19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. ( I Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV)
Paul contrasts his freedom with his voluntary slavery for the sake of his mission. Belong to no one but a slave to all for the mission. He particularizes the general statement of his slavery to all by giving examples of how he has lived into this mission – what he has done for its sake.
He also repeats “all/everyone” several times – slave of everyone and then all things to all people. Paul’s mission is to all for the sake of the gospel.
Paul reflects here on on his devotion to the mission of proclaiming the gospel. He has given his all to reach all. Earlier he had been describing his due – his right to be compensated for his work but his surrender of that right for the sake of his work.
I realize that I am not so dedicated. I would like to think my life is all about the mission but I am sure it is not. So much of what I do is governed by my own gain from things – my salary, my pension, my benefits from work as a pastor. My motivations are all muddied with self-interest.
I am left not sure how to respond, what to do. Other than to ask the question. I need to live – I need to pay my bills and support my family. But what does it mean, like Paul, to put all other considerations aside? I am not sure… but I need to
O God of All Blessings, you have given me everything that I have. You have also called me to share in the mission that consumed your servant Paul. Give me such devotion… such focus… such passion. For I confess that I have it not. In the name of the one whose gospel this is all about… Amen.