“Paul was a tent maker. He didn’t ask for gifts. Shouldn’t I follow his example?”
The apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 9:14, “so also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” He explains that God set up a system of financial support for His workers. He also writes that even though he had the right to be supported by the Corinthians, he chose to make tents. This was an exception, however, to Paul’s normal method of ministry.
Paul wanted to make sure that the Corinthians to whom he preached had no reason to question his motives. He chose to live on a smaller salary and take less from the Corinthians in order to validate his character, his faith and his ministry. With the Corinthian church Paul may have supplemented his income by sewing canvas, but he did rely on gifts from supporters.
Many times in the New Testament (Philippians 4:10- 16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5) we see that the churches gave sacrificially to support Paul’s work. He commended them for their support and reminded them of the eternal profit of their gifts. “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17).
This great missionary willingly received financial support from other Christians and churches, and he asked for support. “When I go to Spain…I hope to have you assist me on my journey” (Romans 15:24). The original language in this verse confirms Paul’s request for money. John also made reference to support: “For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth” (3 John 7,8).
In examining Scripture it is clear that Paul was a support- raising missionary, and his part-time job in Corinth was a special exception to God’s financial plan for His full-time workers. The lifestyle of supported ministry that he was called to was little different than the models followed by both Levites of the Old Testament and Jesus Himself.