Should pastors who teach the Bible be paid a salary? Is that the message of 1 Corinthians 9:17-18?
The weight of the New Testament teaching is that those who teach God’s Word should be financially supported. In Matthew 10:10 Jesus stated,
. . . for the worker is worthy of his support. Matthew 10:10 (NASB)
We will further explore Jesus’ principle about paying someone who works for you. That is, He teaches us that workers should be paid for what they do. What follows is more information about the principle and an illustration.
Jesus Was Supported Financially
Here is an important question, “Where did Jesus and the disciples get the money that they used for food and lodging while they walked and ministered across Judea, Samaria, and Galilee?” The Bible does not indicate that Jesus practiced a trade as an adult, so from where did His income come? One answer is given to us in Luke 8:1-3. In this passage we are told that a group of women had supported Him and the disciples. Verse 3 is the concluding verse,
. . . and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. Luke 8:3 (NASB)
People were supporting Jesus so that He could give His time to ministry. The same principle extends to everyone who teaches and preaches the scriptures. That is the message of the Holy Spirit. Consider the following passage from the Holy Spirit,
So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14 (NASB)
The principle was given earlier in 1 Corinthians 9:11.
If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 1 Corinthians 9:11 (NASB)
Here we are told that it is reasonable and expected that Christians should support someone who ministers spiritually to them and to others. One more example of the principle of supporting those who teach and preach occurs in Galatians 6:6,
The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Galatians 6:6 (NASB)
Therefore, it is very clear. Those who are taught the Word of God should provide financial support to those who do the teaching.
Pastors/Elders Were Supported Financially
Another important passage about financial support is found in 1 Timothy 5:17-18. Here we discover that elders or pastors were to be given “double honor”. If the elder is the pastor-teacher of the church he should be supported financially.
The elders who rule well are to 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.” 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (NASB)
In this passage we are told to give “twice the honor” or diplous time. The Greek word time literally refers to double honor, but in this context it also refers to money since verse 18 obviously refers to paying laborers. The Holy Spirit is talking about money. We can call it compensation, a salary, or a pay check. Whatever we call it, it is still financial support.
In Romans we find an example of actual support,
Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. Romans 15:27 (NASB)
There were occasions when Paul purposefully did not seek financial support and did not accept support. Here are a few examples.
For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NASB)
Later in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 he amplified this statement. He did not seek support and none was provided.
Those who are regularly taught the scriptures should be motivated out of compassion to provide support for their pastors. It is recommended that the pastors be given a salary equal to the average salary earned by the members of the congregation. Yet, he should be paid a wage consistent with how much he labors in the Word of God.
Pastors/Elders Are To Eagerly Serve Christ
At the same time pastors and elders are to eagerly serve Lord. That is the message of 1 Corinthians 9:17-18 and other passages. In the passage the apostle Paul tells us that he will receive a reward from God if he serves Christ voluntarily.
For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18
But if he serves Christ unwillingly or just out of duty or obligation, then there is no reward. In 1 Peter 5:2 the apostle Peter agrees with Paul when he says that elders are to serve voluntarily and with eagerness. These two apostles have told us that pastors and elders are not to serve for money but voluntarily and with eagerness. The money is secondary.
. . . shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness . . . 1 Peter 5:2 (NASB)
If the primary motivation for a pastor’s service is money, his ministry is an abomination to the Lord.
Finally, in Philippians 4:10-17 the apostle Paul encourages the Philippians to provide him financial support. It is biblical to provide financial support to the ministers of the gospel. We will close with the following reminder.
And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NASB)
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