1 Corinthians 9:9 – For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn." Is it for the oxen that God cares or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope.
In this verse, Paul is referring to Deuteronomy 25:4. It’s found in part of the Mosaic Law that addresses a variety of different subjects. Paul asks the question ‘was this written solely for the ox, or is there something we can learn from this too?’ The obvious answer is yes! God is looking to teach us something.
Muzzling the ox means that the ox can’t eat the corn when he treads it out. The ox is doing the work, so it’s only appropriate that it gets to share in the goodness of the work.
In this passage, Paul is teaching the Corinthians on the principle of giving. He uses the Law to illustrate how believers should relate to their ministers and to those who give their lives to preach the gospel.
Of course it’s not right that the ox would eat all the grain! But we must not muzzle the ox while he treads out the grain – the lesson is that it’s right and good for us to ensure that ministers and those who give their lives to the Lord’s purposes are well looked after and are able to receive not just spiritually, but naturally from the things that they spend their lives investing into.
This principle was powerfully illustrated in Old Testament times. The priests would share in the sacrifice that was placed on the altar. When the nation stopped sacrificing to God, the priests no longer had food in the house – meaning they had to spend time working their own fields instead of ministering to God and people. This distraction meant that the Word of God quickly became lost. So it’s in the best interests of a church to look after their ministers – so that their ministry will be more effective!