WHAT DID PAUL MEAN, HE “ROBBED OTHER CHURCHES?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Second Corinthians 11:8 says, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” Did the Apostle Paul really go around stealing money from Christians?! What does the Spirit of God mean here?
Remember, we always want to read the context before honing in on a single verse and stumbling over it. The tenor is established in a previous verse. In context, we read: “ Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?  I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.  And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.  As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.”
To understand 2 Corinthians, you need to go back to 1 Corinthians. It is a lengthy passage, but it is necessary to read it. First Corinthians chapter 9: “ Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?  Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?  For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?  Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.  If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?  If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.  Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?  Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.  But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.  For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.  What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”
As a spiritual leader, Paul could have taken a salary from the Corinthians. After all, the nation Israel supported their Levitical priests’ physical needs because those priests met the nation’s spiritual needs. The ox that treaded the corn had a right to eat that grain. The soldier had the right of his government taking care of his physical needs. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (verse 14).
- Matthew 10:10: “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
- Luke 10:7: “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.”
- Galatians 6:6: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”
- 1 Timothy chapter 5: “ Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.  For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”
However, concerning the Corinthians, Paul limited his right to material compensation. Second Corinthians 11:7: “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?” The key word is the last one, “freely”—meaning “without charge.” Why did not Paul make the Corinthians support his needs? One reason was that they were too immature to handle giving to him, so he went without. However, that was unfair. Paul would take material offerings from other assemblies, and that funding allowed him to travel to and minister in Corinth. Yet, there was no funding from the Corinthians for him to visit the other Christian assemblies. The Corinthians were benefiting from the arrangement but they were not supporting it financially. That is what 2 Corinthians 11:8 means. “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.”
Watch verse 9 now: “And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.” Rather than being a financial burden to the Corinthians while he was in their midst, Paul relied on what the saints from Macedonia had brought him. Macedonia was the region in which Thessalonica and Philippi were located.
By the way, Paul also supported himself by working as a tentmaker. Acts 18:1-3: “ After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;  And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome: ) and came unto them.  And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.”
See also 2 Thessalonians chapter 3: “ For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;  Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:  Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.  For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.  For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.  Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.  But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.  And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”