1Co 9:8-11 “Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”
In verses four through seven, Paul has laid out his case for his reasonable privilege and authority (power) that he and others who minister spiritual things have their physical needs met. Paul did not exercise this power among the Corinthians so that he might reach those that would otherwise accuse him of laziness or taking advantage. However, he made sure it was clearly understood that his decision not to use this power was not the same as not having the power to do so.
Paul did not consider his assertion that he (and the other apostles and ministers) had the power to have his physical needs met to be his opinion. Rather, he defends that position by going to the scripture in Deuteronomy 25:4 which says “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” We may be tempted to say that these are Old Testament scriptures and do not apply, but remember that all of Paul’s New Testament preaching was done using the Old Testament scriptures. He obviously thought there was a pertinent application to the New Testament church at Corinth.
There are at least two important things we must realize as we look at these scriptures. First, it is not unreasonable for a church to support her pastor to the extent that he is able to give himself fully to seeing to the study of God’s word and the needs of the congregation. If a church cannot or will not support her pastor to that extent, then do not make him feel guilty if he cannot come to you in the middle of the night or drop what he is doing and rush to the hospital to be with you in some emergency.
Unlike Paul, many ministers are not self-employed today. Most cannot simply put the plow away or lock the door to the store and go the moment they are sent for. They have employers to whom they also have a godly responsibility. If you cannot support you pastor materially, then do not muzzle him by allowing him to drown in remorse because he cannot give you his full attention.
Paul says that God has undoubtedly written this for our sakes. We should have hope (confidence, expectation) in our labor. If necessity dictates that our time be divided between making a living and serving the saints whom we love, then we should have confidence that the church will be supportive of what is required of us to make a living and understanding when that does not allow us to serve them to the extent we would desire to do. If it pleases God to grant us the privilege of serving a congregation that desires our full time, then we have a serious responsibility to seek His face and use that time to His glory.
As a laborer only for a congregation of God’s people, we have a solemn duty before God to be faithful ministers and not use our calling as an occasion to the flesh. If necessity dictates that we be bi-vocational, then we have a solemn duty before God to use the time we have for ministry faithfully and to be faithful employees. In either situation, the congregation still has the God-given responsibility to not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn either by failing in their material support or their emotional support.
May God give us the grace, as he did Paul, to be content with whatever circumstance we find ourselves in and to serve Him with love and zeal!