Nehemiah 9:1-21; 1 Corinthians 9:11-18; Psalms 34:1-3; Proverbs 12:2-3
NT: “If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right; instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ… For my part I have used none of these rights, nor have I written these things that they may be applied in my case. For it would be better for me to die than for anyone to deprive me of my boast! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am compelled to preach — and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward, but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? To preach the gospel and offer it free of charge and not make full use of my rights in the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:12, 15-18 CSB)
One thing that Americans – especially “conservative evangelical” Americans – are proud of are the “God-given” inalienable rights that are described in the Declaration of Independence and protected by the U.S. Constitution. So valued and defended are rights in America, that at times, it seems like the U.S. Constitution is more revered than the word of God – even among professing believers.
The Apostle Paul also spoke of having rights – rights that were provided and directed by the Law of God. The Law provided that a person should be able to earn a living by the work the did – that no one should be forced to work for free. That meant that the professional clergy (Priests and Rabbis at that time) were able to live off the taxes and donations given to the temple and synagogues. For Paul, there was one right that superseded any right that he was afforded as a minister. That right was the right that everyone has to hear the message of the gospel. He was not willing to let his personal rights get in the way of others’ right to hear and respond to the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He, as are all followers of Christ, was entrusted with a commission from his Lord and King. His commission was to preach the gospel. His conviction was to do so freely without any expectation of remuneration. He didn’t want anything to stand as a barrier to someone hearing and responding to the gospel, even if that meant denying his own rights.
Do we as American disciples of Christ have the same attitude? Are we willing to set aside our “God-given” rights for the sake of honoring other’s right to hear the gospel unobstructed? Or are we more apt to demand our rights, even if our demands distract from the gospel? Do we feel compelled to defend our rights over the rights of others, or do we instead obey our commission at all costs, and trust God with our freedoms and privileges?
Psalms: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalms 34:1-3 CSB)
This psalm was written by David when he was forced to flee Israel and take up refuge with the Philistines… and then pretend to be insane when his cover was blown. At one time, David enjoyed all the rights and privileges of being one of the King’s most highly revered men. He ate at the Kings table, was best friends with the Kings first-born son, and even married one of the King’s daughters. However, because of the anointing that was on him, the King became jealous of David and sought to kill him. David had to give up all of those worldly pleasures and rights and live as a fugitive in order to fulfill the promise of God that was on his life. Yet in the midst of all the stress and turmoil he was under, He said, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I won’t boast of what I earned… what I once had. I will boast in the Lord, and the truly humble will understand that and be glad.” Are we among the truly humble? Are we willing to forsake all for the higher purposes of God on our lives? Are we willing to lay aside our rights and privileges as Americans to boast in and glorify the Lord instead? Let us humble ourselves and exalt His name together.
Prayer: Lord, I am thankful for the rights and privileges I have as an American citizen. However, I don’t want those rights and privileges to ever get in the way of someone hearing and responding to the message of the Gospel. I humble myself and lay down my rights for the sake of Your gospel being demonstrated through me, and Your name being glorified in me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.