A minister’s dedication
You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery.
Working night and day
in order not to burden any of you,
we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
Elsewhere (e.g., 1 Corinthians 9:4-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Timothy 5:18), St. Paul reaffirms his right to compensation for his ministry, but he habitually and voluntarily declines such compensation “in order not to burden” those to whom he ministers.
In this, St. Paul gives an example of total and selfless dedication to the service of God’s flock.
Today, there are ministers who essentially work two jobs, as St. Paul did: the work of the Gospel and the work that keeps bread on one’s table and a roof over one’s head.
The challenge in such cases, however, is that sometimes the work of ministry gets the short end of the stick: the minister is only a part-time minister, while needing to work fulltime for the sake of necessities and familial obligations.
Herein lies the advantage of celibacy, as St. Paul himself indicates in 1 Corinthians 7: e.g. verse 32b - “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (although St. Paul also writes of the value and sometime necessity of married life).
Yet even for the celibate or for any minister whose only job is the work of ministry, St. Paul’s example of total and selfless dedication to the service of God’s flock must still be followed: in this case, working twice as long and as hard – if not more so (while not, of course, to the point of self-destruction).
St. Paul’s example also has value for the rest of us who may not be engaged officially in fulltime or part-time ministry, for we too minister at the times and in the ways God has called us, even if it is only for a few minutes in a day or a few hours in a week.
Too often, people take up a fulltime or part-time ministry or a voluntary position in the church that turns out not to feel or be as rewarding as they had expected, whereupon they cast the work and the ministry aside.
It is sad when this happens – even tragic – although I, weak and sinful as I am, certainly cannot condemn any who may fall in this weakness. All of us should pray for these onetime ministers: that they may return to the service of the Lord in whatever ways remain open to them.
We should always pray for each other, that each of us may be ever stronger by God’s grace in the particular service to which he has called us.
In whatever times and ways we minister to God’s flock, may we follow the example of St. Paul: ministering with our whole heart, expecting nothing for ourselves but striving only for the true good of others and the greater glory of God.