Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 9-11.
Paul makes the case that those who do the work of the Church, particularly pastors and preachers, should be paid by the Church. However, he also presents himself as a model of someone who refuses payment for doing the work of the Church. The Church should be prepared and willing to pay those who do her work, but there should be some (a relatively small number) who do so purely from the joy of doing so. I will also note that while Paul never accepted any financial support from the Corinthian Church, he does mention receiving such support from other Churches. It is also worth noting that it appears that the Corinthian Church provided financial support to some people who supported Paul’s ministry in other ways.
Paul goes on to talk about eating food offered to idols, but he offers a guideline which can be useful in many areas. Paul accepts the premise of those who say that their freedom on Christ means that they are free to do anything. This reminds me of when I was preparing to make jalapeño mead. My friends told me, “Just because you can does not mean that you should.” Now, it turns out that jalapeño mead is delicious, but the advice they gave me is what Paul was saying here. Just because you are free to do something does not mean that it is not a bad idea to do it. Paul goes into a little more detail in his advice concerning meat offered to idols, and, as I said, this advice applies elsewhere as well. First he tells us that eating meat offered to idols as part of a service worshiping an idol is communing with the worshipers of that idol in the same manner as we commune with our fellow believers when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. You cannot be part of the body of idol worshipers and part of the Body of Christ.
However, this prohibition does not extend to buying meat offered to idols. Many people believe that if you eat meat which was sanctified as part of worship you are taking part in that worship and acknowledging the power of that idol, even if you are unaware of doing so. Paul says that such thinking is nonsense and by that logic everyone who eats anything is acknowledging God’s authority over them since everything that is was created by God and belongs to Him. In this instruction on buying meat offered to idols Paul is telling us that we are not responsible for the actions of those with whom we purchase things (there is a caveat to this which is covered in Paul’s third category of eating meat offered to idols).
Finally, Paul covers the circumstance of what to do if we are invited to eat with a nonbeliever, who in this context is assumed to be an idol worshiper. Paul tells us that if we wish to accept such an invitation we should do so and eat whatever is put before us. However, if someone, whether it be our host or someone else, points out that the food being proffered had been offered to an idol we should decline to eat of it. There are two parts to this. First, if the person who tells us is a believer, the fact that they are going to the effort of telling us it was improperly handled tells us that their faith is challenged by partaking and if we partake they may be tempted to do so as well, despite believing that by doing so they are doing wrong. The second part is if the person who tells us is our host. In this latter case they are essentially telling us that by eating we are taking part in their worship of their idol, we are telling them that their idol worship is “OK”. This same principle applies to buying something where someone tells us that it was produced in a manner which is immoral, or the profits from selling it will be used in an immoral manner. If we have reason to believe that what they are telling us is true, and that they are telling us because they oppose the immoral practice (as opposed to doing so because their reasons for wanting us not to do business with that vendor have nothing to do with the immoral behavior of that vendor) we should refrain from purchasing the product in question.