1 I am free, am I not? I am an apostle, am I not? I have seen Jesus our Lord, haven't I? You are the result of my work in the Lord, aren't you? 2 If I am not an apostle to other people, surely I am one to you, for you are the evidence of my apostolic authority from the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me: 4 We have the right to earn our food, don't we? 5 We have the right to take a believing wife with us like the other apostles, the Lord's brothers, and Cephas, don't we? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to keep on working for a living? 7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its grapes? Or who takes care of a flock and does not drink any of its milk? 8 I am not saying this on human authority, am I? The Law says the same thing, doesn't it? 9 For in the Law of Moses it is written, "You must not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." God is not only concerned about oxen, is he? 10 Isn't he really speaking for our benefit? Yes, this was written for our benefit, because the one who plows should plow in hope, and the one who threshes should thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? 12 If others enjoy this right over you, don't we have a stronger claim? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we tolerate everything in order not to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of the Messiah. 13 You know that those who work in the Temple get their food from the Temple and that those who serve at the altar get their share of its offerings, don't you? 14 In the same way, the Lord has ordered that those who proclaim the gospel should make their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights, and I'm not writing this so that they may be applied in my case. I would rather die than let anyone deprive me of my reason for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about, for this obligation has been entrusted to me. How terrible it would be for me if I didn't preach the gospel! 17 For if I preach voluntarily, I get a reward, but if I am unwilling to do it, I am still entrusted with that obligation. 18 What, then, is my reward? It is to be able to preach the gospel free of charge, and so I never resort to demanding my rights when I'm preaching the gospel.
19 Although I am free from everyone's expectations, I have made myself a servant to all of them to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew in order to win Jews. To those under the Law I became like a man under the Law, in order to win those under the Law (although I myself am not under the Law). 21 To those who do not have the Law, I became like a man who does not have the Law in order to win those who do not have the Law. However, I am not free from God's Law, but I'm subject to the Messiah's law. 22 To the weak I became weak in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some of them. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel in order to have a share in its blessings.
24 You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don't you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious. 25 Everyone who enters an athletic contest practices self-control in everything. They do it to win a wreath that withers away, but we run to win a prize that never fades. 26 That is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind. That is the way I fight, not like someone shadow boxing. 27 No, I keep on disciplining my body, making it serve me so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified.