Instead of claiming non-existent rights like some of those at Corinth, Paul gives up his rights! He has the right to receive money for his ministry, as many others do: “those who proclaim the gospel” should “receive their living by the gospel.” But Paul doesn’t want to be thought of as greedy, nor does he want others influencing his ministry. He wants to be free to become “all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.” This is not hypocritical. He recognizes that he is free from the Jewish law, while still constrained by the moral law (the “law of Christ“). However, he can still recognize some ceremonial regulations when he’s with the Jews (understanding that they are not necessary), and be free from those same constraints with the Gentiles (understanding that some laws still have validity). By not being officially supported (although he sometimes did receive love offerings from places where he had ministered), he can act and behave with a certain amount of latitude! Everything he does is for the gospel, and he does that so that he can share in the blessings that come from the ministry (9:23). It’s like an athlete running in a race, or a boxer competing in a contest. They do it to receive a prize. Paul experiences physical and emotional hardship, and also sets aside his own self-interest, all so that he will receive the spiritual rewards that will come for faithfulness (9:26-27).
Most of us can’t be committed full-time to ministry. We have other legitimate commitments that Paul and the Bible recognize (like a spouse). But even with that understanding, we need to make sure that God and His kingdom are first. What does that look like in your current context? Do you have something that you need to put aside or give up so that you can better share the gospel? Are you willing to endure some suffering for the sake of your faith?