Assuming that you have read these verses, I must begin by reminding you that we are still in a section about Idolatry, and food sacrificed to idols specifically, in this letter of correction and instruction to the church at Corinth.
You will no doubt recall that in chapter 8 Paul essentially set forth a proposition that food sacrificed to idols can be eaten by those who understand that an idol is nothing more than a hunk of rock, and that there is no actual significance to a sacrifice to a hunk of rock. A person with such an understanding has a right to eat the food. However, many of our brethren do not have this understanding, and as a consequence, they would have their faith severely challenged by brothers and sisters participating in eating such food. Paul ended the chapter by saying that we should forgo our right to eat such food whenever it could adversely impact our “weaker” brother or sister.
Beginning in 9:1, Paul has undertaken to prove this assertion by pointing out all of the rights he has chosen not to exercise himself, for the sake of the gospel. In doing so, I think it is fair to say that he really shames people who complain and moan about being expected to make a sacrifice for the sake of other people, for he points out a wide range of sacrifices he has made personally for their benefit− can they not undergo such a small sacrifice for their brothers and sisters?
People are funny, aren’t they? We all look around us and see everyone else having such an easy time. We struggle with finances, yet our neighbor has so many nice things. We have marriages with real challenges, but the guy next door has a beautiful wife who never complains, or an attractive husband who always finishes his “honey-do” list. Our boss has such an easy job and makes so much more than we do. The Smiths’ children are so perfectly behaved… it goes on and on. The good folks in Corinth probably thought they’d be better apostles than Paul was. It never even crossed their minds that Paul was not only preaching and teaching day and night; he was also working to support himself.
I would like to think that anyone over the age of 40 has figured out that the grass on the other side of the hill isn’t really any greener than it is right where we are standing, that everyone has their struggles and their problems to deal with; we all win a few and lose a few.
But them, sometimes we forget…