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Should ministers receive pay
for their ministry?

During the days of his missionary endeavors, we find that the Apostle Paul refused to accept wages from those churches he planted. This was a voluntary act on his part so the skeptics and unbelievers could not accuse his preaching of the Gospel as a motive for monetary gain (1 Cor. 9:12,15,18). Paul apparently financed his missions trips by working his trade as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), and from the contributions of other established churches (Phil. 4:14-16).

However, Paul taught that it was a long established scriptural principle that ministers of spiritual things are entitled and ordained to receive their living from their labor of ministry. He cited from the Levitical law (Lev. 2 & 7) how the priests were to eat from the meat which were brought to the altars as sacrifices to God. "Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:13-14).

The Apostle made quite a case of reason for the provision for Gospel ministers. He asks, "Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?" (1 Cor. 9:7).

Elsewhere, Paul told Timothy that those church elders who excelled in leadership and ministry were entitled to "double honor," a reference to both respect and fiscal reward. He quoted from Moses' law (Deut. 25:4) which forbade the muzzling of oxen used in harvest of the cornfields — that is, in the course of their labor they were entitled to eat of the corn. Paul used this as a case to further the idea that the person who labors well in spiritual matters should be rewarded accordingly. "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain, and, The laborer is worthy of his wages" (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

According to scripture, a congregation should consider it a priority to care for the needs of their pastor. A pastor has a family to support, bills to pay, and is as entitled to vacations or retirement as anyone else. "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so" (Prov. 3:27).

If a church prospers under a pastor's ministry, that congregation should especially see that the pastor's wages reflect the fruit of his labors. If you were hired to manage a secular business, and its income doubled or tripled under your direction, wouldn't you expect to be rewarded for your efforts? If you weren't, would it tend to motivate you or discourage you in your attitude to keep working hard? God considers it a sin to suppress a laborer in his wages (Mal. 3:5).

Indeed, every church should recognize that the minister is entitled to receive pay for his labors. But on the other hand, the minister must always be cautious that his motives never become focused on compensation. A true pastor... a genuinely called minister of Jesus Christ is not in the ministry for money. Jesus said that a "hireling," one who watches over the sheep for the sake of pay, will selfishly abandon the sheep when attacked by the wolf, because he is not a genuine shepherd (John 10:12-13). The scripture exhorts true servants of God to serve the flock willingly, out of love and obedience, not for the dishonest motive of money. "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly" (1 Pet. 5:2).

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us.