Samuel Robert Cassius: “I Had Rather Preach the Gospel for What I Can Eat”

"I had rather preach the gospel for what I can eat..."

Samuel Robert Cassius (1853-1931) was an African-American preacher and part of what is known as the Restoration Movement. He spent most of his years preaching in Oklahoma. During this time, he often struggled to support his family and, of necessity, engaged in other work than just preaching to provide for them. The following excerpt from the book, To Save My Race from Abuse, contains an appeal he made for others to support his work.

In 1907, Cassius disclosed a plan to wipe out his monetary debts so that he could ‘devote all my time to the ministry’ the following year. ‘This is my earnest desire. Not that I am not willing to work, but because I love to preach.’ Giving his most articulate expression about his passion for preaching, he continued, ‘I had rather preach the gospel for what I can eat, than to live in plenty at anything else. God has raised me up for this very work, and I am not happy or contented at anything else’” (To Save My Race From Abuse, p. 86).

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What Makes One a Preacher?


Occasionally when people find out that I preach, they will ask questions about it. They might wonder what motivated me to preach: Why are you a preacher? They may be curious, particularly if they come from a denominational background, about whatever process I went through to enter into the work of preaching: What did you do to become a preacher?

Questions like the ones above are legitimate questions. Preachers need to have answers for them. Answers to these questions are also helpful for all Christians to consider as they may be in a position to support or encourage those who preach. To answer these questions, we should look to the Bible and not to the religious world.

In this article, I want to consider some of the right and wrong reasons for preaching and for being recognized as a preacher.

So let us consider the question: What makes one a preacher?
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Taking Along a Believing Wife

Couple Holding a Bible

In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he told them of the Lord’s intention that preachers be paid for their labor in the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). In this discussion about support for the work of preaching, Paul also had something to say about preachers’ wives:

Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?” (1 Corinthians 9:4-6).

Paul was not married (1 Corinthians 7:8), yet many of his fellow-preachers were. The apostle, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told the brethren in Corinth that those who preach have just as much of “a right to take along a believing wife” as they do to “get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:5, 14).

In this brief article, I want us to consider three lessons that are implied in the “right to take along a believing wife.” Though Paul was specifically addressing those who dedicate their lives to preaching, we will also consider principles that apply more broadly – to those who would support preachers in their work and to those who would marry. So let us consider these three lessons.
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Tent-Making Preachers

Paul Making Tents

God’s design is that those who dedicate their lives to preaching the gospel receive full support for that work. Paul told the church in Corinth, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

However, one who preaches may not always (or ever) enjoy the blessing of such support. Perhaps the brethren cannot financially support a preacher. It could be that brethren could support a preacher, but will not because they do not value the work of preaching as highly as they should. Or, as in the case of Paul, a preacher may forgo receiving support because circumstances are such that it may actually hinder the cause of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:12).

When a preacher receives only partial support – or even no support – for preaching the gospel, what is he to do?
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Reporting Back to Antioch

Paul's First Missionary Journey

Following the preaching trip that took them through such places as Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. Luke wrote, “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).

It is important to notice what happened here, particularly today as churches may support preachers who work in other locations. The church in Antioch “sent” Paul and Barnabas on this trip to preach the gospel in various places (Acts 13:3). That sending does not imply a command for them to go – that was given by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2, 4). Instead, the implication is that the church supported (financially) these men in their work.

When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they did not just meet with the elders of the church or with a few other individuals. The account of their work did not take place during a common meal or other casual setting. Rather, they “gathered the church together.” This shows us that it is perfectly acceptable for a congregation to invite a preacher to come and give a report on the work that they helped to support. More than this, we can be reminded of the benefits of such reports.
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For The Truth


For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8).

In this verse, Paul was not discussing what is or is not possible. Rather, he was speaking of the determination of faithful disciples of Christ. We must choose one of two sides – we can be for the truth or against the truth. As Christians who have committed to being on the side of truth, let us notice what we can do to benefit and support it.
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How Preachers Make a Living

Man with sons

One of the fundamental responsibilities that a man has is to “provide for his own,” or else “he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Those who preach the gospel are certainly not exempt from this responsibility. But how is a preacher to make a living?

Paul explained to the brethren in Corinth that God has a plan for preachers to earn an income: “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). This is God’s design – a man devotes his life to proclaiming the gospel and he receives support for his labor. But how does he receive this support? In the New Testament we read of three different ways in which a man can receive support for his work of preaching.
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