Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
1 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
If you serve as a soldier, laying your life on the line for your commander-in-chief, you expect some renumeration. Paul asks the question rhetorically. Of course you’re not going to serve as a soldier at your own expense!
If you have a vineyard, it’s only right that you enjoy a few grapes at harvest time. But Paul is raising the image of someone who plants a vineyard but doesn’t get to enjoy its fruit. It’s a ludicrous picture!
Suppose I had a herd of dairy cows. I would expect a nice glass of milk after a hard day’s graft. But Paul raises the possibility of someone not getting to enjoy the fruit of their labours.
His illustrations make this point: if we sow spiritual seed among you, do we not have a right to some renumeration for our labours? The emphasis is on the hearer’s responsibility rather than the speaker’s right. But Paul goes on to say he happily preaches voluntarily so that all the glory goes to Christ.
“Our God, may You forgive us for our stinginess towards those who labour in the Word for us. May we repent of our tight-fistedness and be generous towards those who freely offer the good news to us. In Christ’s name, amen”