CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXXVI)

Hans Dieter Betz also points out another maxim used by Paul that had its origin in Greek Philosophic writings. Here he says in verse four that “Everyone should test their actions, to be satisfied in their work.” We find the same sentiment in the writings of Epictetus.[1] No doubt, this concept was developed early on in the human race, going back to Cain and Abel. Before you judge someone else’s work, examine your own to make sure you can be proud of it.

Cain thought his sacrifice to God was better than Abel’s. So, when God chose Abel’s lamb over Cain’s produce, he could not stand the disappointment and embarrassment. So out of anger, jealousy, and envy, he killed his young brother to get even. What Paul saw in the Galatians involved believers driven to arguing with each other because they judged their good deeds to be better than those of their fellow Christians.[2]

D. Thomas Lancaster continues showing the connection between the Torah of Moses and the Royal Torah of Jesus, the Anointed One. Just as Jesus cautioned against humiliating or embarrassing others, Paul also supports the same treatment. But both were drawing from the Torah and Oral Rabbinical teachings of their day.[3] For instance, in the Babylonian Talmud, we read that Rabbis taught: “Therefore, you shall not do wrong to one another.” [4] Also, when it is said: “And if you sell nothing to your neighbor, or acquire nothing from your neighbor, you will not wrong one another.” [5] So the Rabbis ask, can you be trusted that you will not do wrong to each other? Can we believe you will not verbally make charges of wrongdoing against them? If a person is repentant, you need not keep going over their wrongdoings. Remember your past deeds. If this person is the child of a convert, no need to be irritated with them. Remember the deeds of your ancestors.[6]

6:6 Here’s one more thing. Since you are learning God’s Word, you should share all the good things you have with your teacher.

Some commentators believe that Paul now gets into the area of stewardship. The Greek verb koinōneō Paul uses here means “to become a sharer, be made a partner.” In Paul’s day, that often implied giving the teacher or preacher a place to stay with meals, along with any other needs they may have. The only time we hear of Paul accepting money was when he collected funds for those underprivileged believers back in Jerusalem. Also, when the congregation in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas, they must have given them sufficient funds to cover their travel. So, Paul was suggesting that the Galatians support their spiritual teachers. Perhaps Paul was thinking ahead to those who would one day take his place doing missionary work in bringing and teaching the Gospel to new believers in the churches there.

The early church adopted the Jewish tithe system since many of them initially met in synagogues. Paul mentions this, “Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings.” [7] But Paul was aware that more than tithing was needed to keep evangelism alive in spreading the Good News about Jesus to those who had not heard.

Perhaps this idea of the listeners helping to meet the need of the teaches was enforced in the minds of the Apostles base on what Jesus said before sending out the first missionaries, that they should not carry any money with them – gold or silver or copper. Don’t carry a purse. Take only the clothes and sandals you are wearing. A walking stick is not necessary. Give a worker what they need.[8] In other words, no matter where they went, if money or clothes or transportation or even food were required, those who were glad to see them would provide for them.

Paul uses an illustration from his day and culture to explain this. He told the Corinthians, it is written in the Law of Moses: “When a work animal is being used to separate grain, don’t keep it from eating the grain.” [9] When God said this, was He thinking only about work animals? No. He was talking about us. Yes, these written things are for our benefit. So, those plowing and those separating grain ought to expect some of the leftover grain for their efforts. We planted spiritual seed among you, so we should be able to harvest from you some things for this life.

Surely that is not asking too much, says Paul. Others have this right to get things from you. So surely, we have this right also. But we abuse this right. No, we take responsibility for everything ourselves so that we will not stop anyone from obeying the Good News of the Anointed One. Indeed, you know that those who work at the Temple get their food from the Temple. And those who serve at the altar get part of the offered sacrifice on the altar. It is the same with those who have the work of telling the Good News. The Lord commanded that those who preach and teach the Good News should earn a living from their work.[10]

Therefore, Paul’s emphasis here is not solely on tithing and giving, but also principle. As a pastor, I never thought of the income I received as a “salary.” Not once did I take it as repayment for the care I gave as a spiritual shepherd. What I did for my flock was done out of love; it was a gift and did not require any reimbursement. I received the tithe as God’s way of supporting me in the ministry to which He called me so that I could clothe and feed my family, as well equip myself to do the work He gave me to do.

I can remember when my father pastored a rural church in Iowa where farmers, with little cash, brought eggs, milk, chickens, and vegetables to the parsonage so that my mother could feed us. I felt blessed because, as a small boy, I loved to eat raw sweet potatoes. They were like carrots to me and sure tasted better than a dollar bill. I love them to this day, especially sweet potato fries. People would also donate flour sacks with printed designs on them. My mom used them to make clothes for my sisters. Also, farmers who had gasoline pumps on their farms for their machinery often filled up my dad’s car. I guess you could call that sharing the good things they had.

We hear a lot today about paying teachers and professors on the principle of merit; the better the teacher, the higher the salary and the longer the tenure. I wonder how long some pastors would last if the congregations shared their tithe with them based on the merit system? Before I left to go work in the Philippines, I heard about a movement to form a Preacher’s Union to guarantee better wages. Needless to say, that idea died a quick and deserved death.

Paul told the believers in Corinth how he felt about this, “If I spread the Good News, I have no reason to feel special, that’s what God called me to do. I would feel miserable if I didn’t spread the Good News! But by spreading the Good News willingly, I feel energized. If I spread the Good News unwillingly, I’d only be going through the motions.  So, what is my reward?  I have the privilege of spreading the Good News without making those who receive it reimburse me for it. This way, I won’t take support away from those appointed there to spread the Good News.” [11] In other words, I want you to support my missionary efforts so that when I show up somewhere to minister, it won’t require the local congregation to start paying me instead of continuing to support their pastor.

Chrysostom, the great communicator, had an impressive view on this topic. He concludes that while the dignity given to a teacher brings joy, the same token represses his spirit because of the necessity of requiring the aid of those who are his students. In other words, unless the students paid tuition, the teacher would not be able to teach. Therefore, since they are paying for what they want to learn, then give the teacher the proper amount of support. But under no circumstances should a teacher be reduced to begging for money to teach.

In this light, Chrysostom notices that in addition to what Paul said so far, he also shows the Galatians how to cultivate kind feelings. He trained them to recognize the importance of supporting their teacher and in being gentle with those who are hurting. By this means it generates close fellowship on both sides. Chrysostom notes that Paul states earlier about the joy that comes from teaching. Otherwise, why should he continue to feed the dull-minded Jews with manna when their stubbornness has reduced the Apostles to asking for aid? Paul aimed to focus on the great benefits of humility and love, and that those studying might not be ashamed of their teachers who wore no expensive garments, and perhaps, even looked a little tattered and worn. After all, having to ask for aid sometimes borders on disgrace. But it doesn’t have to be when their teachers are ones who stand in boldness to urged their students to learn to be more loving, caring, and kind to each other and those around them.  As a result, they will benefit when they refuse to judge everyone by their appearance.[12]

Early medieval scholar Haimo of Auxerre gives a unique view of what Paul is saying here. He talks about those who benefit from the ministry of the teacher’s expertise but offer nothing but excuses as to why they are unable to share what they have with the teacher to support their ministry. The problem is that many of them are not being truthful. You cannot be untruthful with God, nor can you fool God. He deciphers all the secrets of our hearts. So, to all the students of Gospel teachers, Haimo has a word of caution: if when you say that you cannot possibly pay the teachers their wages, for your own need overwhelms you, they will understand. But do not deceive yourself, as if you can somehow trick God. You don’t need to give everything. Furthermore, if you know you will be getting money from the sale of your crops or from what someone owes you, let the teacher know you will send it to them later. You’ll never know how much a teacher will appreciate even the smallest of contributions.[13]

[1] Epictetus: Discourses, Bk. 1, Ch. 20; Bk. 2, Ch. 12

[2] Hans Dieter Betz: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 302

[3] Leviticus 19:17

[4] Ibid 25:17

[5] Ibid. 25:14

[6] Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nezikin, Baba Mezi’s, folio 58b

[7] 1 Corinthians 9:13

[8] Matthew 10:9-10

[9] Deuteronomy 25:4

[10] 1 Corinthians 9:9-14

[11] 1 Corinthians 9:16-19

[12] Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, loc. cit.

[13] Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Galatians, loc, cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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