1 Corinthians 9:14, 16 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
The matter of “ministerial compensation” is an issue even today. News media (which in general tends to be anti-Christian) loves to pick up on preachers who get huge salaries, and “TV preachers” who spend half their air time begging for money have certainly fed into that. Fortunately, they are actually the exception. Far more common is the pastor of the small church who barely receives enough to get by. Sadly, too many churches seem to think it’s their duty to “keep their preacher poor and humble.” On top of that, there are missionaries who serve among people who cannot support them financially, and have to take time and emotional energy trying to get people in their affluent sending country to supply the funds they need to live and minister. God is certainly our ultimate supply, but we all need to be open to being used as channels for His supply. At the same time, Paul himself was famously an exception to the very thing he is expounding here as normative. He took pride in supporting himself, and even those working with him, by making tents, and he must have been pretty good at it to have been able to do so. However, the Lord later dealt with that pride by having him in prison where he couldn’t work, and his only supply was what others provided. His commission to proclaim the Gospel had nothing to do with how he was compensated on this earth.
I have a lot of empathy with Paul in a number of ways. I am considered a missionary by many, but I have no human sending agency. Indeed, when we were struggling with one such agency before we came to Omura, my wife very wisely told them, “We’d rather be Lord sent than board sent.” We are in our 40th year in Omura now, and in that time have never received as much financially from our ministry as we have given to it in offerings. The Lord has blessed us with abilities that are in demand and are well compensated, but when I have let that be my focus, the ministry has suffered. Right now we receive both some American Social Security and a Japanese government pension which is the practical equivalent. Neither would be sufficient to live on by itself by any means, but receiving both is a big help. The big thing is that there is no forced age ceiling to my teaching medical English, so that income is still there. The corona virus situation put a real damper on my income from doing weddings at a local “wedding palace,” but thankfully that is picking up again now. All of that is to say that like Paul I cannot boast about my ministry, because as he wrote, Christ’s love compels me. (2 Corinthians 5:14) I will be preaching for as long as I am physically able. The Lord has been saying some things recently about moving me into a different sort of ministry, but there is no hint of stopping! I am to keep my eyes on Him and do whatever He says. As a refrigerator magnet says (in line with the Bible but not quoting any passage I’m aware of) “Where God guides, He provides.”
Father, thank You for Your supply, and for the privilege of proclaiming Your Word without thought of compensation. Help me be a good steward of all You provide, material and otherwise, so that my faithfulness may be a testimony drawing others to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!