Faithlife
Faithlife

Tentmaking

Notes & Transcripts | Handout

Paul the Apostle or a Tentmaker?

Paul was a Tentmaker. Although Paul never exclusively says he is a tentmaker, Luke provides insight on Paul’s part-time occupation in . When Paul went to Corinth to spread the message of the gospel, he united with Aquila and Priscilla because they shared the same trade.
“After this Paul…went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla...and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”

The Greek culture looked down on manual labor and saw it as slave work. However, the Hebrew culture taught that the origin of life began with God working life into existence. Man being made in the image of God, has the honor of reflecting God’s nature through manual labor. It was Jewish tradition for Rabbis to support themselves with an occupation in addition to their religious teaching. Counter to the greek culture, Paul saw the importance of manual labor. However, Paul’s work as a tentmaker wasn’t only to provide for himself, but to contribute to the ministry. Towards the end of Paul’s farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus, Paul makes clear the manual labor was not only to benefit himself, but those who were in need ().
“I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The Church or a Group of Tentmakers?

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”
The church may receive support, but that is no reason to not work. Paul had the luxury to be served by churches, but had chosen otherwise. There is much benefit to the ministry when the church not only raises support, but contributes in work (). A working church frees the ministry from any form of commercialism and allows the church spread the message of the gospel without being hindered by financial struggle.
However, it is not only on Sundays, but also through the every day work that the church is doing the ministry. Work is not only a way in order to have a Sunday service, but to enter into God’s work through out the week. Thus we can say with Paul when he said, “these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive ().”
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