What Does the Bible Say About Paying Pastors?
In a recent email, Jim writes:
I need your help to understand something that has troubled me for years … why do churches pay preachers to preach or pastor a church? Why does a pastor even take money to preach? I pray that you can answer the question and tell me what the Holy Word of God says about this.
Answer: Many Christians are surprised to discover that the Bible plainly teaches congregations to financially support those who care for the spiritual needs of the church body.
This includes pastors, teachers and other full-time ministers who are called by God for service. Spiritual leaders can best serve when they are fully dedicated to the work of the Lord – to the study and teaching of God’s Word and ministering to the needs of the body of Christ. If a minister has to work a job to provide for his family, then he will be distracted from ministry and forced to divide his priorities, leaving less time to adequately shepherd his flock.
What the Bible Says About Paying Pastors a Salary
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those who work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
Faithful church leaders should be supported and appreciated. Too often they are targets for criticism because the congregation has unrealistic expectations. How do you treat your church leaders? Do you enjoy finding fault, or do you show your appreciation? Do they receive enough financial support to allow them to live without worry and to provide for the needs of their families? Jesus and Paul emphasised the importance of supporting those who lead and teach us (see Galatians 6:6 and the notes on Luke 10:7 and 1 Corinthians 9:4-10).
Preaching and teaching are closely related. Preaching is proclaiming the word of God and confronting listeners with the truth of Scripture. Teaching is explaining the truth in Scripture, helping learners understand difficult passages, and helping them apply God’s word to daily life. Paul says that these elders are worthy of double honour. Unfortunately, however, we often take them for granted by not providing adequately for their needs or by subjecting them to heavy criticism. Think of how you can honour your preachers and teachers.
As we see in 1 Timothy 5, all ministry work is important, but preaching and teaching is especially worthy of honour because it is the core of Christian ministry. Paul backed up his point in the verse above with Old Testament references to Deuteronomy 25:4 and Leviticus 19:13.
1 Corinthians 9:9
For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? (NIV)
Again, Paul refers to this expression of “not muzzling an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Even though many times Paul chose not to accept financial support, he still argued for the Old Testament principle that those who serve full time to meet the spiritual needs of people, deserve to receive monetary support from them.
9:4-10 Jesus said that workers deserve their wages (Luke 10:7). Paul echoes this thought and urges the church to be sure to pay their Christian workers. We have the responsibility to care for our pastors, teachers, and other spiritual leaders. It is our duty to see that those who serve us in the ministry are fairly and adequately compensated.
1 Corinthians 9:14
In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. (NLT)
“In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14 NIV)
In verses such as Luke 10:7-8 and Matthew 10:10, the Lord Jesus himself taught the same precept, that spiritual workers deserve to be paid for their service.
“…take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep” – Matthew 10:10. In this Jesus said that those who minister are to be cared for. The disciples could expect food and shelter in return for their spiritual service they provided. Who ministers to you? Make sure you take care of the pastors, missionaries, and teachers who serve God by serving you (see 1 Corinthians 9:9, 10; 1 Timothy 5:17).
“Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.” – Luke 10:7-8 Jesus’ direction to stay in one house avoided certain problems. Shifting from house to house could offend the families who first took them in. Some families might begin to compete for the disciples’ presence, and some might think they weren’t good enough to hear their message. If the disciples appeared not to appreciate the hospitality offered them, the town might not accept Jesus when he followed them there. In addition, by staying in one place, the disciples did not have to worry continually about finding good accommodation. They could settle down and do their appointed task.
Jesus told his disciples to accept hospitality graciously because their work entitled them to it. Ministers of the gospel deserve to be supported, and it is our responsibility to make sure they have what they need. There are several ways to encourage those who serve God in his church. First, see that they have an adequate salary. Second, see that they are supported emotionally; plan a time to express appreciation for something they have done. Third, lift their spirits with special surprises from time to time. Our ministers deserve to know we are giving to them cheerfully and generously.
Jesus gave two rules for the disciples to follow as they travelled. They were to eat what was set before them – that is, they were to accept hospitality without being choosy – and they were to heal the sick. Because of the healings, people would be willing to listen to the gospel.
Addressing a Misconception
In conclusion, I’d like to address a common misconception about pastors and preachers. Many Christians believe that being a pastor or teacher is a relatively easy job. New believers especially, might have the tendency to think that ministers simply show up at church on Sunday morning to preach and then spend the rest of the week praying and reading the Bible. While pastors do (and should) spend plenty of time reading God’s Word and praying, that’s only a very small part of what they do.
By definition of the word pastor, these servants of God are called to ‘shepherd the flock,’ which means they are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the spiritual needs of the congregation. Even in a small church these responsibilities are numerous.
As the primary teacher of God’s Word to the people, most pastors spend hours and hours researching and studying Scripture in order to rightly understand the Bible so that it can be taught in a meaningful and applicable way. Besides preaching and teaching, pastors do a great deal of spiritual counselling, they make hospital visits, pray for the sick, train and disciple church leaders, officiate weddings, perform funerals, and the list goes on and one.
In small churches, many pastors have the business and administrative responsibilities as well as office work to tend to; while in large churches, the weekly activities taking place within the walls of the church can be continuous. Typically, the larger the church the greater the weight of responsibility.
While this is merely a personal observation, it’s worth noting. As I’ve worked for the past 20+ years on the staff of large and small churches, I’ve come to realize that the pastoral calling is one of the hardest jobs there is. In actuality, almost every pastor I’ve known was not paid nearly as much as he deserved.
As with all topics of study, there is wisdom in taking a balanced biblical approach. Yes, there are many churches financially overburdened with the expectation to fully support their ministers. Yes, there are numerous false shepherds seeking material wealth at their congregations’ expense. Sadly, we can point to endless examples of this today, and these abuses greatly hinder the gospel.
The author of The Shadow of the Cross, Walter J. Chantry, aptly stated, “A self-serving minister is one of the most loathsome sights in all the world.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to recommend additional perspectives on this topic for you to consider:
Should Pastors Be Salaried? by Darryl M. Erkel
The Problematic Predicament of Paying the Pastor by Joe McKeever
Reporting Examining Salaries of Megachurch Pastors
TIMOTHY – COMPANION OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
Many great leaders act as mentors to someone younger, and such was the case with the Apostle Paul and his “true son in the faith,” Timothy.
As Paul planted churches around the Mediterranean and converted thousands to Christianity, he realized he needed a trustworthy person to carry on after he died. He chose the zealous young disciple Timothy. Timothy means “honouring God.”
Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage. [We’re giving it background, talk. You we’re using a camera]
His Greek (Gentile) father is not mentioned by name. Eunice, his Jewish mother, and his grandmother Lois taught him the Scriptures from the time he was a young boy. [Synagogue]
When Paul picked Timothy as his successor, he realized this young man would be trying to convert Jews, so Paul circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3). Paul also taught Timothy about church leadership, including the role of a deacon, the requirements of an elder, as well as many other important lessons about running a church. These were formally recorded in Paul’s letters, 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy.
Church tradition holds that after Paul’s death, Timothy served as bishop of the church at Ephesus, a seaport on the west coast of Asia Minor, until A.D. 97. At that time a group of pagans were celebrating the feast of Catagogion, a festival in which they carried images of their gods about the streets. Timothy met and scolded them for their idolatry. They beat him with clubs, and he died two days later.
Accomplishments of Timothy in the Bible:
Timothy acted as Paul’s scribe and co-author of the books of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. He accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys, and when Paul was in prison, Timothy represented Paul at Corinth and Philippi. For a time, Timothy was also imprisoned for the faith. He converted untold people to the Christian faith.
Despite his young age, Timothy was respected by fellow believers. Well-grounded in Paul’s teachings, Timothy was a reliable evangelist skilled at presenting the gospel.
Timothy appeared to have been intimidated by his youthfulness. Paul urged him in 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (NLT)
He also struggled to overcome fear and timidity. Again, Paul encouraged him in 2 Timothy 1:6-7: “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)
We can overcome our age or other obstacles through spiritual maturity. Having a solid knowledge of the Bible is more important than titles, fame, or degrees. when your first priority is Jesus Christ, true wisdom follows.
Referenced in the Bible:
Acts 16:1, 17:14-15, 18:5, 19:22, 20:4; Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1, 1:19, Philemon 1:1, 2:19, 22; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 3:2, 6; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Hebrews 13:23
Mother – Eunic
Grandmother – Lois
1 Corinthians 4:17
For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (NIV)
But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (NIV)
1 Timothy 6:20
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (NIV)
(Sources: Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, Editor; Illustrated Bible Dictionary by M.G. Easton; and Smith’s Bible Dictionary by William Smith.) [You don’t have the wisdom to say, Is that what you’ve given me today]
Book of 1 Timothy:
The book of 1 Timothy provides a unique yardstick for churches to measure their conduct, as well as identifying traits of committed Christians.
The Apostle Paul, an experienced preacher, gave guidelines in this pastoral letter to his young protégé Timothy for the church in Ephesus. While Paul had complete trust in Timothy (“my true son in the faith,” 1 Timothy 1:2, NIV), he warned against sinister developments in the Ephesian church that had to be dealt with.
One problem was false teachers. Paul commanded proper understanding of the law and also warned against false asceticism, perhaps an influence of early Gnosticism.
Another problem at Ephesus was the behaviour of church leaders and members. Paul taught that salvation was not earned by good works, but rather that godly character and good works were the fruits of a grace-saved Christian
Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy are especially relevant to today’s churches, in which size is often among the factors used to determine a church’s success. Paul cautioned all pastors and church leaders to behave with humility, high morals, and indifference to riches. He spelled out requirements for overseers and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:2-12.
Further, Paul repeated that churches must teach the true gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from human effort. He closed the letter with personal encouragement to Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)
Author of 1 Timothy:
The Apostle Paul.
About 64 A.D.
The church leader Timothy, all future pastors and believers.
Landscape of 1 Timothy:
Themes in the Book of 1 Timothy:
Two scholarly camps exist on the major theme of 1 Timothy. The first says instructions on church order and pastoral responsibilities is the message of the letter. The second camp insists the book’s true aim is to prove that the authentic gospel produces godly results in the lives of those who follow it.
Key Characters in 1 Timothy:
Paul and Timothy
1 Timothy 2:5-6
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. (NIV)
1 Timothy 4:12
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (NIV)
1 Timothy 6:10-11
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (NIV)
Outline of the Book of 1 Timothy:
- The importance of believing right (1:1-20)
- How church members should worship and behave (2:1-3:16)
- How church leaders should behave (4:1-6:21)