"St. Paul ... substituted another doctrine for ...the plain and profoundly revolutionary teachings of Jesus." (H.G. Wells, Outline of History 1921.)

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Paul's Self-Serving Use of the Law to Raise Financial Support

Paul had two problems in asking for salary for himself from the churches he visited. If Paul based it upon the tithe and the Mosaic commands to support priests, he did not qualify. Those monies were by the Law given Moses to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, Paul had no right to them under the Law. The second and more serious problem was if Paul were to rely upon principles in the Law to persuade others to provide support, Paul had clearly taught the Law was itself abrogated (Romans 7:1-7).  Thus how could Paul morally persuade Christians to give him financial support? Most important, Jesus taught those preaching and healing "freely received" and thus must "freely give," and "not to take wages" for serving the Gospel. (Matt 10:8.)

Paul had to make it sound like it was a moral obligation of the recipient, and thus he, Paul, was not himself asking. Paul had to make it appear that God was telling them to give money to Paul to support him. But without the Law, how could Paul do it? He couldn't, it turns out. So he took out of context a couple of passages in the Mosaic Law, and saw in them a common-sense rationale reflected in the Law to help those who have helped you. Paul seemed oblivious that Jesus told those preaching in His name not to ask for money for the favor of having taught what the apostles freely received from Jesus. See Matt 10:8.

So Paul leaned on the Law to pique the conscience of his listeners. Doesn't it then seem Paul made the same self-serving use of the Law to redirect monies to himself as any of the Pharisees (who used the tithe command to do so)? For Jesus said the Pharisees cared a lot that their flock obey the tithe -- which meant money for them because they collected it (and evidently had an acknowledged right from temple authorities to take a 10 % portion of it, like Levites could), but otherwise the Pharisees, Jesus said, did not care about the rest of the Mosaic law. See Matt 23:23

The blatant contradictory and self-serving use of the Law, like any Pharisee, has dogged Paul's persona for centuries.

In 300 AD, Macarius Magnes, Apocriticus, III.30-36 recreated a debate between a Paul critic and a Paul defender. I personally think Magnes designed this to expose Paul because the defense is not very good. Just before this, the critic faulted Paul for inconsistency in saying the Mosaic law is abrogated, but when necessary Paul invoked it for his self-serving financial gain. Here is the exchange at XXXII -- 3.31, starting with the Objection.

CHAPTER XXXII. Objection based on S. Paul's use of the law for his own advantage (as in 1 Cor. 9: 7, etc.).

That he dissembles the Gospel for the sake of vainglory, and the law for the sake of covetousness, is plain from his words, "Who ever goeth to war at his own charges? Who shepherdeth the flock and doth not eat of the milk  of the flock?" (1 Cor. 9: 7). And, in his desire to get hold of these things, he calls in the law as a supporter of his covetousness, saying, "Or doth not the law say these things ? For in the law of Moses it is written, Thou shall not muzzle an ox that is treading out the corn " (1 Cor. 9:9). Then he adds a statement which is obscure and full of nonsense, by way of cutting off the divine forethought from the brute beasts, saying, "Doth God take care of the oxen, or doth he say it on our account? On our account it was written" (1 Cor. 9:10).203 It seems to me that in saying this he is mocking the wisdom of the Creator, as if it contained no forethought for the things that had long ago been brought into being. For if God does not take care of oxen, pray, why is it written, "He hath subjected all things, sheep and oxen and beasts and birds and the fishes" (Ps. viii. 8-9) ? If He takes account of fishes, much more of oxen which plough and labour. Wherefore I am amazed at_such an impostor, who pays such solemn respect to the law because he is insatiable, for the sake of getting a sufficient contribution from those who are subject to him.

CHAPTER XXXIX. Answer to the objection based on S. Paul's use of the law for his own advantage (1 Cor. 9:7, etc.).

It is not in order to get something for himself that Paul introduces the comparison of the soldier and the shepherd, but in order to make the Corinthians thankful. For a soldier does his work faithfully only as long as the State pays him; and just so a herald of the Gospel will give his best work when his hearers respond to it. Similarly, the spiritual shepherd's encouragement is to see his sheep with fair fleeces and abundant milk. Again, the labourer sows the seed of the knowledge of God in his hearers' hearts, and is grieved if it does not bear fruit.204

Therefore it was in order to benefit his hearers that Paul introduced these things, and supported them with the witness of the law, so that they might show their gratitude. For the divine grace, though lacking nothing, demands a little answering tribute from those whom it enriches.205

My Reply

The Answer to Objection by Macarius Magnes is pure Rubbish. Truly, are we to believe Paul's intention was supposedly not to get something for himself? Really? It is solely so Paul does his "best work"? Oh my! The answer is so pathetic that I suspect Magnes is really criticizing Paul, and showing how weak any defense can be mustered. Christ said His ministers were not to take wages for preaching the Gospel -- and nothing justifies the hypocritical use of the Law to countermand Christ.

END


Study Notes

Paul at other times did not rely upon the Law to exhort receipt of money for preaching. Paul just made up his own principles that students of a teacher should pay a master for teaching. In Galatians 6:6,  we read: "And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches."

Paul by the way told the Ephesians that he did not exercise that "right" to wages so no one would accuse him of seeking financial gain. Yet, if that is true, then why make anyone feel guilty or obligated to support elders? To support teachers? Would that not then create the very risk Paul said he tried to avoid? Indeed it does, but Christian writers anxious to exonerate Paul at every turn just don't see the self-contradiction. Listen to this scholarly quote, and then think hard why pastorates-for-pay became universal.

Simon J. Kistemaker, who served for many years as professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, states:

In his [Paul] letters he discloses that he worked night and day with his own hands to support himself, so that no one would ever be able to accuse him of depending on the hearers of the Gospel for his material needs (compare 1 Samuel 12:3). He refused to be a burden to anyone in the churches he established. By performing manual labor, he provided for his financial needs. Paul received gifts from the believers in Philippi, as he himself reveals (Philippians 2:25; 4:16-18), yet he declares that he did not solicit those gifts... The Ephesian elders had observed Paul's ministry and physical work during his three-year stay. They were able to testify that he had never exploited anyone (2 Corinthians 7:2), but had always set an example of diligence and self-sufficiency, in the good sense of the word. He was a model to the believers and taught the rule: "If you will not work, you shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10)... It appears that Paul generated sufficient income to support not only himself but even his companions... In every respect, says Paul to the elders of Ephesus, I taught you to work hard and with your earnings to help the weak... He exhorts them to follow his example and to labor hard (Kirstemaker, New Testament Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990) at 737,740.)

If this were all that were true about Paul, one would wonder how anything but free-will offerings and gifts would support a minister rather than a wage.

But these writers always ignore contradictions within Paul's writings, such as 1 Cor. 9 which Magnes highlighted. And of course this is the passage that is used to make pastorates-for-pay standard. 

Paul was not always consistent, and did elicit a right to a wage from the Corinthians. So the specific letters at issue in Kirstemaker's quote above involve verses where Paul establishes the right to pay, but then effaces any need to pay him because he has been working night and day in service self-lessly. In other words, Paul said 'don't mind my toil' while establishing the principle that he had the RIGHT to payment. But this notion of Paul EVOLVED into a direct claim to wages with no effort to self-efface any more, or boast of being so selfless as to work for free in 1 Cointhians 9.

Hence, Paul's example in the epistles Kirstemaker selected from is not the example followed today. Rather, it is the principles that Paul established while making such self-effacing remarks -- that he had the right to payment, and then Paul's bold claim 100% to payment to the Corinthians in 1Corinthians 9-- that has turned the Christian ministry into a well-rewarded field of occupation. 

Jesus' Matt 10:10 Instruction on Seeking To Stay With One Worthy

Incidentally, while Jesus told the apostles not to take wages for preaching / teaching, Jesus also talked of the principle of fulfilling the law of hospitality from Leviticus as a means of supporting oneself in evangelism. You could go to a new town, and seek out someone worthy to stay with. You would be given free room and board, but in return you were expected to do chores -- clean the house, feed the animals, clean the barn, etc. You could also earn wages. So when Jesus says the "workman is worthy of his labor" in the same context, Jesus means you there earn the right to the lodging / food and wages by fulfilling the duty of a guest -- a well-known Mosaic Law principle from that era. You were thus not being authorized to charge for any preaching / teaching, but you had to be even self-supporting during evangelical trips.

Grimshaw explains Jesus in Matthew 10:10 is alluding to this principle of hospitality derived from the Mosaic Law wherein:

"the household provides hospitality for sojourners traveling through who might stop for a day or several days on their journey....The sojourner is expected to support the household in exchange for his protection and provision. That support may have been in the form of a hired laborer. As a sojourner labors for the household so they become part of the household economy. In return for their labor, they receive wages and also share in the produce of the sabbatical year (Lev 25:6) as well as receive foodstuffs as part of the household economy. The sojourner turned laborer has the right to gleanings, either those of the field or the vine. Lev 19:10, 23:22, Deut 24:19-21.” (James P. Grimshaw, The Matthean Community and the World: An Analysis of Matthew’s Food Exchange (2008) at 107.)


Was Paul's Gospel Message Designed To Attract The Rich When Jesus' Message Would Not Be Able To Do So?

Jesus told a rich man who did not share with the poor that if he wanted to have eternal life he had one more thing he needed to do to have eternal life. Give away all his money to the poor, and follow Jesus. Our Lord did not ask for the money himself. The rich man did not like this, and walked away upset. (Luke 18:18-22.)

Jesus taught a gospel that caused angst to make a decision for Christ. It was a steep cost of repentance.

How much money could a pastor teaching Christ's message ever raise for himself? Nothing, and probably have few rich members. What if you wanted to appeal to money to support you? Which is easier to get money from a rich member -- Jesus' message to the rich man, or the following flattering and costless message:

Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bernard Harland comments on the contrasting salvation messages when a rich man heard it:

This plan of salvation says that there is absolutely nothing a man can do to earn eternal life! As a matter of fact, the works of the law are forbidden lest any man should boast. In this plan, a rich man does not have to give all is riches as a gift to the poor. In this plan, he is the one that gets a gift! He gets the free gift of eternal life by faith in Christ. Why would any rich Christian want to follow Christ's plan of salvation? Christ's plan is too difficult, and it cost too much. Eternal life is not worth that much, is it? (B.Harland, The Christian False Prophets.)

Edited 1/1/2013