Saturday, August 09, 2008

Paul on Money, Ministry, and Work

N.B. The following is an excerpt from a book I am working on, on Money in the NT. Enjoy.....but take off your bling while reading it :)


“The rule is not to talk about money with people who have much more or much less than you.”--- Katherine Whitehorn

There is, especially in some forms of low church Protestantism, a notion that Paul advocated a principle of ministers earning their own living and engaging in raising their own support for ministry. Sometimes this approach is even called ‘tent-making ministry’, based on what Paul says, largely in 1 Corinthians and Acts 20 about supporting himself by making or mending tents, and perhaps other leather goods. Unfortunately, this approach misunderstands almost everything Paul says on the subject of a ‘workman being worthy of his hire’, and this is because of the failure to interpret Paul’s letters in the light of the actual social world and social practices Paul had to deal with. In fact, as we shall see, Paul is quite happy to receive support, so long as it does not involve the entangling alliances of patronage, and so in this, as in so many other things, the problematic situation in Corinth, and Paul’s response to it, should not be taken as indicative of some general principle in regard to minister’s raising their own support. Indeed, 1 Corinthians itself suggests that the congregation had an obligation to give and provide support, but Paul had the freedom to choose to reject that support, and support himself, if he desired to do so.


Perhaps the best place to begin a discussion of Paul’s view of money, possessions and remuneration is with what is probably his earliest letter--- Galatians. After promising the Jerusalem Church on one of his visits some time in the 40s A.D. that he would ‘remember the poor’, Paul had embarked on a series of strenuous missionary journeys to plant churches in various places in what we would call Cyprus and Turkey. The letter to Galatians, probably written in A.D. 49 shortly before the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15, discusses a variety of matters of praxis, and our focus must be on Galatians 6.1-10. As it turns out, this material reveals a great deal about Paul’s views on the subjects we are concerned with, and we must attend to this text in some detail, which provides us with the last salvo, the final rhetorical argument in this discourse.

There is a reasonably clear structure to Paul's final argument and it falls into two subdivisions-- 6.1-5 and 6.6-10, the former portion focuses mainly on the Law of Christ, the latter portion on the aphorism about sowing and reaping. There seems to be in this section an alternating between words about corporate responsibilities to one another, and words concerning individual accountability as follows:
6.1a-- corporate responsibility to correct a sinning Christian
6.1b-- individual accountability-- `look to yourself' (you singular)
6.2 -- corporate responsibility to bear the burdens of one another
6.3-5-- individual accountability-- test your own works, bear your own load
6.6-- corporate responsibility to support those who teach
6.7-8-- individual accountability-- how one sows will be how one reaps
6.9-10-- corporate responsibility-- everyone should do good to all, especially to Christians.

Throughout this argument Paul is seeking to give some specificity to his exhortations in the previous argument, making clearer what the Christian life should look like.

The question that affects how we interpret all of this advice is-- How specific is this advice really? Is Paul simply collecting and arranging some general maxims here that he sees as reasonably apt for his convert=s situation, or is this advice more pointed? Without neglecting the spiritual dimension of what is said here, I would suggest that this argument has a social dimension usually overlooked by modern commentators, but it was not always thus. Chrysostom in commenting on this very material not only sees 6.6 as an explicit reference to the financial support of Christian teachers, but sees vss. 7-10 as an expansion of the same idea of giving material aid to others, including especially the household of faith.

In a detailed study, J. G. Strelan has argued at length that the primary subject of discussion in this whole passage is matters financial. In support of this conclusion he argues that if one looks to the Greek papyri and other Greek resources the following comes to light: 1) Prolambanein in 6.1 can refer to money received previously or in advance or money given as a retainer, and paraptwma can refer to an error in the amount of payments; 2) In 6.2 baros is used at least half the time in Paul=s letters to refer to financial burdens, bastazein can mean carry, as in assume someone else=s indebtedness, and anaplhroun often in the papyri means to pay in full, fulfill a contract, make up a debt; 3) in 6.4 dokimazein refers regularly to the testing of the genuineness of metals and coins (cf. Prov. 8.10; 17.3) while ergon is ofen used of trade or commerce (cf. Rev. 18.17); 4) in 6.5 fortion regularly refers to freight, cargo, wares, merchandise; 5) in 6.6 koinwnein can of course refer to sharing a financial burden or material resources in common (cf. Acts 2.42ff; 4.32) while logos can refer to an account or account of expenses (cf. Phil. 4.14-15); 6) in 6.7-8 we have the language of sowing and reaping, and the only other places in Paul that we have this language, the context indicates that money matters are at issue (cf. 1 Cor. 9.10-11; 2 Cor. 9.6); 7) in 6.9-10 the term kairos can refer to the time when a payment is due; 8) to this we may add the argument of J. Bligh that the ‘household of faith= in 6.10 refers to the Jerusalem Christians, to which L W. Hurtado has added the suggestion that 6.10 is about the collection for the Jerusalem church.

This last suggestion can perhaps build on Gal. 2.10 and it would seem strange that Paul simply drops the matter with the passing reference in 2.10. Another example of the fruitfulness of Strelan=s argument can be seen when one pays attention to the fact that 6.3 is connected to 6.2 by means of a gar (for). Unless the term is purely superfluous, then one must posit some connection between ‘bear one another=s burdens' and ‘if anyone thinks he is something...'. Strelan plausibly suggests that Paul has in mind a person who balks at the thought of having to share a common financial burden with persons of lower social status, because of that person=s sense of self importance. "No matter how important a man is or thinks he is, he is not relieved of the obligation to take a responsible share of the work in and for the Lord." Or again there can be seen to be a connection between 6.5 and 6.6, with the latter being a qualification of the former. Christians should carry their own weight financially, but when someone gives a great deal of their own time to the task of teaching fellow Christians, there is an obligation to support such a person. This builds on the notion that Paul has in mind a saying of Jesus in 6.6 (cf. below).

Not all of this evidence is of equal weight, but taken as a whole the case is impressive. One must however bear in mind that Paul is quite capable of using ‘material' language in transferred and spiritual senses, for instance when he uses the various terms and ideas associated with slavery to speak of salvation and of service in the Christian community. Yet Strelan's explanation makes good sense of various aspects of the text, and we shall in part be following his suggestions. This means, that far from offering merely general maxims here, Paul in his concluding argument provides us with some very specific examples of what it means to bear burdens and follow the Law of Christ.

6.1 begins the discussion of this subsection with a conditional statement. The protasis is a third class future more probable condition (ean with a future subjunctive verb), indication a condition that is deemed likely to happen. The apodosis gives clear directions of what to do if and when such a thing happens, but there is an added statement, by way of concession, to guide how the response should be carried out. The verb suggests an unanticipated interruption of an action in progress, not a dealing with an action already completed. Paul is talking about a violation of an existing law of some sort.

Now it is most unlikely that Paul would be offering up hypothetical remarks about the Galatians violating in the future a law code that he has been urging them not to submit to, especially not in this kind of conditional statement that assumes they will indeed be under this law and likely to violate it. Rhetorically that would be to concede the case Paul has been arguing against throughout the letter which is no way to make one=s concluding arguments if one wishes to persuade. We must be dealing here with some sort of law that Paul does see his converts as already under, and in the future, in some danger of violating. There are, it would appear, only two options. Paul is speaking of a transgression against some secular law code or against a code he will mention in this very context-- namely the Law of Christ. Strongly in favor of this last suggestion are the parallels in substance between Gal. 6.1 and the teaching of Jesus found in Mt. 18.15 ‘If your brother sins [against you], go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the brother listens to you, you have regained that one.'

In both Mt.18.15 and in Gal. 6.1 then, we hear about what to do when a follower of Christ is found to be sinning. In both texts the concern is with restoration of the believer, not disciplinary treatment of him or her. What we are going to discover is that Paul in his final argument will begin each division of his argument (vss. 1 and 6) with his own restatement of two of the ‘words' of Jesus. This, in part, must be considered part of what Paul means by the Law of Christ.

There has been considerable debate about what Paul means by ‘you, the spiritual ones'.

Is Paul referring to a particular group of Christians in Galatia? This is unlikely on at least two counts. Firstly, whenever we have had the address ‘you= previously in this letter it has always referred to all Paul=s Gentile converts in Galatia who are the recipients of this letter. Secondly, Paul in this letter has repeatedly spoken of all Christians as having the Spirit (3.2-5, 14; 4.6, 29; 5.5, 16-18, 22-23,25; 6.8) and has emphasized that the Galatians received the Spirit when they were converted, indeed this is what distinguished them or set them apart as and to be Christians (cf. 3.1-5). There may be however a contrast between the ‘transgressor= and the `spiritual ones=, namely all those in the Galatian assemblies not involved in this sinful matter. Paul is saying `though you must watch out, lest any one of you (singular) be tempted.= Paul is reminding the correctors that they too are morally vulnerable and so they must take care lest they get caught up in the same transgression. Gentiles correcting Gentiles in regard to sins that they were both vulnerable to in view of their shared pagan past left no room for any attitude of moral superiority on the part of the correctors.

6.2 should probably not be seen as connected to 6.1 as there are no connecting particles here. Notice that the word ‘one another' is in the emphatic position, stressing the placing of others first. The words ta barÄ“ refer to some sort of burden or load. It was not uncommon for it to be a reference to a financial burden (see Sir. 13.2, cf. Neh. 5.18). About half the time in the Pauline corpus the term and its cognates refers to some financial burden (cf. e.g. 1 Thess. 2.5-9; 2 Thess. 3.8; 2 Cor. 12.16), and this is quite possible here as well. It will be remembered that there is the exhortation in the Jesus tradition to ‘give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you= (Mt. 5.42), to which one may add the probable allusions to the Jesus tradition in James 2.15-16. We know for a fact Paul was concerned about the burdens of the poor Christians, as Gal. 2.10 shows. It thus possible that Strelan is right about this verse and also its connection with 6.3. On the other hand, it appears to me a stronger case can be made that Paul has a broader reference in mind here, which would include helping fellow Christians financially (see on vs. 6 below), but is not limited to that sort of aid in this verse.

A strong case has been made by R.B. Hays that Paul has in mind here the example of Christ as the ultimate burden bearer. Even if one limits oneself to what Paul says in Galatians about Christ we hear of ‘Christ who gave himself for our sins, so he might deliver us out of this present evil age' (1.3-4), or in 2.20 about ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me', or in 3.13-14 about Christ who ‘redeemed us out of the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us' probably alluding to the notion of burden bearing scapegoat. To this we may add the phrase ‘the faithfulness of Jesus Christ' a shorthand way of speaking of his obedience even unto death on the cross in conformity with God's plan that he bear the burden of the punishment for human sin.

Furthermore, account must be taken to the language in Galatians about both Paul and other Christians bearing the image of Christ, even the image of his passion. APaul understands his own life as a recapitulation of the life-pattern shown forth in Christ. The most important text here, of course, is Gal. 2.19b-20: 'I have been crucified with Christ. No longer do I live but Christ lives in me.' In other words, this pattern of burden bearing and self-giving is seen as the essence of what Christ was about and so rightly at the heart of what Paul means when he speaks of the Law (or main principle) of Christ. This exemplary pattern is fleshed out from time to time with the judicious use by Paul of the Jesus tradition as is the case in this very passage. In other words by `the Law of Christ', Paul does not mean Christ=s interpretation of the still binding Mosaic Law, nor even the Torah of the Messiah in some general sense not based in the actual experience of Jesus, including his death on the cross. The apostle who is capable of speaking of two covenants in Galatians, and of a new covenant in 2 Cor. 3 is also perfectly capable of speaking of two different Laws. Christians live in the age of fulfillment of prophecies and of covenants, and in general of all God's plans for humankind.

Vs. 3 may not begin a new subject, but rather may be a further development of what has just been said. Paul is here chastising those who think they are something, but in fact are nothing. This could be a chastisement of those who think they are too good or important for burden bearing. This stands in stark contrast to the pattern of Christ who while he was certainly something and somebody special in Paul=s view, emptied himself and made himself as nothing, taking on the form of the servant (Phil. 2). In other words, Paul is probably here making a not too veiled reference to those who are not following the pattern of Christ in the way they live and behave, those who are basing their estimate of self on the basis of false criteria. The word frenapata is a hapax legomena, not only in the Pauline corpus but in all the NT, nor does it appear in the LXX or any other Jewish writing. It refers to deception, in this case self-deception, and presumably the conceit involved leads a person to be unwilling to bear other people=s burdens, or perhaps being unwilling to shoulder the burden of the shame of the cross (cf. 6.14-15).

It is important to keep in mind both how natural boasting and self- promotion was in an ancient honor and shame culture, and at the same time how counter-intuitive it was to suggest that some one of higher status should actually step down and become a servant of those less well off and more burdened. The pattern of Christ and the message of the cross went against many of the major social assumptions of Greco-Roman culture. Few pagans were eager to take on the jobs of a slave, which of course included various forms of burden bearing.

Vs. 4 shows that Paul indeed operates within a world that had conventions about when and what sort of boasting or self praise was appropriate and what sort was inappropriate. Notice that Paul does not say that no boasting is appropriate, but that one may consider one=s own work a cause for pride, not that of a neighbor's. Notice that Paul here is not talking about the eschatological testing of one's works, but rather of critical self-appraisal.

The question then becomes in vs. 5-- What is Paul referring to when he says that each person must carry their own loads? Does this not contradict what he has just said in vs.2? Is there some reason why Paul uses a different word for ‘burden' here than in vs. 2? First of all, it is not likely Paul would flatly contradict himself in the span of three or four verses. It is even possible to conclude that fortion is a synonym for the word for burden in vs. 2 and still find an explanation for the apparent contradiction between these two verses. One could argue that here Paul is saying that a person who can be self-supporting should not expect others to take care of them, but at the same time if one is able to help bear someone else=s burden who really needs the help, this one should do. In other words the two verses are about the difference between an egocentric imposition on other people=s good will (vs. 5), and the Christian duty, self-sacrificial in character, for Christians to help each other with life=s burdens (vs. 2).

It is possible however that Paul intends a slightly different nuance to `burden' here than in 6.2. The term here seems to have been used less frequently in a metaphorical or non-material sense. For instance, in Xenephon Mem. 3.13.6 the word fortion refers to a soldier=s pack, and it is commonly used in this sense. It is most unlikely that Paul is promoting the Greek philosophical notion of self-sufficiency here in vs. 5. Paul doesn't believe in that idea, he believes in the sufficiency of depending on God. Nearer to the mark about this verse is J.D. G. Dunn when he says that the 'mature spiritual community... is the one which is able to distinguish those loads which individuals must bear for themselves, and those burdens where help is needed.'

If we are meant to see a connection between vss. 5 and 6, with the latter qualifying the former, then another view is possible. I suggest the following hypothesis: 1) the relationship between the word work (ergon) and ‘burden= in vss. 4-5 must be considered. Paul is talking about a persons= own work or gainful employment and how one assesses it; 2) the burden in vs. 5 is indeed a financial one-- each person should carry their own financial weight if at all possible and not be an unnecessary burden on another=s patronage or charity; 3) the exception to this rule is the one offered in vs. 6 which alludes to the teaching of Jesus when he says ‘a worker is worthy of his hire', a saying which Paul draws on in several places to affirm that he, and other evangelists and missionaries, had the right to financial support from the congregations they were or had been serving. These proclaimers could refuse such aid if they wished, but they had a right to it, so they could be freed up to concentrate on sharing the Gospel; 4) ‘all good things' in vs. 6 refers to material support for the teacher given by their disciples 5) the agitators and whoever followed their lead in and teaching about circumcision however were mocking God, sowing unto the flesh and were going to reap the whirlwind in due course; 6) the warning is given to the Galatians lest they follow in the footsteps of the agitators; 7) the Galatians should not weary of doing good of the sort specified in vss. 1-2 and 6 as there will in due course be reward for such and 8) this meritorious doing should concentrate on the household of God, but should also include within its scope everyone. If I am right about the above there is more of a flow of thought to the argument, especially its second part, than is usually thought. We must consider some more of the details of the second half of the argument however at this point.

The second half of the argument, which is connected to the first half by de making vs. 6 a qualification of vs. 5, focuses primarily on matters financial. As with the first half of the argument, Paul will begin with his own paraphrasing of a teaching of Jesus, now applied to his Galatian converts' situation. He says ‘but the one being taught the word should share in common with the one teaching in all good things'. This exhortation is based on the dominical saying found in Lk. 10.7 and expounded on by Paul at some length in 1 Cor. 9.3-14. In that latter text we also have the discussion about being scrutinized or examined by others (9.3), about the right to be supported as teachers of the word (9.6,13-14), and about teachers sowing spiritual good and reaping material benefits (9.11). These parallels must be allowed to have their full weight, and they make it likely that throughout vss. 6-10, Paul is talking about pertinent financial (and spiritual) matters. It is however difficult to know whether Paul here is making a veiled reference to himself, and the Galatians= obligation to support him. This is certainly a topic which comes up regularly in Paul=s letters (cf. 2 Cor. 11.7-11; 1 Thess. 2.9; 2 Thess. 3.7-10; Rom. 15.24; Phil. 1.5, 4.15). Then too, the phrase ‘the good things' comes up elsewhere in the NT with reference to material support or aid or food (cf. Lk. 1.53; 12.18-19).

Is the singular ‘the one teaching' to be taken literally? If so, then a reference to Paul may be meant. The alternative however, and perhaps more likely, is to suggest that Paul has in mind some local Christian teacher or teachers in Galatia that are deemed worthy of the Galatians' support. The reference to ‘good things' here may well prepare us for the concluding exhortation in vs. 10, in which case ‘the good' there is not some vague reference, but alludes back to the `all good things' here, which would include material and financial aid.

Paul quotes, in vs. 7b, what was likely a proverbial saying found in both Greek and Jewish literature (cf. Aristotle, Rhet. 3.3.4; Plato Phaedrus 260D; Job 4.8; Prov. 22.8; Jer. 12.13; Sir. 7.3; Test. Levi 13.6), in order to provide backing or basis for the warning just given. For our purposes what is important to stress is that the only other two places Paul draws on this metaphor, in 1 Cor. 9.10-11 and in 2 Cor. 9.6 financial matters are at issue. This sort of use probably goes back to the discussion in Prov. 22.7-9: ‘The rich man lords it over the poor, the borrower is the lender's slave. He who sows injustice reaps disaster and the rod of anger falls on himself.' Notice too that the exhortation not to grow weary in doing good also shows up in 2 Thess. 3.13 at the end of an exhortation about earning one's own living and not being idle.

If we put all this together the meaning of vss. 7-8 becomes clearer.

Vs. 7b gives us a statement about anyone, including Christians, which Paul then applies in vs. 8 using his flesh- Spirit antithesis. I would suggest that the sowing unto the Spirit which Paul has in mind is the supporting of proper teachers, materially and otherwise. Vss. 6-8 must be read together. In vs. 8 then Paul has contrasted an essentially self-directed act, getting oneself circumcised, with concern for and actions on behalf of others. The former is of the flesh, the latter is of the Spirit. This comports with the overall theme of this section stressing other regarding actions and warning against selfish ones. It also comports with the same sort of discussion of the relationship of present deeds and future destiny in Rom. 2 as we have seen above.

Vs. 9 warns against weariness in doing good, and promises that at the appropriate time in the future a harvest will be reaped by these doers, if they do not give up. Since this verse is connected to vs. 8 by a de we should probably see a qualification here of the preceding remark. This verse like the last suggests the pay off is in the future. The final adverbial participle sets a condition on reaping. It will not happen for individuals, even for Christian individuals, automatically. They must not grow weary of well doing and also they must not give up. Here as elsewhere Paul conjures with the possibility that those currently in Christ might commit apostasy or give up the faith, and so miss out on eternal life and the rest of the eschatological benefits (see 5.3-4). Paul is not saying a person is saved by good works, but he is saying that where there is time and opportunity for doing such things, one will not be saved without them. They are not optional extras in the Christian life.

In vs. 10 Paul will conclude his argument by making a little clearer what he means by sowing unto the Spirit, a little clearer what vs. 9 was meant to imply. ‘Therefore then', here as elsewhere in Paul signals the conclusion and the or a main point of an argument (cf. Rom. 5.18; 7.3;,25; 8.12; 9.16, 18; 14.12, 19; Ephes. 2.19; 1 Thess. 5.6; 2 Thess. 2.15). Its presence here makes quite clear that it is inadequate to see this section as simply individual maxims with little or no connection to one another or with the larger argument of the letter. The qualifier for what follows is ‘as time allows' or `as we have time (and opportunity)'. Paul says that we Christians (both the author and the audience here as in vs. 9) should `work the good to all'. Paul has absolutely nothing against working, or good works, his earlier critique had to do with very specific sort of works-- the works of the Law. Indeed, Paul throughout this whole argument in vss. 1-10 has argued for the necessity of good works by his converts, as well as the necessity of avoiding bad ones. Doing good to all would surely at the very least include charitable works toward the needy and poor. The phrase ‘the good= is not a philosophical term here but must be seen in light of the reference to all good things in vs. 6 and the good in vs. 9. Paul qualifies his final positive exhortation by urging that especial efforts should be made on behalf of the household of faith. Paul has ended with some practical exhortations about what the Galatians ought and ought not to be doing. Far from being vague and purely general maxims, the Galatians are told specifically they are to restore erring Christians, bear one another's burdens, support their teachers, and indeed do good to all, especially to Christians. In all of this they are following the pattern of life and teaching of Jesus, which Paul calls the Law of Christ.

The principles we find here enunciated already in Paul’s earliest letter, will play out in more detail in his subsequently letters. These principles include: 1) Christians should provide for themselves and carry their own financial burdens, and those who will not work should not be expecting to eat, freeloading on the congregation or the congregational meals. This issue is addressed in some detail in 1 Thess. 4.11 (‘mind your own business, work with your own hands…so that you will not be dependent on anybody”) and 1 Thess. 5.14 (“warn the idle”), and 2 Thess. 3.10 (“let those who will not work, not eat”); 2) when there is a need, then the congregational members are expected to step in and bear one another’s burdens, and this is seen as a very specific fulfillment of a commandment of Christ to his disciples. 3) teachers are worthy of financial support, and congregations should expect to support them, though of course the teacher can refuse such support, for a variety of reasons. This leads us quite naturally into discussing what Paul says about the remuneration of ministers in 2 Thess. 3 and 1 Cor. 9


One of the real problems in reading Paul’s letters is anachronism. The assumption is that conditions today are identical to those in Paul’s day so that we do not need to understand the social differences between then and now to understand and then apply the words of Paul. This sort of thinking, when it comes to the issue of money and remuneration of ministers, is particularly flawed because it fails to take into account the ancient systems of patrons and clients, and the problems that accrued when one got enmeshed in the web of duties to a patron. Paul, above all things, needed to remain free wherever he went, to do ministry on his own terms without entangling alliances. If support could be garnered and given without strings attached as acts of pure generosity and without the assumption of reciprocity, well and good. If it could not, Paul then would fend for himself. Paul is carefully navigating around the encumbrances of a reciprocity and patronage culture whilst trying to offer the Gospel of God’s free grace. It was a tricky business, and there were places where people did not understand why Paul did and said what he did and said, when it comes to money and remuneration. Finally, there is the further difficulty of the use of technical language by Paul. Phrases like “send me on my way” or “a relationship of giving and receiving” had quite specific financial overtones (e.g. the former referred to providing traveling funds and supplies, the latter to a parity relationship as opposed to a patronage one). Bearing these things in mind, let us consider what we find in 2 Thess. 3.6-10 and 1 Cor. 9.1-18.

I have argued at length that there were both socially elite and non-elite Christians in Thessalonike, and Paul is not at all happy that some of the latter who have been idle, expecting to be someone’s client so they would not have to do any sort of strenuous work, whether being the client of a Christian or non-Christian patron is not clear. We are not talking here about poor people who are beggars, we are talking about people whom patrons would see as worthy clients, people with prospects and abilities but without patrician or an elite heritage. Paul is concerned that such behavior on the part of Christians is a terrible witness to the world, but by the same token he is not happy with the ‘business as usual’ approach of patrons, including Christian patrons, who expect to enlist their fellow Christians in entangling alliances. In some cases there were Christians who were clients of non-Christian patrons who might well expect them to undertake activities deleterious to their spiritual well being (e.g. attending idols feasts, or offering sacrifices to the Emperor etc.). The reason Paul might well have felt some urgency about this when he wrote 2 Thessalonians was because he was apparently in Corinth and was seeing first hand the morally compromising effects of attending idol feasts on his converts there (1 Cor. 8-10). It was hard to resocialize pagans who had become Christians because of their previous alliances with pagan religion and pagan friends which continued to enmesh them in pagan religious practices.

From stem to stern, 2 Thess. 3.6-12 is about work, and indeed the need of the Thessalonians to follow Paul’s example of working. What had once been a suspicion of Paul’s about the idle in Thessalonike when he wrote 1 Thessalonians had become a confirmed fact by the time he wrote 2 Thessalonians. The disorderly and idle conduct of some had become apparent. These folks were not just being idle, they were ‘out of order’ because they were failing to follow Paul’s example and do the positive things to serve the community that they ought to be doing. Paul makes clear that his personal example had already been part of the received tradition of this church, for as 1 Thess. 2.9 made clear, when Paul first came to Thessalonike he worked hard with his hands both day and night. As a missionary strategy this was particularly smart in Thessalonike and in Corinth because in both these locales there would be a periodic need for tents, because both cities held Olympic style games (in Corinth they were bi-annual).

Paul states here in vs. 9, just as clearly as he does in 1 Corinthians, that he had a right or authority to ask to be supported as a teacher and apostle (cf. below on 1 Cor. 9.3-18, especially vs. 15), but he waived that right so as not to get caught up in patronage relationships, like various of the idle were doing or attempting to do in Thessalonike. The basic principle Paul lived by was the word of Jesus “the laborer deserves his food” or put another way “the workman is worthy of his hire”, but he knew that he had the right to receive such support, especially if it came with the assumptions of patronage. Paul is probably quoting a traditional saying here about “let those who will not work, not eat’ (cf. Gen. 3.9; Gen. Rabbah 2.2 on gen. 1.2; Prov. 10.4). He is addressing those who refuse to work. Vs. 11 involves a clever pun--- the idle are to be busy, not busybodies, being sychophants sponging off others when they are perfectly capable of working. Vs. 12 says these folks must be quiet, settle down, and earn their own food to eat. This reinforces what was said about living quietly, minding one’s own business, and working with one’s own hands. It is telling and interesting that Paul is not as hard here on the idle as he is on the Corinthians who are so clearly misbehaving. Here shunning the idle is advised, there, Paul will even talk of excommunication. We must turn to the Corinthian material now.

1 Cor. 9 is not to be seen as a defense of Paul’s apostolic office, but rather a clear statement that Paul has the right to be supported by his converts. This is perfectly clear from 1 Cor. 9.4ff—the rhetorical question “don’t we have the right to food and drink?” has only one possible answer--- “of course we do.” Paul then uses a series of analogies with soldiers who have a right to expect pay, a vintner who has a right to expect to eat some of his grapes, a goatherd who has a right to expect to drink some of the goat’s milk, and then as a clincher he quotes the example about a ox having a right to eat some of the grain that it threshes, based on Deut. 25.4. This is a from the lesser to the greater kind of argument, whereby Paul is in effect saying if even these sorts of workers have a right to expect remuneration or payback of some sort for their work, how much more a minister of the Gospel. In vs. 12 however there is a turn in the argument.

After having established clearly that Paul has a right to be remunerated, he then turns around and stresses he has a right to refuse pay, refuse support of various sorts. The reason he does not do so in Corinth is said to be “avoidance of hindering the Gospel”. What is he talking about? He is referring to the culture of paid teachers/philosophers/rhetoricians who accepted patronage or pay for their proclamations or teaching, and thereby were viewed as ‘compromised’ or ‘bought and paid for’ and likely to say anything to please the patron or paying audience. Corinth, it must be remembered was a Roman colony where Roman patronage relationships were numerous as it was a boomtown in the A.D. 50s. Yet having said what he does in vs. 12, he turns around once more and then stresses again that he, like a priest at the altar, or even a temple servant in the temple, had a right to share in what was offered on the altar. 1 Cor. 9.14 states emphatically “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should get their living from the Gospel.” What then could possibly have caused Paul not to accept remuneration in Corinth, is the proper question to ask. Not, “Does Paul think ministers have a right to be paid?’ In other words, he must provide a rationale for not accepting remuneration, so much is it a matter of course that Jesus’ dictum should be followed. But if Paul preaches and gets paid, then it is a matter of services rendered and there is nothing to brag about and no reward for work which is compulsory. Paul however wants to have the honor of offering the Gospel freely so he will have something to boast about. Is this just Pauline hubris in over-drive? Well, no, there is more to it than that. And the ‘more’ can be seen in the word hinder. Preaching for pay would have hindered the Gospel of God’s free grace in Corinth, and that is no good at all. Paul knew perfectly well that he would have been seen as just another hired gun caught up in the reciprocity cycle, teaching or discoursing for pay whose words whilst interesting, could be seen as rhetorical hyperbole or even entertainment at best. So in Corinth, he eschewed his rights to be remunerated for a specific reason. Like many another group of young Gentile converts, the Corinthians had not yet grasped the concept of giving with no thought of return, or free grace, or true self-sacrifice.

What then should be made of the clear evidence that Paul accepted money and support from congregations which he was not presently visiting? This is clear from both 2 Cor. 11.8-9 and also from Phil. 4.14-16. Firstly, though Paul had accepted regular support from the Philippians, there is no evidence this was the product of a patron-client relationship, like that which was on offer in Corinth, and which Paul refused. Rather Paul characterizes his relationship with the Philippians as a relationship of ‘giving and receiving’, that is a parity relationship (cf. Acts 16.15 to Phil. 4). Paul could receive support at a distance because there was no danger of anyone taking that as a patronage relationship. Temporary hospitality was fine, and Paul did rely on that in various cities (see e.g. Rom. 16 which indicates that Phoebe in Cenchreae had provided such support for Paul, and see Lydia in Philippi in Acts 16).

To fully understand the dynamics here, one must understand as well that Jews in general did not have the same disdain high status Gentiles did when it came to manual labor. Paul saw no shame in being a leatherworker, though various of his higher status converts may have done so. But what is interesting about the discussion in 1 Cor. 9 is that Paul couches his discussion in the terms a high status person would. He is talking about stepping down the social ladder, consenting to be considered more vile by working with his hands and so on. This is the language of a high status person who feels he has the freedom to forego his rights as such a person, indeed forego some of his rights as a well educated Roman citizen. This is exactly what a verse like 1 Cor. 9.9 suggests—Paul submitted to being a slave to all, just as his master had done, thereby deconstructing the social hierarchies in play in the contexts in which he operated. This had to anger or mystify various of his high status converts in Corinth, folks like Erastus the city treasurer mentioned in Rom. 16.

What should we conclude from all this interesting and complex material? Can we conclude that tent-making ministry is some sort of norm that Paul would require of other ministers, including ministers who are not even remotely in the social situation Paul is responding to? Certainly not. Should we conclude that Paul despite protesting that ministers deserve to be paid, in the end takes it all back? Again, certainly not. We already saw how he insisted in other circumstances on the Galatians providing financial support for their local teachers. Should the practice of freely choosing to refuse a salary or support be turned into some sort of norm for modern ministers, or some sort of higher calling for those who really heroically want to follow the example of Paul? Again the answer must be no, because Paul is simply doing this because of the social hindrances created in Corinth by accepting patronage or support. In other circumstances he was perfectly happy to receive support, so long as it did not involve any entangling alliances that hinder the offer of the Gospel freely to all. And this juncture it will be in order to turn to a discussion of what Paul has to say about the love of money, and the things it can buy.


There can be little question that Paul had a strong objection to doing ministry for mercenary reasons. The use of godliness for financial gain is something he very clearly warns against repeatedly, and says is a characteristic or the telltale sign that one is dealing with a false teacher. We see this sort of critique of false teachers in 1 Tim. 6.2-5, and it leads to one of the more important discussion about money in the NT found in 1 Tim. 6.6-10. It is important however to bear in mind that the context is a discussion about the traits of false teachers and how to recognize them. With warrant we must look closely at what Paul says in these verses which have been so often emended, distorted, or simply ignored in modern times.
Paul warns in 1 Tim. 6.6 about the dangers of avarice, and he does so by mentioning a principle he has enunciated before in Phil. 4.13—godliness with self-sufficiency is great gain (cf. 1 Tim. 4.8). Thus Paul in a sense agrees—there is great profit in true religion, but not of the sort the false teachers had in mind (cf. Seneca, Epist. 108). A great deal has been made of Paul’s use of autarkeias which is of course a key term in Cynic and Stoic thought and refers to the ideal of being self-sufficient or independent (cf. Epicetetus, Dis. 3.13.7; Marcus Aurelius, To Himself 6.16). Its literal meaning is ‘self-rule’ or ‘self-sufficiency’ (cf. 2 Cor. 12.9 where indeed it means sufficiency; Josephus, Ant. 12.294; 2 Macc. 5.15; 4 Macc. 6.28). Some have therefore sought to translate the word ‘contentment’ here to distinguish what Paul is teaching from Cynic-Stoic teaching, not least because Paul believes in God-sufficiency not self-sufficiency, and this is a possible meaning of the term.

Paul is referring to someone who is content with having the necessities of life and has found their sufficiency in God, according to this line of reasoning, which makes good sense. But one must bear in mind that Paul is engaging in polemics here, and what Paul is polemicizing against is a person being addicted to desires and cravings which in fact run that person’s life. He is talking about a person out of control or not self-controlled. Such a person is dependent on the next ‘fix’ in this case of money or profit to feed that need. Paul contrasts such a person, which Paul indicates is what the false teachers are like, to a person who is not a slave to their cravings, but rather is happy with having their basic needs met. Here we have an enthymeme, a syllogism with a suppressed premise, which can be laid out as follows:

1) People with corrupt minds (addicted to arguing, made sick by controversies) think religion/godliness is a means of financial profit.
2) But in the process they themselves are deprived/robbed of the truth
3) [The end result is the opposite of their aim]
4) For paradoxically it is true that godliness/true religion with self-rule/independence is greatly profitable, though not in the way ‘such people’ have in mind.
5) Because we brought nothing into this world with the result that we can take nothing out of it when we leave.

The mature Christian person is not enslaved to one passion or another, in this case the passion for money or profit. Independence is contrasted with slavery here and more to the point godliness with independence or self-control is contrasted with ungodly desires such as avarice which leads to slavery and a manipulative using of religion to feed that hunger or pining. A truly godly person is free from, or at least not enslaved to such pining or addictions. Paul then is drawing on Hellenistic ideas here, but giving them a Christian spin. He does not agree with the Stoic notion of self-sufficiency, but he does believe that true religion sets a person free from various addictions and cravings.

Independence from needing riches and possessions and luxury is based on the premise that we didn’t bring anything with us into the world and we can’t take any of it with us out of this world. Again a popular maxim is likely being cited, which is not intended to be over-pressed, but to help provide a warrant for the enthymeme here. We note the parallel in Job 1.21 “I came naked from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return” or more closely “the LXX of Eccles. 5.14 “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came and shall take nothing from his toil, which he may carry away in his hand” (see also Wis. Sol. 7.6; Seneca, Epist. 102.25). The point is that we don’t really own the things we have in this world, they are not so much possessions as things we hold in trust for the real owner--- God, and things we are to be good stewards of. We should not try to find our sufficiency or worth in things that did not bring us into the world and give us life, and will not in the end make death avoidable or get us to heaven. It would not have been obvious to all pagans that ‘you can’t take it with you’ for many ancient religions, for example Egyptian ones, did believe you could take things with you into the afterlife. Vs. 8 will further emphasize the point by indicating that we shall be content with sustenance and a ‘covering’ which could refer to clothing or to a roof over one’s head (cf. Aristotle, Politics 1336A on the former meaning and Aristotle, Metaphysics 1043A on the latter). This saying too is a maxim (cf. Sir. 29.21; Plutarch, Dinner of Seven Sages 12).

“But those desiring/wishing to be rich (notice it does not say they are already rich) fall into a serious temptation and snare, desiring much that is senseless and harmful which harms one now and in the end plunges one into endless ruin and eternal destruction.” Notice the similarity between the phrase ‘wishing to be rich’ and ‘wishing to be teachers of the Law’ (1.7). This rhetorical effect or echo suggests that Paul is referring to the same people with both phrases. We may compare the teaching about the rich man and Lazarus in Lk. 18 here. Such teaching would be unneeded here if there were no high status persons in the congregation who had wealth and might enrich the coffers of the false teachers.

Vs. 10 must not be mistranslated especially since it is the most often quoted and misquoted line from the Pastoral Epistles (cf. e.g the RSV which makes the mistake of putting the definite article before ‘root’). In the Jewish moral tradition it was not uncommon to speak of root vices. For example, Philo speaks of desire, inequality, pride, and falsehood all as vices which spawn other vices (cf. Dec. 5 and 173; Special Laws 1.121; Contemp. 39). Our text says that the love of money (not money itself) is a root, not ‘the root’ of every kind or all sorts of evil (not all evil). It is not being said that greed is the origin of all evils in the world, nor is money itself the problem.

Here we seem to be dealing with a common maxim once more. Bion says “Love of money is the mother-city of all evils” (cited in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 6.50 cf. on the idea Stobaeus, Eccl. 3; Test. Jud. 19.1; Didorous Siculus 21.1; Philo, Special Laws 4.65). It is noteworthy that there was a frequent critique of Sophists and indeed all sorts of for-hire teachers and rhetors and philosophers that they taught in order to become wealthy (Dio Chrysostom, Oration 54.1). Thus the false teachers are slotted into this category of teacher. It is noteworthy that Jesus also critiqued such teachers when he warns to beware of scribes (theological teachers who are experts in the Law) who bilk wealthy widows (Mk. 12.38-40). One wonders if there is such a connection between the false teachers and the widows, perhaps especially the younger ones in the Pastorals. Once again we have an enthymematic form of syllogism with a suppressed premise as follows:

1) Those wishing to get rich fall into a snare.
2) Such harmful wishes and desires lead to ruin or destruction.
[3) One such desire or craving is greed]
4) For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.

Here again the maxim serves as the warrant or clincher in the argument which proves the point. Throughout this section it is necessary always to keep in mind the way the rhetoric of wisdom literature works. It provides general principles or ‘truths’ often in colorful or memorable and figurative wording and it presupposes a rather specific religious and social context for it to hold true. Sometimes it deliberately involves rhetorical hyperbole, for instance in the maxim above which could even be translated ‘the love of money is a root of every kind of evil’. If this is the correct translation, and it may well be in view of the emphatic position of the word ‘root’, then it is in order to point out that the rhetorical function of hyperbole is to dramatically emphasis something, drawing attention to it and trying to inculcate a strong positive response in the audience, in this case to urge them to avoid avarice. Such polemical maxims are not meant to be taken absolutely literally.

A good example of how this sort of sapiential rhetoric works (and of its hyperbolic nature) can be seen in Chrysostom’s comment on this very passage:
What evils does it not cause! What fraudulent practices, what robberies! What miseries, enmities, contentions, battles! Does it not stretch forth its hand even to the dead, even to fathers and brothers? Do not they who are possessed by this passion violate the laws of nature and the commandments of God? In short everything? Is it not this which renders our courts of justice necessary? Take away the love of money, and you put an end to war, to battle, to enmity, to strife and contention. (Hom. 17 on 1 Tim.).

It is the attitude towards money that is being critiqued in this verse. For if we love things like money and use people to get them, we have exactly reversed the way God intends for us to operate. Things are not capable of love or carrying on a love relationship with a human being. It is in the end a form of idolatry, and of trying to find our life, support, sufficiency in something other than God. This part of the discourse most resembles the Lukan form of Jesus’ teaching on the foolishness and dangers of the love of money (cf. Lk. 6.20,24; 9.23-25;12.22-34; 14.25-33; 16.13) and one could even see Lk. 12.15,21 as commentary on this discussion: “Take heed and beware of all avarice; for a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions…so is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Paul adds that this sort of sick love has led some away from the faith and then in essence, (using a dramatic metaphor) they have become like a creature who has impaled itself on a spit over an open fire causing itself no end of agony. Once again the theme of apostasy surfaces, possibly even with an allusion to Hell here and eternal destruction. It is noteworthy that there is a stress in this section as elsewhere in this letter on the connection between intellectual error and moral deterioration. Paul and Luke will characterize the greedy person as being both mentally and morally unwell. But Paul does not just talk about money, he also talks about the love of luxury and bling.

Certainly one of the most controversial of all Pauline texts is 1 Tim. 2.8-15. For our purposes here we only need deal with the first few verses that are part of a correction of male and female behavior in worship. The passage begins in vs. 8 with a correction of men—they are to lift up hands in prayer without anger or argument. This suggests a situation where we are dealing with men vying for the privilege of praying in the congregation, or there is some sort of honor and shame rivalry situation. We are to see this instruction as a continuation of the previous remarks on offering prayer for all people including rulers. Notice the reference to ‘in every place’ which would seem to refer to in every meeting place or house church, though elsewhere in Paul the phrase can have a wider reference (but cf. 1 Cor. 1.2; 2 Cor. 2.14; 1 Th. 1.8). It is interesting that standing (the normal Jewish prayer posture) and raising hands in prayer is a practice regularly referred to in earlier and contemporary Jewish sources ( Ex. 9.29; Ps. 27.2; Lam. 3.41; 1 Kngs. 8.22,54; Neh. 8.6; Is. 1.15; 2 Macc. 14.34; Philo, Flacc. 121; Virt. 57; Josephus, Ant. 4.40), but we do not find this referred to outside the Pastorals in Paul. What we do find is examples of lifting up hands in Lk. 24.50 (cf. Lk. 18.13). R. Joshua ben Levi taught that a priest that does not lift up hands in prayer is not to raise his hands in blessing either (B.T. Sotah 39a). Open hands were a sign of petition or of reaching out to God in need.

The hands are characterized as holy hands, and presumably this is seen as the opposite of the anger and argument mentioned. This phrase is not uncommon. For example in Josephus we find the phrase ‘uplifting pure hands’ (War 5.380), or in Sencea “to raise pure hands to heaven” (Nat. Ques. 3 , Preface 14 cf. Athenagoras, Leg. 13.2 cf. 1 Clement 29.1). Holiness excludes such contentious behavior, especially in worship. We may suppose, since there are false teachers in this social context, that there were some divisive forces at work in these house churches, and Paul is trying to mend that situation. Notice how in Tit. 1.7 the overseer is expected to be a person who is not quick to get angry. We may compare texts like 1 Pet. 3.7 and Jam. 1.19-20 which indicates that anger gets in the way of righteousness, and would be one of the factors inhibiting or interfering with one’s prayers. The contentious situation reflected in this verse should likely be related to the problems of the false teachers (cf. 1 Tim. 1.3; 4.7; 6.3-4, 20; 2 Tim. 2.16-17, 23), some of whom may well have been women or at least had influenced some high status women, hence the correction in the following verses.

We must take seriously the word hosautos which begins vs. 9, and means ‘likewise’. This suggests that Paul is envisioning women praying as well, and he wishes them to do it with the same decorum or holiness as the men must. Notice that gunaikas is without the definite article here which implies women in general not just wives. The word katasole refers to demeanor in both its inward and outward sense (cf. Josephus, War 2.8.4). Women are to be clothed outwardly in modest and non-distracting clothing and inwardly by self-respect and modesty. The phrase meta aidous means ‘with (self) respect’ normally, although there are texts where it can have the sense of with religious awe (Josephus, Ant. 6.262; Philo, Gaius 352). Philo tells us that this was a virtue expected to be typical of women (Vit. Mos. 2.234; Contemp. 33; Flaccus 89). Modesty, self-control, piety, and self-respect are virtues regularly touted and attributed to women in this era in this culture.
If we do not read vs. 9 as a continuation of the instructions about prayer in vs. 8, then the reference to women’s adornment seems to be an unmotivated digression. Chrysostom in fact concluded, in my judgment rightly, that we must insert the main verb again so that the text reads in essence ‘likewise [I desire] women also to pray being adorned in modesty and holy fashion’ Chrysostom puts it this way: “Equally with men, women are called to approach God without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands…Paul however requires something more of women, that they adorn themselves ‘in modest apparel, with self respect and sobriety’” (Hom. 8 on 1 Tim.). This conclusion has important implications for how we are to read 1 Tim. 3.11 where once again we have the phrase gunaikes hosautos where the conversation is surely about deaconesses, not the wives of deacons. This is where we note that our passage says nothing about women being completely silent, and indeed if we are right about the connection of vss. 8-9 they are expected to speak, at least during the prayer time.

The issue seems to be some kind of teaching in worship in the verses that follow.
Vs. 9 of course goes on to speak of dress and jewelry, and there is good reason to think Paul has something particular in mind. J.B. Hurley puts it this way: “He refers…to the elaborate hair-styles which were fashionable among the wealthy, and [perhaps] also to the styles worn by courtesans. The sculpture and the literature of the period make it clear that women often wore their hair in enormously elaborate arrangements with braids and curls interwoven or piled high like towers and decorated with gems and/or gold and/or pearls. The courtesans wore their hair in numerous small pendant braids with gold droplets or pearls or gems every inch or so, making a shimmery screen of their locks.” One needs to envision the scene in an evening Christian worship meeting in a relatively small space with many lamps lit. In this situation hairstyles with reflective items in it such as gold or pearls would be a regular distraction from the proper focus of worship.

Paul then is not just arguing here for modest apparel but he is arguing against ostentatious, flashy and distracting apparel. This goes against the rules of modesty, discretion, propriety or sobriety which were to apply to everyone in worship, especially when meeting in close quarters. To some degree this critique of women’s apparel is like the critique we find in Juvenal Satire 6 or Plutarch, Moralia 141E, but we could also point to T. Reub. 5.5—“accordingly order your wives and daughters not to adorn their heads and their appearances so as to deceive men’s sound minds.” It is right to note, that only women who had slaves or hairdressers to help them, which is to say more high status women, could have the sort of elaborate hairdos Paul is referring to here. Once more we have the stress on sophrosyne. This Greek term suggests prudence, temperance, discretion, soundness of judgment, and self-control, the Greek ideal of behavior (see e.g. Aristotle, Niceomachean Ethics 3.10-12).

Women are called at the end of this verse to do what is fitting for women who profess to worship God through good works. Fitting deportment in worship was crucial for both men and women not only because other Christians would be watching but also since this was the main time when they might invite non-Christian friends to come and be a part of the Christian meeting (see e.g. 1 Cor. 14.23).


What have we learned from our all too cursory treatment of the relevant Pauline material for our discussion. Firstly, we have learned that Paul deliberately inculcated an approach to Christian life which did not involve conspicuous consumption, ostentatious dress, and a lavish lifestyle. Rather he inculcated a lifestyle of godliness with contentment. The ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ are seen as a positive hindrance to Christian moral integrity, not to mention a taking of food and clothing from the poor. Greed, the love of money, is seen as a root of all kinds of evil and it is to be avoided at all costs by the Christian, especially by the Christian minister, for Paul is addressing his co-worker Timothy particularly in 1 Tim. 6. Equally to be avoided is a mercenary motive for doing ministry.

On the issue of work, Paul believes in hard work whole-heartedly, indeed he frequently brags about his work regimen (see e.g. 2 Cor. 11). He disagrees with other high status persons who look down their noses at manual labor. And Paul has nothing but correction for the idle who refuse to work, saying that if that is their posture Christians should shun them, they should not get to partake of the fellowship meals indeed as a rule—let those who will not work, not eat! Free grace does not mean a free ride for freeloaders. Here Paul particularly has in mind those who are likely candidates to be clients of well known patrons.

It is clear that one cannot really understand what Paul has to say about ministry and remuneration unless one understands the tricky situation in a patronage and reciprocity culture that Paul found himself in. In general Paul believes a congregation has an obligation to pay its teachers or ministers, but the minister may exercise his right or freedom to refuse pay for various reasons. This however does not get the church off the hook when it comes to their obligation to offer remuneration for ministerial work. Paul in fact believes that Jesus commanded that ministers should be paid for the proclamation of the Gospel. But entangling alliances and compromising social relationships must be avoided, and the Gospel must not be seen to be an example of flattery or mere rhetoric offered by a for-hire sophist.

Paul is not an advocate of what modern persons call tent-making ministry, if by that one means that church planters or missionaries should expect to have to work on the side or raise their own support whilst doing ministry. They may do so, as Paul does in Corinth and apparently in Thessalonike, but 1 Cor. 9 rules out the view that they necessarily should or must do so. If they choose to go this root, it needs to be for the right reasons, not because it assumed that the NT suggests we should not have paid ministers. To the contrary, argues Paul, churches should expect to pay their ministers. What is interesting and ironic about all this is that the very document which is assumed to most argue against paid ministers (1 Corinthians) is the very document which provides the clearest rationale for why congregations should expect to pay a Paul or a Peter or a Timothy or Titus, or whoever their local teachers (see Gal. 6) might be. In our next chapter we will examine the Johannine critique of the Roman economy and its relationship to the powers that be, including Mr. 666.


Marc Axelrod said...

This is an excellent chapter! I never really noticed all the money language in the Greek text of Galatians 6 in that way before. It was very insightful!

You also do a good job of distinguishing between the cultural material and the transcultural material in the text. Just because Paul refused the Corinthians' financial support in 1 Cor 9 doesn't mean that we all have to work for free :)

A couple of thoughts: Although there is tremendous similarily between Gal 6:1 and Matthew 18:15, there is one noteworthy difference. The Matthean text seems to be dealing with what to do when someone sins against us while the Galatians text is dealing with someone who is caught up in a transgression that may or may not be a sin against us (I think).

A second thought that occured to me is that much of the material in this chapter reminded me of William Webb's book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. Both your chaoter and his book remind us to sift and distinguish cultural/transcultural issues.

On another point, the Webb book has moved me closer to a soft patrarchy or egalitarian position on 1 Timothy 2. Yes, I am coming around! The rite of the firstborn may be behind the statement in verse 13.

Furthermore, your translation of 1 Timothy 2:15 ("THE childbearing") is supported by the definite article.

Marc Axelrod said...

Oh yeah, one more thing. In the last paragraph, the word "root" should be spelled "route."


Marc Axelrod said...

Sorry. One more thought: Regarding Gal 6:2 and 6:5, it may be that one way we can carry the burdens of fellow church members is by not being a financial burden of the church.

normajean said...

What relevance does tithing have in this conversation, if any?

P.s. I love this chapter and continue to enjoy ur material. I have at least two of your books, Romans comm and Problem w Evang... I love them both. I anticipate further workings from you. Many thanks.

Ben Witherington said...

Tithing is not a practice required of Christians in the NT. They are called to sacrificial giving, which, depending on the person may mean more, even much more than 10% or in the case of the impoverished it may mean less.


Marc Axelrod said...

Many of the major contemporary evangelical megachurches emphasize tithing. I have noticed that with Saddleback and other churches that more or less follow the purpose driven paradigm.

Pastors like to preach on tithing because it gives them a standard to set before the congregation that appears manageable.

leewilsonsblog said...

Good thoughts. Money is necessary in life and there's nothing wrong with working hard to earn a large amount of it. It's when you fall in love with money that you fall into a trap because you can't serve God and money.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Witherington,

Thanks for the helpful post. I hope you will post further chapters. When will the book be released?

Could you offer some insight into a question? Is it ever OK for a Christian to withdraw their giving from their local church and give it to a parachurch ministry that has serious financial need? (I'm talking about a short term thing, not permanent.)

In addition, I have heard that the OT tithe was used somewhat like our modern tax system - to support the "government" and infrastructure of the nation. Therefore, when we pay our taxes that is sort of like the OT Jews giving their tithe; it was a requirement, not an offering. Am I accurate about this? So to talk about tithing as an example of giving for Christians, even if we recognize that it's not required, is not even valid because the tithe wasn't given to support "the ministry" per se; the religious infrastructure and their government was all part of the same system.

Am I off base with this?

Ben Witherington said...

The book will likely be a year and a bit before it comes out. Tithing in the OT was largely meant to support the priestly class, not the national government, so the analogy with our taxes is pretty lame.