Some Corinthians were questioning Paul's authority and rights as an apostle. He responded by telling them his main credential: he had seen the Lord and was called to be an apostle (Acts 9:3-18).
Even though he had rights as an apostle to hospitality, marriage, and payment for his work, he willing gave it all up so that he might win people to Christ. He lived the crucified life.
Even though Paul had given up his right to be paid, he gives a good case for Christian workers being paid for their labor. Jesus said that a worker deserves their wages (Luke 10:7-8). Paul quoted Deuteronomy 25:4 to prove his point: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Just as it would be cruel for a farmer to bind the mouth of an ox so that he could not eat some of the grain that he has been treading (threshing with his feet), it would be cruel to not let the worker enjoy the material blessing that resulted from his spiritual labor (Matthew 10:10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).
Paul did receive financial support from churches (Philippians 4:15-16; 2 Corinthians 11:8), but he preferred to remain independent so that he would not hinder the gospel. There were many teachers and preachers in Greek cities who were out to make money. He did not want to appear like one of these to the lost. He wanted to be the best example to other believers and be above accusation of mixed motives in preaching (2 Thessalonians 3:6-9; 1 Timothy 3:5). He just wanted to be faithful to God's calling on his life, and he knew God would reward him with spiritual blessings.
Paul wanted to become "all things to all men so that by all possible means" he "might save some" (9:22). He found common ground with the people he preached to in order that they might come to believe.
Paul had purpose and discipline like an athlete running in a race. He wanted to persevere so that he would not be taken out of the ministry God had called him to. We are all called to run with purpose and discipline for the heavenly reward of seeing God's glory spread throughout the whole earth. May we follow Paul's example (11:1).
In an age when the general or overriding philosophy centers around self -- taking care of self, pleasing self, seeing the worth of self, and the importance of doing that which will help us respect self and achieve our full potential as a human being and will make "us" happy -- the teaching of 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 can easily be rationalized away or ignored.
Yet, Beloved, was not our Lord's word very clear? "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it" (Mark 8:34, 35).
In 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul demonstrates the practical outworkings of a crucified life as he reminds you that, although Christ has set you free from all men, you are to become their slaves that you might win them to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-21). However, this submission of self is not only to reach the lost, but, out of love, to subjugate self even to the brethren, to not flaunt your liberty so that it becomes a stumbling block to those still weak in faith.
Everything Paul did was for the sake of the gospel. Oh, my friend, can you imagine what would happen first in the church, and then in the world, if everyone who named the name of Christ did the same as Paul did? What would happen if you buffeted your body and made it your slave, instead of being its slave?
Think on these things. According to Paul, and, thus, to the Word of God, if you don't live this way, you disqualify yourself. Remember, the cross is the pivotal point of Christianity.
(God's Answers for Relationships and Passions: 1 And 2 Corinthians (The New Inductive Study Series) by Kay Arthur, p. 47-8.)
Lord, lead us to the crucified life. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.