What does 1 Corinthians 9:11 mean?
ESV: If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
NIV: If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?
NASB: If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
CSB: If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you?
NLT: Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?
KJV: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
NKJV: If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?
Verse Commentary:
Paul continues to use agricultural metaphors. He is illustrating his assertion that he has a right to expect financial support from the Corinthians. He has not demanded this, for reasons explained in later verses. In the simplest language of farming—sowing and reaping—Paul insists that since he and his coworkers sowed spiritual things among the Corinthians, they are entitled to reap material rewards.

This verse puts it in the form of a question, perhaps to soften the impact: "Is it too much if we reap material things from you?"

Paul made a similar connection in his letter to the Romans when discussing the money that Gentile Christians were sending in support of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Paul said the Gentiles owed it to them: "For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings" (Romans 15:27).

Although Paul will make it clear he is not demanding this right from the Corinthians, the Christian church has practiced this principle throughout most of its history. Those who devote their lives and abilities to the gospel have a right to be supported in that effort by other Christians.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 9:1–18 describes Paul's case for why he, as an apostle, has the right to ask for financial support from the people he serves, including the Corinthian Christians. Though he could demand, Paul refuses to insist on his right. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of someone hearing the gospel. He must preach the gospel; he has no choice. But Paul wants to be able to boast about offering the gospel free of charge even though he has the right to ask for financial support. This passage establishes that believers have an obligation to support those who serve through ministry. This message is made more valid since Paul is not benefitting from his own argument.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages Christians to willingly give up their ''rights'' for the good of those who are weak in their faith. Paul shows that he, too, has given up his rights, including the right as an apostle to receive financial support from those he serves. Instead, he boasts that he serves the Corinthians without any compensation, even at great cost to himself. Paul describes himself as an athlete competing for the prize of a crown in eternity. His point is for believers to pursue godliness, and the good of others, with that kind of commitment.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 8 ended with Paul's declaration that he would give up his right to eat any meat rather than cause a brother in Christ to stumble. He shows in this chapter that he is already giving up his right as an apostle to be financially supported by those he serves. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of anyone believing the gospel. He limits his freedoms further by becoming all things to all people to win some for Christ. He disciplines himself like an athlete in training, to get a prize and to avoid being disqualified. The next passages will expand on this idea of distinguishing what is ''allowed'' from what is ''best.''
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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