For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING " God is not concerned about oxen, is He?1 Corinthians 9:9(NASB)
One of the best ways to learn is to ask questions and Paul responded to many things that puzzled the Corinthian Christians. He explained about marriage and celibacy. He talked about eating meat offered to idols and touched on the issue of head coverings for women. He explained the meaning of the Lord's supper and addressed questions concerning the use and abuse of the gifts of the Spirit.
Although many of the matters he addressed were specific to the time and place in which they lived, during those formative years of Christianity, when the foundations of our faith were being laid, the principles and practices Paul propounded are as relevant today as the day he picked up his pen to compose that first epistle to the Corinthians and instruct the saints there.
One thing causing concern was the issue of financial support for those who taught the gospel. In Paul's day, there were those who denied his apostleship and others who pretended to be apostles and yet were teaching a false gospel. Many of these charlatans demanded payment from the Corinthians for their labour, and Paul needed to clear up their confusion.
Paul set out to show that true ministers of the gospel and dependable ministries that teach the word of truth and contribute towards a believer's spiritual growth, have a right to financial remuneration. Sound gospel teachers, who correctly exegete the Scriptures, have just as much right to eat and drink as the people they teach... who engage in alternative work to make a living for themselves and their families.
Paul used a quote from the Law of Moses to illustrate this truth, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing the corn." And to emphasise that this directive was not an animal rights issue, he qualified it with a follow-up question... "God is not concerned about oxen, is He?" The Law was given to show Israel that God was concerned for the well-being of those who ministered to the people - those who taught them the Word of God, and this principle continues to be true today.
The Law of Moses was given to the Jews and this negative command about muzzling a working ox is not a command to Christians in the Church age. However, there is a principle that applies today. Paul showed that just as a beast of burden should not be denied what it needs when ploughing a farmer's field (food and drink), teachers of the gospel also have a right to receive recompense for their labour in preaching the good news of the gospel of Christ to others.
The Christian privilege of being taught the gospel comes with a Christian responsibility to support the teacher. By using his illustration from the Law of Moses, Paul wanted to show that ministers of the gospel who receive payment for their teaching is a valid, scriptural principle. Just as certain women tended to the needs of Jesus during His earthly ministry, and Christ's other apostles received financial support from various churches, Paul explained that he had the same entitlement to financial support from the Corinthians - even though he did not take up this fundamental right.
Paul explained that just as a workman is worthy of his hire... so also a Christian worker is equally entitled to receive financial support from the church community they serve. Paul used the directive from Moses, about not muzzling an ox when threshing, to show that priests and Levites from the Aaronic priesthood were recompensed for their service - through the tithing law that God gave to Israel - and Christian ministers should receive the same consideration.
"You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," contains a spiritual principle that is as relevant today as it was during the Jewish dispensation when the people of Israel supported the Levitical priesthood with the tithing Laws in Old Testament times.
Praise God that we are not bound by the Law of Moses, nor are we commanded to tithe in this church age, as certain ministers and ministries teach. Praise God that we have the freedom to choose when and where to donate our resources.
May we not feel legally obliged to give of our time, money, and other resources, by unscrupulous people, but may we make wise choices in our financial giving and do so willingly and cheerfully... and may we do ALL to the glory of God and for His name's sake.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this important teaching on financial giving and for showing me the responsibility we all have in supporting those who share the gospel of Christ and proclaim the good news of the gospel of grace. Thank You for the ministers and ministries that have helped me in my Christian walk. I pray that You would provide all that they need to continue the good work they are doing in sharing the Gospel and may I be wise and generous my support - for Your name's sake and for Your greater glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.