“And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself” (2 Corinthians 11:9).
The Biblical book of 1 Corinthians provides us with a valuable principle that we can apply in a variety of situations: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23). For Paul the Apostle, this did not represent a principle for others to follow; it meant leading by example in his relationship with the Corinthian church.
You see, Paul applied this principle to his relationship with the church at Corinth by refusing to ask for any financial support from them. Rather than burden the church with a request to support his ministry, Paul supplemented the financial aid he received from other churches by employing his skills as a tentmaker at various points in his ministry.
Unfortunately, those who sought to challenge Paul’s authority in Corinth apparently seized upon that decision as evidence of his belief that he was not entitled to such support. However, the truth was far different: Paul declined to seek financial support from the Corinthians because it was not in the church’s best interest to do so. One commentator explains how this principle from 1 Corinthians 10:23 may have factored into his decision…
“(Paul’s opponents) had been making capital out of the fact that he had refused pay for his work in Corinth (7-9). He explains that, while as an apostle of Christ, he had the right (I Corinthians 9), yet he had purposely refused pay, lest his example be abused by false teachers who were seeking to make merchandise of the church.
From the beginning of his work in Corinth Paul must have noticed tendencies to covetous leadership in some of his converts, and so governed himself accordingly. One of the things of which Paul could boast was that they could not accuse him of covetousness.” (1)
So even though it would have been perfectly acceptable for Paul to ask for financial support from the members of the Corinthian church, that did not necessarily mean it was a good idea. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 10:23, such a request would have been lawful, but not helpful- and Paul will go on to explain why next.
(1) Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 2 Corinthians Chapter 11. Paul’s Apology for Boasting [pg. 606] Copyright © 2000, 2007 by Halley’s Bible Handbook, Inc.