BROTHERS and SISTERS, you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk? Do I say this on human authority? Does not the Law also say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? If others share this rightful claim on you, do we not even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ.
Saint Paul makes a very obscure reference to animal management law from the Jewish Law. This reference sheds some light at how Paul viewed the Law itself. Today, mostly through the Protestant influence, people tend to think that the Old Testament is called "old" for a reason - mainly that it is a thing of the past, obsolete and unrelated to the life of a Christian. Christ is said to have fulfilled the Law, which sometimes is understood as abolished.
Proper Christian view of the Old Testament Law is that it is still relevant today. It may be applied differently (for example, there is no more circumcision, kosher foods, or sacrifices), but it is part of the Christian life. By invoking a rather little known part of the Law about not muzzling an ox while it is thrashing, Paul shows that, at least to him, the idea that the Law may be abolished is unknown. If such small and "irrelevant" laws were still in effect for Paul, what about other, more, "serious" laws?
He knew then what the Church knows now (and has known always), that by fulfilling the Law, Jesus did not abolish it, but rather transformed parts of it. In order to understand what transforming the Law means, I would like to direct your attention to a series of articles by a priest and scholar, Fr Stephen De Young. The articles very informative, and short, so find some time to go through them:
Last year's reflection can be found here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest