Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord? Aren't you the results of my work in the Lord? Even if I'm not an apostle to others, at least I am one to you. The proof of my being an apostle of the Lord is you!
Here is my reply to those who question me about this: Don't we have the right to be provided with food and drink? Don't we have a right to be accompanied by a Christian wife, like the rest of the apostles, the Lord's brothers, and Peter? Is it only Barnabas and myself who have to work to support ourselves?* Which soldier ever had to pay his own salary? Who plants a vineyard and doesn't get to eat its fruits? Who feeds a flock and doesn't consume its milk?
Am I just speaking from a human point of view? Doesn't the law say the same thing? In the law of Moses it's written, “Don't muzzle the ox when it's threshing out the grain.” Was God just thinking about oxen? 10 Wasn't he directing this at us? Surely this was written for usfor anyone who plows should plow in hope and anyone who threshes should hope to share in the harvest. 11 If we sowed what is spiritual with you, does it really matter if we reap some material benefit? 12 If others exercise this right over you, don't we deserve it even more? Even so we did not exercise this right. On the contrary we would rather put up with anything than hold back the gospel of Christ.
13 Don't you know that those who work in temples receive their meals from temple offerings, and those that serve at the altar receive their portion of the sacrifice on the altar? 14 In just the same way the Lord ordered that those who announce the good news should live from supporters of the good news. 15 But I have not made use of any of these provisions, and I'm not writing about this to suggest it should be done in my case. I'd rather die than to have anyone take away my pride in not having received any benefit.
16 I have nothing to boast about in sharing the good news because it's something I feel compelled to do. In fact it's dreadful for me if I don't share the good news! 17 If I'm doing this work because of my own choice, then I have a reward. But if it wasn't my choice, and an obligation was placed on me, 18 then what reward do I have? It's the opportunity to share the good news without charging for it, not demanding my rights as a worker for the good news.
19 Even though I am free and serve no one, I have placed myself in service to everyone so that I might gain more. 20 To the Jews I behave like a Jew so that I might win Jews. To those who are under the law I behave as someone under the law (even though I am not obligated under the law), so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those who don't operate according to the law, I behave like them, (though not disregarding God's law, but operating under the law of Christ), so that I might gain those who don't observe the law.
22 To those who are weak,§ I share in their weakness so that I may win the weak. I have ended up being “everyman” to everyone so that by using every possible means I might win some! 23 I do all this for the sake of the good news so that I too may share in its blessings!
24 Wouldn't you agree that there are many runners in a race, but only one gets the prize? So run your best, so you may win! 25 Every competitor who participates in the games maintains a strict training discipline. Of course they do so to win a crown that doesn't last. But our crowns will last forever!
26 That's why I run straight in the right direction. I fight accurately, not punching the air. 27 I also treat my body severely to bring it under my control, for I don't want somehow to be disqualified after sharing the good news with everybody else.
* 9:6 The original is given in terms of a double negative. The suggestion is that only Paul and Barnabas are not given the privilege of not having to work. 9:9 Quoting Deuteronomy 25:4. 9:21 Meaning those who are not Jews, who do not observe the law of Moses. § 9:22 Probably referring to the “weaker believer” issue mentioned in 8:7 and on.