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Is it ok to live on support raised for ministry?

A look at 1 Corinthians 9: 4-18 (NIV) - Paul's rights as an apostle

Photo of Jo Arkell Jo Arkell
2 min

You’ve got to love Paul, right?

He is a straight down the line, no nonsense, hit ‘em in the heart kind of guy. Whether he’s talking about not following religious rules or speaking out on idolatry, he just says it how it is.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is no different to his usual style and in chapter nine, we see Paul addressing the issue of full time Christian Workers and what they should live on.

He kicks off with a bunch of rhetorical questions; the kind I usually ask my children when both they, and I, already know the answer. 

Paul starts with verse 4, “Don’t we have the right to food and drink?” Ouch. 

And then he follows up with verse 7, “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?” to which he expects them all to reply, “No one Paul, no one”. 

And then later in verse 7, he comes in with the logical, “Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?”

Paul comes across a little frustrated to say the least. Maybe the Corinthians haven’t actually said anything to Paul about whether Christian workers should be paid or not, but their actions have spoken loudly, and the implication is clear. Paul pushes them; can they really think it’s right that someone fight for their country, not get paid and cover all costs themselves for their uniform, boots and weapons? Surely not? The Corinthians would never expect that. And yet, they’re happy for Paul to serve, sharing the gospel without receiving any financial support.

Correcting the Corinthians to think more clearly about this, Paul says in verse 13:

 “Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple?”

And then in verse 14, he underlines that this is not just his own ideas, but that the Lord has commanded it.


“In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”

Paul concludes by declaring that although he has the right to demand that the Corinthians support him, he would never exert that right. Paul doesn’t want them to give under duress - in fact that’s the last thing he wants. His second letter to the Corinthians points it out plainly in verse 7:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

So, Paul leaves no grey areas and what a great encouragement that is. For all those moments that we might doubt whether it’s ok that we receive money from others so that we can serve full time, we can look to the Bible and be confident that we hold the truth on the matter.



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Written by

Jo Arkell

Jo helps and encourages Christian workers to be fully resourced for the work God has put before them. She passionately wants people called into ministry not to scrape by but to be equipped, encouraged and to have the confidence in their support raising and creating new partners.

 Previously Jo was at home for 15 years as a mum to four sons as well as taking on many roles including preaching and teaching in her local church. She also volunteers for Familylife, a couples ministry of Agape.

Jo lives in East London with her husband and four sons and anytime left over is spent running, swimming, cycling and walking the family dog, Pepper.

Jo supports causes that care for the most marginalised in our society, those caught in addiction, debt and causes that provide education for those with few opportunities.