Paul's Tentmaking

by James Shewmaker
via Google Plus

I have come to the conclusion that a lot of people have a misunderstanding of Paul's tentmaking.

When Paul left Berea due to an "invasion" by Thessalonican enemies, his companions stayed behind. Those brethren who escorted him to Achaia returned home, leaving Paul all alone. At the time that Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, his companions had not yet caught up with him.

Paul did not allow his aloneness to prevent him from from preaching first in Athens and then in Corinth. However, at the time of meeting Aquila and Priscilla, Paul had no source of income and he did not desire to ask the newly converted in Corinth to provide him with support lest it might seem that his reason for preaching was merely mercenary.

However, when his companions arrived they apparently brought with them financial assistance (possibly originating from Philippi) because the text seems to imply that when his companions arrived Paul left off tent-making and devoted himself fully to the Gospel. Although this is not fully provable from the text, notice the difference in Paul's activities before Silas and Timothy had arrived (Acts 18:1-4) and after they had arrived (Acts 18:5-18).

Not only this, but Paul tells the Corinthians that he took support from other churches while working with them in order to support his work among them (II Corinthians 11:8).

The idea that some have that tent-making is the optimal way for preachers to be supported is not in harmony with any scripture. Instead Paul indicates that he did it only to avoid being a stumbling-block to the Corinthians but it was not the method which God prefers. He also wrote to Timothy about a preacher's life and likened it to a farmer who supports himself from the crop for which he labored.

Rather than tentmaking being the optimal method of preacher support, it actually causes the work of the Lord to suffer in the manner described in Acts 6:2 even though that passage is not discussing preacher support.

However, any man who views preaching as a way to live a luxurious life or "to keep up with Jones" should not devote his life to preaching, nor should any woman marry a man who is a preacher expecting a financially comfortable life. Occasionally, a preacher will be blessed with a better financial life than he expected, but this should be viewed as unusual rather than as a standard by which other preacher's should measure their financial condition, nor should a preacher who has been blessed in this way be self-indulgent in his prosperity. (These comments are not directed towards those preachers who have an independent source of income. There are preachers who are blessed by God with a source of income which allows them to live a financially comfortable life without being a burden on the treasury of the Lord.) The main purpose of the money which has been devoted to the Lord should be the furtherance of the word and should not be sumptuous living.