INTRODUCTION • The Apostle Paul set us an example of being a “Tent-Making Minister.” • It was his normal – not his exceptional – pattern of ministry;
By living out and demonstrating this self-supporting style of ministry; Paul showed us the Biblical principle: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul did not see his occupation as a tent-maker as something contrary to his Apostolic ministry. In his mind, there was no conflict between ministry and manual labor. There was no division between his head, heart and hands. For Paul, his physical work became an opportunity of ministry. He would often preached, teach, and disciple – while he worked! While he “worked with his hands,” his mouth was free to share.
Some wrongly believe that Paul only was a “tent-making minister” in the early phase of his ministry; and later he ceased to “work with his hands.” • However, a careful examination of Acts and his various letters seems to indicate that Paul worked as a tent-maker at various times all of his life; • 1st Missionary Journey: (In Corinth: I Cor. 9:6 - 18) • 2nd Missionary Journey: (In Philippi: II Cor. 11:7 – 9)
3rd Missionary Journey: (In Ephesus: Acts 18:1 - 18; 19:1 - 20:33 - 35) • Note: Paul’s 3 major missionary journeys took approximately 10 years. During that time he and his associates evangelized 6 whole Provinces of the Roman Empire! That was the “whole world” for Paul!
“Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone’s else’s foundation…But now there is no more place for me to work in these region...I plan to go to Spain...” (Rom. 15:17 - 24).
Paul seemed to fully approve of pay for a pastor only after the pioneer stage of ministry was completed. • When he was in the pioneer stage of ministry, he did not even accept free hospitality – but paid for his food and lodging (Thess. 3:6 - 16).
In ministry, Paul had 3 options: • Charge for his ministry (which was common among the Jews); • Receive support from his young churches; or from wealthy benefactors; • Work for his own living – which is what he chose to do most of the time;
Paul was often criticized for this approach to ministry – especially by the Judaizers, who used his working with his hands to belittle and berate his authority as an Apostle. • While he was in Philippi, Paul wrote II Corinthians, which primarily defends his “tent-making ministry.” He would not compromise his commitment to manual labor even in the face of criticism and opposition – even if it jeopardized his reputation as an Apostle! • Why did Paul seem to insist on doing manual labor?
PAUL’S JUSTIFICATION FOR PHYSICAL LABOR Paul worked with his hands because of his concern for… • INTEGRITY: • “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit” (II Cor. 2:17).
Paul was not a “people pleaser” -- preaching what people wanted to hear in order to get financial support. He could honestly say: • “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, not did we put on a mask to cover up greed -- God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (I Thess. 2:3 - 7).
“If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the Gospel of Christ” (I Cor. 9:11 - 12).
“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (II Cor. 6:3 - 10);
IDENTIFICATION: • By working with his hands, Paul identified with the people he wanted to reach – the common people.
“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tent maker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, (bringing a financial gift of support from the Church at Philippi), Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:1 - 4).
“We are fools for Christ...We are weak...we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, wee are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands....Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (I Cor. 4:10 - 17).
(Paul defends his Apostleship): “I do not think I am in the least inferior to those ‘super-apostles’...Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the Gospel of God to you free of charge I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so....And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen,masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (II Cor. 11:5 - 15).
IDOLATRY: • “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such as things...” (Col. 3:5 - 8).
“You know we never...put on a mask to cover up greed...As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardships; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the Gospel of God to you” (I Thess. 2:5 - 9).
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:32 - 35).
“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to Godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has...been robbed of the truth and...think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from this...”(I Tim. 6:3 - 11).
“Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend my life as well...I have not been a burden to you...Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you?...Everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening” (II Cor. 12:14 - 19).
IDLENESS: • Jesus spent his life going “...around and doing good” (Acts 10:38). Paul did the same thing. So he never wanted Christians to be idle. • “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work. And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle...”(I Thess. 5:12 - 14).
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example.We were not idle when we were with you, not did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’We hear that some of you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you brothers, never tire of doing what is right”(II Thess. 3:6 - 13).
Note: In other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, there are many wandering begging monks and gurus – but not in Christianity! We are not to idly wander around and beg from Christians, or live off the church! We are to be active for the Kingdom of God!
IMITATION: • “I am writing this to you...as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ Jesus, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church”(I Cor. 4:15 - 17).
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”(I Cor. 11:1) • “You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord...And so you became amodel to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere” (I Thess. 1:6 - 8). • “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you...” (I Thess. 4:11).
INDEPENDENCE: • “...it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ...We are weak...we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands...Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world” (I Cor. 4:9 - 13).
“This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?...Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t He? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the Gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel.
But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the Gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the Gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it” (I Cor. 9:3 - 18).
(Prison in Rome) “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30 - 31). • Note: We need to teach our people the privilege and responsibility of giving -- regardless of how poor they are! I they cannot give money, they can give from the works of their hands: animals, crops, crafts, etc. Remember: “A giving Christian is a growing Christian!’.
CONCLUSION • “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”(I Thess. 4:11 - 12).