I think it's time to surrender my rights. What Paul did here was not just a minor inconvenience. Imagine deciding to continue doing your full time job for free, and then getting a second job to support yourself. That is essentially what Paul did.

What motivated Paul to do this? Paul could have always had a rational argument that makes sense. Man, it's just those two complainers over there that have their scruples. Most people don't care. Nobody would fault him for the reasoning. Nobody told him to do it. It came from within. How bad does it have to get before you finally decide it's time to surrender your rights?

Paul was not asking that question. Paul was asking a much more difficult question. Paul was not saying, "How extravagant can I live and still call myself a Christian." Paul was saying, "If there is anything I can do to increase my gospel effectiveness, even if it's just by a little, I want to do that!"

Here's what Paul was eager to do. He was eager to create lanes for the gospel that are impossible to explain away. What he wanted to do is remove the easy explanations for why Paul was going to extraordinary lengths to love people and share truth with people. And when we open up this kind of thinking all of the sudden the applications start flooding in:

What right can you surrender that increases your gospel effectiveness? What can you do that befuddles those around you. What right can you surrender that causes people to ask, "Why is he doing that?

  • He's not doing it because of social pressure,
  • he's not doing it out of social obligation,
  • he get's no financial kickback here,
  • he gets no relational kickback.

Why in the world would he ever sacrifice to that length for me? Answer: because the love of Jesus Christ compels him (2 Corinthians 5:14).

And what's the only way you are going to create this kind of unexplainable behavior. Let me give you a hint. It's going to be hard - like what Paul did - surrender his entire income. The only way this is going to happen is if it cost you. All the easy options are taken. The hard ones are the ones that remain.

What it's going to feel like is a ridiculous sacrifice for hardly any noticeable increase in gospel effectiveness! This is key. You will not hardly feel a measurable difference. What could Paul point to. Yes, because I sacrificed my entire income, these 30 people came to Christ. It doesn't work that way.

Notice what Paul says in verse 12. "but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ."

Paul had to endure years of inconvenience. Every day he had to say, "Well, I could be getting paid for this, but instead I just have sew another tent." Day in, day out for years. That's tough. In order to make gospel impact, he really had to surrender his rights and give, give, give.

Love always costs something. Love is hard work. And the reason it's hard is because there is no benefit, no kickback to you. It's not as hard to give a backrub if you know in advance you'll get one in return but it's way harder to give a backrub if you know you get nothing in return. That's just raw work.

How might this look? What right can you give up to show someone that you love them? What would totally surprise them? It's going to cost you. Would you be willing to do that? Maybe God isn't asking you to give up your salary for gospel effectiveness but he's asking you to give up your time, your most precious time, your one hour a week that you cherish by yourself.

You have a right to use your time how you want. Nobody can tell you how to use your time, but would you surrender that right and use your time to serve your neighbor in an unexplainable benevolent sort of way?

I think this may be one of our greatest tools today. Our time is so precious. And nobody has time for anyone. So what if you lavishly gave it away?

Maybe this looks like giving away a professional service you can offer.

Maybe you are an attorney taking on some legal work for free in order to build gospel centered-relationships. Maybe you are a carpenter and you offer to do some work for free to build a relationship. What professional service do you have to offer?

Maybe it's how you treat people after you leave a job. In the work environment you may treat your coworkers with dignity and courtesy because you have to. You work with them every day. But what if you leave your job? In most cases, that relationship fizzles over night and you never see these people again. Now we don't have to be together so I don't care about that person any more. But what if you continued to care. What if you continued to reach out and ask them about their life. That behavior would be unexplainable.
What right of yours can you sacrifice that will increase your gospel effectiveness and make your behavior less explainable? Go do that.

 

 

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