Is it right for pastors to get paid as a profession? I see no problem with it, but what does the Bible say?
There is a principle in scripture that calls the local church to meet the material needs of those who minister in spiritual things. In the second book of Thessalonians, the apostle Paul reminds his readers that he did not ask them for free food. But he worked hard to support himself while teaching them and giving them spiritual help. Then he makes an important statement that answers your question. Here is the passage.
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example. (NASB) 2 Thessalonains 3:7-9
Paul says that he had the right to ask for free food but he did not. Paul also had the right to ask for money. That is the message in 1 Timothy.
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (NASB) 1 Timothy 5:17-18
Here Paul says that the church is to honor those who labor hard in the ministry and teach/preach the Word of God. When the Holy Spirit says “double honor” He means the church is to give both verbal honor to its spiritual leaders (1 Thess. 5:12-13) and financial compensation. That is why he says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Romans expands this to include churches who minister to other churches (Rom. 15:27).
Pastors also have the right to be married and to have a families. This was true for the apostle Peter. Here is a very complete defense and encouragement for the church to pay its pastors.
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? Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share with the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. (NASB) 1 Cor. 9:4-14
In the Old Testament, God commanded the nation of Israel to support the Levites, their priests. That was the purpose of the tithe. The tithe was an Old Testament tax, a governmental tax, to pay for the needs of the Levites.
For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’ (NASB) Numbers 18:24
Yes, God wants us to meet the needs of our pastors. God is good. When God calls us, He helps us do what He has asked us to do. With His call to serve Him, He also supplies our needs. Praise our Lord Jesus.
Suggested Links:A Call: Teach The Bible
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