Paul’s Right to Financial Support, and His Decision Not to Use It (1 Corinthians Sermon 29)
May 19, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 9:1-15
Money and Possessions, Marks and Purposes
The Abuse of Money in Christian Ministry
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 9. This morning we're going to be looking at verses 1-15. And as you do that, I'm very well aware that one of the common accusations about preachers from people who perhaps don't usually go to church is that all they ever talk about is money. Well, I understand that. The stories of famous preachers and their abuse of ministry funds is well known. I was watching a documentary on the Word of Faith movement and the health and wealth, what commonly called the prosperity Gospel, and there was one individual that was focused on, and this individual has an estate outside Fort Worth Texas, water-front estate worth $6 million. And he has a private jet, listen carefully, a Cessna Citation. It's a really good jet, so keep that in mind. I'm just kidding, I don't want a jet, I have no interest in an airplane. I'm just telling you what this individual has, again, through ministry money. Price tag over $20 million with an operating cost every year of $1.1 million to keep it in the air. So I may, and you all may together with me be feeling a little awkward this morning as I get up to do precisely that, which is to talk about money, and to make a case that local churches should pay their pastors, and say that it's a biblical case, but however much awkwardness we may feel, this is the Word of God.
This is the next text in 1 Corinthians, and I continue to put my trust in the Word of God. And ironically, while Paul does in fact give very carefully and clearly five reasons why churches should pay their pastors, at the end of that Paul says concerning himself, he is not taking advantage of any of that. He's actually citing the opposite example for himself, how he chose to give up what was rightfully his for the sake of the Gospel. So honestly, this in the end becomes in an overarching sense, a continued and lasting call for all of us to search our hearts and minds and say, "What are we willing to sacrifice of our own freedoms for the sake of the Gospel?" Because that's really the point ultimately Paul is making. However, along the way, it's reasonable for us to learn the lessons. And so for me as an expositor, I think my primary goal every week is to take the central lesson of the text and present it to the church. The main lesson of the text is the main lesson of the sermon, that's what expositional preaching is. But I think it's wider and broader than that.
Secondary lessons are important too. And so the secondary lesson here is that churches should pay their pastors. The primary lesson is we all need to make sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel and follow Paul's example in that.
I. The Central Lesson: Laying Down Our Rights Out of Love for Others
So let's look at that primary lesson, laying down our rights for the love of others. Christianity is a religion of self-sacrifice. Jesus Christ, as the time was drawing near for Him to die, and He was very well aware that His hour was coming, in John 12:24, He gave this timeless principle for the Kingdom of God, for Christianity, and for His own life as well: "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit." He was first and foremost talking about Himself, His own sacrifice on the cross. But He also was giving a lasting principle, by which the blood of the cross would then be sacrificially applied to people all over the world by messengers, by Christians, by Evangelists and missionaries and servants of the Word, who themselves would have to die, who themselves like that kernel of wheat would have to fall into the ground and die if they wanted to see great fruit coming from their lives.
So this is a lasting principle not just for Jesus, but for all of us who follow Christ. And to this we are clearly called. Jesus said in Mark 8:34-35, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself daily and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it." So in other words, Christ was not seeking to please Himself when He became incarnate, when He took on human flesh. He was not seeking to please Himself and to do what was in His own best interest. But it was because He denied Himself and because He died and shed His blood that we sinners have our sins atoned for. And it is by the same way that the Kingdom of God spreads to the ends of the earth.
Now, this is amazingly difficult for us sinners. It is very much the issue of sanctification. All of you who have been walking with the Lord for a long time, you know exactly what I'm talking about. We come face-to-face with our flesh every day, and how hard it is for us to turn our backs on what we want to do. It's hard even for a newborn infant. Recently, I was reading Augustine's Confessions, and there he speaks directly to God in the second-person singular. He addresses his confession directly to God. And he talks to God about what God did to save him, and it's really remarkable, you ought to read it. But there's a section here that I'd never seen before. When years ago I read it, it didn't hit me. But Augustine said he was sinning from infancy, from the first day that he was alive on Earth. This is what he wrote, "Who reminds me of the sins of my infancy? Does not each little infant teach me what my own sins were when I was an infant? What then was my sin? Was it that I cried and howled to be nursed? For if I would behave like that now for the food that's reasonable to my age, I would deserve to be scorned and rebuked by everyone around me. That proves that those selfish, angry ways were really sinful. I have seen and known even a baby jealous. That little baby could not speak, yet it turned pale and looked bitterly on its foster brother when he was being nursed. So infants seethe with sinful jealousy, though they are too weak to do anything about it."
So this is what we face from infancy, from the moment we are born, we are fanatically committed to self-interest. That's what the flesh is all about. And Christianity calls on us to turn away from fanatic commitment to self-interest for the glory of God, to deny ourselves for the glory of God and for others, but our flesh fights it. We want to eat what we want to eat when we want to eat it. We want to spend our time and our energy and our money the way we choose. We don't want anyone from the outside forcing us or compelling us. We want to live as comfortable and pleasure filled lives as we possibly can. But such a mentality cannot build the Kingdom of God. It is essentially selfish and Jesus calls us away from it. The Apostle Paul in this text calls us away from it.
The Context in 1 Corinthians: Chapters 8-10 address Meat Sacrificed to Idols
Now, the context here in 1 Corinthians 9 is three chapters of dealing with the problem that was facing the Corinthian church of meat sacrificed to idols. He is dealing with various issues the Corinthian church brought up to him probably in a letter they had written him. And in 1 Corinthians 8:1 he brings up this topic, "Now about food sacrificed to idols... " and then he goes on, three chapters. For three chapters he talks about this. Now, Paul had come to Corinth and had preached very plainly the doctrine that there is one God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, there is one God and only one God, and all the gods of the nations are but idols, they're empty. And the actual idols have no spiritual significance, and that meat is just meat, that Jesus has declared all foods clean.
He taught all of these doctrines, and the more knowledgeable Christians there among the Corinthians had gotten it. They had absorbed these lessons and were moving on in a life of freedom. And they were using their freedoms as they saw fit. And they felt they had the right to do whatever they wanted, they were eating meat as much as they wanted. But Paul was saying they were not acting in love toward those in the congregation that were weaker, that were not so developed in the faith, that had heard these doctrines but they had not been able to internalize them yet. And so these older, more mature, more knowledgeable Christians were hurting the consciences and the hearts of their more immature brothers and sisters by their freedom, by their flaunting of their freedoms. And so the younger, the more immature, less knowledgeable Christians were following the example of the older, more mature Christians and eating meat whenever they wanted, visiting the temple grounds as though it just didn't apply to them moving through. But the younger ones were struggling and their consciences were smiting them, and they felt guilty for what they were doing but they were following the example of those who were further along in the faith.
And so Paul is saying to the older ones, the knowledgeable ones, he said, "You're not acting in love." And so that principle, love limits liberty, Paul's solution here is to teach right doctrine about all these things, about there being one God and only one God, about how idols are nothing at all in the world, and how meat is just meat. He's going to teach all those principles to hope to mature the younger more immature ones so they get to a level of stability and strength in their monotheistic, their Christian faith, he's going to teach them. But meanwhile in his lifestyle, in his pattern, he's going to curtail his own freedoms. He's going to pull back his liberties, and he's going to urge the others to do the same; love limits liberty.
And so at the end of chapter 8, inverse 13 he said, "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again so that I will not cause him to fall." Now, Paul's still discussing this topic at the end of chapter 10. In verse 24, 1 Corinthians 10:24 he says, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." What a lasting timeless statement that is; nobody should seek his own good. Don't be after your own good, but seek the good of others. And then at the end of that chapter, he sums it all up saying, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews or Greeks or the Church of God, even as I try to please everybody in every way, for I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so they may be saved."
So I just want you to see chapter 9 in the overall flow, in context. Three chapters on meat sacrificed to idols, and chapter 9 is part of that case. Now chapter 9, 1 Corinthians 9 for the most part is just Paul's example. Paul's citing his own lifestyle as an example. Paul does this frequently, "Follow my example as you follow the example of Christ, or as I follow Christ." Or he says in Philippians, "Whatever you've learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put it in practice, and the God of peace will be with you." So he's presenting himself as a role model here, as an example. And in the overall flow he's going to talk about how he voluntarily gives up his own rights. In the first part of the chapter, the part we're looking at today, how he does it for the sake of the church, for the benefit of the new Christians or the growing Christians there in Corinth. Then he's going to talk about how he does it for lost people, too. To the lost Jews he became like a Jew to win the Jews. To the lost Gentiles, he became like a Gentile to win the Gentiles. He's become all things to all people, so by all possible means he may save some. God willing, we'll get to that next week. So this is what he's doing for the sake of the Gospel.
II. The Right of Ministers to Financial Support (vs. 1-14)
Now, the topic in this passage that we're studying today must be seen in that light as well. It's an illustration of the principle. Paul is saying, he's asserting he had the right to financial support from the local church. He had the right to do it. And he establishes it clearly by five reasons which we are going to walk through this morning, five clear reasons why local churches should support their pastors financially. But then he says concerning himself, he chose voluntarily to give up those rights. So that's the context in the flow of the argument. However, we should not miss the fact that these verses really do contain the clearest and most careful exposition of why local churches should pay for ministry, or pay for those that are preaching the Gospel. And so we want to learn that lesson as well. So let's walk through that now, the right of ministers to financial support.
Reason #1: Apostles Have Rights Too (vs. 1-6)
The first reason he gives is, we can put it this way in verses 1-6, apostles have rights too. Apostles have rights, too. Look what he says in verse 1, "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?" So Paul's basic argument here is, "Look, if ordinary Christians have freedom and rights, why wouldn't we apostles?" So in other words, "I have freedoms too, don't I? Don't I have the right to come and go and do what I want?" So I'm an apostle, and so it's a how much more kind of argument. So Paul gives his apostolic credentials.
First, he had seen Jesus our Lord. If you look in Acts 1, as they're trying to replace Judas the traitor, they gave us one of the requirements that he had to be an eye witness of the resurrected Jesus, he had to testify to the resurrection of Jesus by having been an eye witness. And he said, "I have seen Jesus, the resurrected Lord, with my own eyes." Now, it wasn't like the other 11 that were still apostles. They had walked with Jesus through years, three years of ministry, and they had been there in the upper room, etcetera. Paul came, he says, as one untimely born, later on. But we know the story, the very famous story, how the apostle Paul, when he was still an unbeliever, Saul of Tarsus, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples, was confronted by the resurrected glorified Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he saw Him. Paul saw the resurrected Lord, and that was not the only time. There were numbers of times throughout Paul's ministry, as recorded in the book of Acts, that Jesus showed Himself or appeared to Paul and encouraged him in ministry. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul even was caught up to the third heaven to paradise and saw heaven with his own eyes.
So he says, "These are my apostolic credentials. Not only that," Paul's saying to the Corinthian Church, "I planted your church. You are the direct result of my labors in the Lord." As he said back in 1 Corinthians 4, " Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." And you see, he said, "You know my apostolic credentials." They had a clear memory of Paul preaching Christ and Him crucified by the power of the Spirit. They had seen him do a river of miracles. He said the signs, the works that mark an apostle, signs and wonders, healings, were done among you with great perseverance. So Paul had done a number of healings.
So he's saying, "I'm an apostle, clearly, and as an apostle, I have the right of financial support from you," he's saying. "I have the right to be cared for physically while I am ministering to you spiritually." Look what he says in verse 3-5, "This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me; don't we have the right to food and drink? Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?" So Paul says, "We have the right for basic life support just like the other apostles do."
Notice that he mentions specifically the right that he had to take along a believing wife. It's interesting in the Greek, literally says, "To lead about a sister, a wife." It's just an interesting expression, to lead her about. And so there is that sense of a godly leadership and she being, in the pattern of Genesis 2, a helper suitable for the ministry, but I have that right.
Now, we knew from 1 Corinthians 7, Paul was single, probably a bachelor. But he said, "Look, I have the right. And not only that, in the context here for you to support us, for you to support our family financially. My wife and I have that right." And the other apostle Cephas, that's Peter, he did. So, so much for the celibacy of the first bishop of Rome, so to speak. But he had a believing wife who he took with him in ministry, and also the Lord's brothers. And it's not mentioned here, but you could extend it to the children as well, to the family, that these families had the right for financial support, Paul says that.
Then he gets, as he does characteristically with the Corinthians, a little bit sarcastic. Paul can do this with the Corinthians. I think he would say, "Look, you drove me to it. I didn't want to get sarcastic, I didn't want to get snarky, but it's your fault." He does that a number of times. But look what he says here, "Or is it only I and Barnabas that must do manual labor?" I guess we're the only ones, we're the special case." So he's saying, "Look, apostles have rights. Do you think that I and Barnabas are the only ones of the leaders of the church who have to work with our own hands to support ourselves?"
Now, usually back in Greece, even before the Gospel got there, there was a pattern of traveling scholars, of traveling philosophers who would settle down in a certain place and bring their wisdom, their philosophy, they would gather teachers around them, and they would be paid. They would be paid for their intellectual capital. This is a well-established pattern. He's saying, "Look, if other people had received that kind of support for you before we even got here, shouldn't we all the more now that we're bringing you the Gospel?" So that's the kind of logic he's using. So as an apostle of Christ, he had every right to expect his basic physical needs to be met while he did the work of an apostle.
Reason #2: Workers Get Paid in All Other Professions (vs. 7)
Reason number two: Workers get paid in all other professions. Workers get paid in all other professions. Look at verse 7, "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?" So just think of the usual pattern for all other professions and look at his rhetorical questions, all of them expecting a negative answer. Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? No one. Soldiers' needs, their food, clothing and shelter and all of their equipment needs are supplied by the government, they're supplied by the army or whatever branch or service they're in, and they get a paycheck. It's not a big one, but they do get a paycheck. Now, back in those days, if the Romans had not been paid, they would have revolted. So everyone knows the soldier's not working... Moonlighting, like working during the day for his commanding officer and then he's got to go out and work at a convenience store. Well, they didn't have those anyway, but working at another job back then. They didn't moonlight. All of their needs were met.
Second example, he says, who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Again, no one. We would expect a hard working farmer, when harvest time came, to be able to bring for his family what he needed into his granaries, into his store house. He had labored on that. And if anybody saw him eating some grapes along the way, be like, "What are you doing?" No, that's his crop, he'd labored on it, he had the right to share in the harvest, that's the logic he's using here. And again, who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Again, no one. This is a universally accepted practice or principle. Why would church work be any different? And does it not stand to reason the same principle will be here, look at verse 11, "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?" He's using a how much more argument. Look, we are farmers of a different sort. We are sowing spiritual seed, the seed of the word, like Jesus gave in that parable, the seed and the soils. We are doing spiritual farming work, and it's a how much more argument, if we're sowing this eternally consequential, this eternally rich seed, spiritual seed, it's a little thing we should expect to receive some physical return for it.
He uses the exact same argument with the Gentile churches in Romans 15 where he's raising financial support from them for the Jewish believers, the poor among the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. And he says in Romans 15, "Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it," listen to this, "And indeed they owe it to them." They owe it to them, the Gentile churches owe it to the Jews to support them. Here's why, "for if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings." The how much more argument. You Gentile believers have gotten salvation from the Jews. The least you can do is support them financially. That's the logic Paul uses in Romans 15. So ordinary workers expect to be paid; how much more then those who work in the eternally rich harvest of the word of God?
Reason #3: God’s Law Teaches It (vs. 8-10)
Reason number three: God's law teaches it. This is verse 8-10, " Do I say this merely from a human point of view. Doesn't the law say the same thing for it is written in the law of Moses, 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us because when the ploughman ploughs and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest." So Paul reaches for the law of Moses here, Deuteronomy 25:4, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain." So in the ancient Near East, farmers, when they had harvested all the grain, the wheat, they'd bring it to a threshing floor and lay it out flat and then the oxen would trample on it, frequently carrying a sled, dragging a sled weighed down with boulders. And this trampling would crush the wheat and separate it from the chaff and they could then throw it up in the air and the wind would blow away the chaff and the wheat would be there. That was the process. But Paul's saying make sure you don't muzzle the ox. Give the ox a chance to just bow its head down and eat a little wheat along the way. It would be cruel to have the very thing the ox desires right there but to have it be restrained by a muzzle. So that's the image that the law of Moses gives.
Honestly, to me, it's fascinating that Paul reaches for the ox here. Just one chapter before that, if you read Deuteronomy 24:15, he talks about laborers in a harvest field and he says, "Pay him his wages each day before sunset." So I don't want to give Paul advice on writing scripture, but I'm like there's a clear verse in Deuteronomy, but he goes for the ox, do not muzzle the ox. Now don't misunderstand what Paul's saying here, like God doesn't care about oxen. Cares very much about oxen.
One of my favorite Psalms in the Old Testament's Psalm 104. And it talked about all the beauties of nature, the interconnected spheres of nature and how you have all of these fish of the sea and whales and all that and birds that soar through the heavens. And you have the Coney, the rock badger, that God assigned its place up on the cliffs. And the stork and all of these, and the lions, the animals of prey that come out at night and seek their prey and all of this, and it says about all of these animals and birds and fish that when God opens His hand, He satisfies the desire of every living thing. So God feeds all of the animals. What Paul's saying here is this line was written in the law so that preachers of the Gospel later would be paid. That's what Paul saying. He says he's saying it for us, for our benefit. The oxen doesn't know anything about the word of God and God's going to provide. But the idea is there's a principle here, do not muzzle the ox while it's treading out the grain.
The Consistent Religious Pattern (vs. 11-13)
Reason number four: Consistent religious pattern. Verses 11-13, "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than to hinder the Gospel of Christ." Verse 13, "Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?" So it is well known in the religious world, in the ancient Near East, that priests lived off of the offerings that the people brought. It was true in the Jewish religion, it was true in the pagan religions. I already mentioned that, that whenever the animals were brought even in paganism the priest would get... Some of it you burned up, the priest would get a portion, and then the family could take some home.
But also, it's true in the Old Testament. In the law of Moses a whole system of tithes and offerings was set up to benefit and support the Levites. The Levites were supported on the sacrificial system. As a matter of fact, it says in Deuteronomy 18:1, "The priests, who are Levites, indeed the whole tribe of Levi are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel." In other words, when they crossed the Jordan and the land was conquered, and then it was divvied up among the tribes and there were boundary lines in the book of Joshua, Levi got nothing, got none of that. Their offering... Or their inheritance was Almighty God Himself, and for their support was the sacrificial system, the offerings, the tithes and offerings that people would make as they were giving it to God. It says in Deuteronomy 18:1, "They shall live on the offerings made to the Lord by fire, for that is their inheritance." So Paul takes that principle and moves it over to the New Testament. He's arguing that those who minister the Gospel and teach it and shepherd Christ's flock are worthy of financial support from the church.
The Lord Jesus Commands It (vs. 14)
And then reason number five: The Lord Jesus commands it. The Lord Jesus commands it. Look at verse 14, "In the same way the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel." In other words, Paul says we have an actual teaching from Jesus on this. When Jesus sent out the apostles two by two to begin their training as evangelists, as missionaries, he said this to them in Matthew 10:9-11, "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts. Take no bag for the journey or extra tunic or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave." In other words, just go out and serve and let the harvest, the people out in the harvest support your physical needs. The worker is worth his keep. This was established at the beginning of the spread of the Gospel in the New Testament age, at the end of Matthew 10 so beautifully.
Paul talks about rewards given to the support system people. He says, " Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." I think he's talking about his apostles, as they're sent out on their way if you even get a cup of cold water from somebody who wants to help you on your mission, that person will never lose their reward. Isn't that incredible? So what that means is those that provide material support; a house, a room for the traveling missionaries, etcetera, financial support, encouragement, even a cup of cold water receive the same reward as those who go out. That's a beautiful picture of the body of Christ, isn't it? We have different roles to play but those that are supporters receive the same reward.
Now listen, other verses in the New Testament teach the same thing. Paul says in Galatians 6:6, "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor." So the idea is you're receiving the word, then you need to share material things also, Galatians 6:6. And then Paul... This will be very familiar, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, it says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching, for the scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and, 'The worker deserves his wages.'" so this is the exact same scriptural support that Paul uses there for supporting the elders, paying the elders.
III. Paul Voluntarily Gave Up His Rights (vs. 15)
Alright, so Paul's clearly established with these five reasons that we've walked through that local churches should support those who are ministering the word of God to them, support them financially. But the point he's making in verse 15 is Paul voluntarily gave up his rights. Look at verse 15, he says, "But I have not used any of these rights and I'm not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me." In other words, I'm not using reverse psychology here where I talk like this for a while and you say, "Alright Paul, here's an offering." No, no, no, no, no, I don't want... No, really, really we want you to have it. No, no I really... No, we want you to... Alright fine. He's saying, "Look, that's not what's going on here." I'm trying to establish a principle that the ministry of the Gospel calls sacrifice from the people who would take part in its fruit. If you want to have the fruit of the Gospel in your life, you have to be willing to give up some of your freedoms. You have to limit your liberties if you want to share in the harvest of the Gospel. That's the point he's making. Now, we've noted along the way, there is this lasting principle for financial support that Paul makes as well. We'll talk about this, the sacrifices we make for the lost more next week.
Let's do some application work now. First of all, I just want to say on behalf of the paid elders that I think this church has been faithful for as long as I've been here and increasingly so to be obedient to this passage. Our pastors and directors as well, those that receive money for ministry are well cared for. But as with all exhortations in the New Testament, especially where things are up and running and there's obedience, what you say is, yet we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, keep on doing this. Keep on being vigilant, especially let's say the non-paid elders, those that have a responsibility to look in this matter, to be faithful, to look after each one and for the church as well. And one of the number one ways church members can do this is by supporting the budget, the annual budget. So we have a number of things going on, more than a building, that's a special offering and we're going to keep taking in money to upgrade our building, but the ongoing weekly offering goes to the support of the ministry, including the pastors. So just be faithful.
Other churches, not so much. Other churches have been historically, not just now but over centuries, on the stingy side. As a matter of fact, there's a mentality that I think the local churches wanted to guard the holiness of their pastors by not tempting them with money, and so they would just try to protect their tender souls by not tempting them with high salaries, I guess. I don't know. I don't know what defense you can make for it but... And it may come from some of the heritage from the Catholic background where you've got monastic orders that would take vows of celibacy but also vows of poverty. And so they were the holy ones, they were on the inner-track for heavenly glory, but they were poor in this world.
Well, the Southern Baptist Convention a number of years ago saw some... Really a scandal that was happening with retired pastors who would serve faithfully in smaller congregations, rural congregation etcetera, reach the end of their time where they could serve, and they would retire with nothing having been saved up, there was never a possibility. And so the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925 began something called the cooperative program, in which Southern Baptists would pool their resources together to do things that were too big for any one local church to do. Among those would be funding seminaries, funding missions, both domestically and abroad but also an annuity program for pastors, and so that's been a big benefit. But also, other churches have seen the wisdom of contributing to the annuity for pastors. So that's, I think that's encouraging in our denomination.
Another issue related to this financial side is, I think it's important to mention, there is sometimes in some churches a mentality that he who pays the piper calls the tune. In other words, that if you pay the money, you get to control the message. And friends, nothing could be further from the truth. If the pastor is a true man of God, he's going to be serving God directly. He's going to be going and standing in the presence of God to get a message from God. The people like Bereans need to listen and test by the Scripture to see whether it is in fact the word of God. That's a responsibility all hearers have.
But the idea that if you pay the salary you get to control the man or the message, that couldn't be further from the truth. If he's a man of God, he's somewhat like a table waiter in a fine Parisian restaurant with a five-star chef who's one of the best in the world. And the chef has set up the plate just how he wants it to be and hands it to the table waiter. That's what we are, the table waiters. So the Holy Spirit has set the message up. Imagine in that fine restaurant, if the table waiter is found to be re-arranging plates on the way to the table. Doing something with the drizzle a little bit, or the asparagus, moving the potatoes over just a little bit, just improving it a bit. Imagine if it got back to the chef who runs the restaurant. I think that man is not long for that for that restaurant, he's going to get fired. And so in the end, I and any faithful minister of the word, I'm going to stand before God and give an account for faithfulness in reference to the scripture, not to the church, though it is the church's responsibility to be certain I'm preaching according to the word. So I think that's important to say.
One final word I want to say about the money before I turn one last time to the Gospel, I'm worried about the spread of something called the prosperity gospel. And what's sad is in some churches, it seems to be much to the church's desire to set their pastors up in luxury so they are driving around the finest cars in the congregation, and they're wearing the finest clothes and they're in mansions, as I talked about at the beginning, and the reason is there's a theology, a trickle-down, almost like a pyramid scheme theology that if you contribute to that, the same blessings will come in your life. Again, this is unbiblical. For me, I think it is not... We are not talking here about luxuries or mansions or Cessna jets. What we're talking about is food, clothing and shelter, the basic needs appropriate to that level of society, appropriate to that culture, all over the world.
When it comes to church-planting, I worry somewhat, and I've heard more and more about this, advocating, consistently advocating tent-making. And what they say is they're thinking about rapidity, they want to spread the Gospel as rapidly as possible and they find that fundraising tends to slow things down. It takes a while to get enough money to pay for the pastors and all that, and so they just openly advocate that church planters be tent makers. What they need to understand is Paul is saying his own situation is an aberration, very unusual. I think it's important for churches to learn early on that if let's say 10 households tithed and gave that money to the pastor, just keeping it simple and not talking about any other overhead costs, that individual, the pastor could live at the median financial level of those 10 families. So early on, I think churches need to learn the principles of 1 Corinthians 9 and support their pastors.
Now, what Jesus said is that those who preach the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel. The best, the most important thing I do every week is preach the Gospel. Nothing is more important than that. Now, the verses we've looked through here are inspired, they are the word of God, they are helpful for local churches, but nothing is more important for you to hear right now than that Jesus gave himself for sinners. He was not selfish with his own freedoms. He was not required to leave heaven and come to earth. He was not compelled to do it, the Father was not compelled to give His only begotten son. He chose to do it out of love. As the Scripture says in 1 John, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." And Jesus laid down his life for the brothers, so we ought to lay down our lives for others.
And so as I was praying this morning about this message, I was thinking about any that God might have brought here today who are lost. You might be a teenager in a Christian home. You might be a guest. You might have been playing a religious game over these years. You might have just walked by and come in here this morning or gone online. The most important thing I want you to hear has nothing to do with money. Jesus doesn't want anything from you, he wants to give something to you. He said in John 6 that he is going to give his flesh for the life of the world, which he did on the cross. He said in John 7, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink."
And so you get the feeling through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is pleading with you who are thirsty to come and drink from Jesus this morning. To not leave here today spiritually thirsty. All you need to do, you don't need to come forward. We don't have that kind of an invitation here. But I am inviting you to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. I'm inviting you to turn to Christ and say, "I'm thirsty. My life is not satisfying to me. My sins are ensnaring me. I've seen no way out. I don't want to go to the hell that Court talked about earlier," made it very clear, if you don't repent and believe, by the time you die, you will depart and be condemned to eternity in hell. But if you do believe, Jesus wants to give you life forever more, life in heaven. So the final word I want to say to you this morning has nothing to do with money, has nothing to do with what we want to get from you. It's what I yearn to give to you in the name of Jesus, and that is eternal life. Close with me in prayer.