The verses contained in 1 Corinthians 9:11-12 read like this:
“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.”
It’s such a powerful statement of dedication and restraint. Paul makes it clear, as translated in Ennis-vernacular: “Hey, we’ve earned a right to accept material help from you brethren, for all the spiritual instruction we’ve bestowed upon you. Heck, you guys are giving help to others who aren’t equipping you for spiritual warfare. If anyone deserves support, it’s us! But we won’t take your gifts. We’ve chosen not to exploit you. Rather, we face all challenges so as not to deter from the gospel.”
We’ve all heard of that husband who is supposed to be the head of the household, but choses to lie around and exploit his wife instead. Or how about the false preachers who spend more time exploiting the congregation’s generosity and faithfulness to God, for their own selfish agendas? How about the guilt-trip wife who insists on controlling the household funds earned by her husband’s wages, not for the benefit of the household; but for her own self-gratification?
With great power comes great responsibility. The apostles were well within their right to accept gifts from the brethren. But they prioritized their wants and needs. Not once did Paul ever say, “Hey, I’ve been teaching you Corinthians for quite some time now. How’s about you set me and the boys up with a nice place and room service?” Paul felt that the gospel was more important than creature comforts.
I’ve been on the side of marriage, where I abused my wife’s love for my own self gains. Sure, I was providing for her and the children. But, that’s simply what a man is supposed to do for his family. The moment I parlayed that trust into a guilt card, to be used as a cash-in chip for something I wanted, I crossed a line. God had to reel me back in, and show me the error of my ways.
We can’t use our status, intelligence or hearts to manipulate people into giving into our selfish desires. It doesn’t work in marriage; it didn’t work in the time of the apostles. God would rather we set aside our selfish ambitions for the sake of love: love in teaching the gospel; love in providing for our families; love with no strings attached.
That’s what Paul knew: love without strings. He had power, but chose to forego using it. Just because you have power, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use it.