Should Preachers Be Paid?

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Conley Owens argues that the Bible is clear that ministers should be financially supported. In the same context that Jesus commanded the disciples to “freely give” their message, he acknowledged that the worker is “worthy of his food” (Matt. 10:10). Paul also argued for the right of a minister to earn a living as he does ministry (1 Cor. 9:1-14). Ministry should be supported, but it shouldn’t be sold. So long as the gospel worker makes no exchange for his message, he is free to receive support. Conley walks us through several implications of this distinction. LEARN MORE PODCAST ALSO AVAILABLE ON... Spotify - Apple Podcasts - RSS -


Should preachers be paid? Jesus was clear in Matthew 10 .8
that the preached word should be freely given, and Paul spoke against being a peddler of the word in 2
Corinthians 2 .17. Given these embargoes on commercial exchanges in ministry, one who desires to follow a biblical ethic may wonder whether a minister, in particular a preacher, may even be paid at all.
Out of such concern, some have completely forgone a reliable income and the work of the gospel to live as tentmakers, and others have gone as far as abandoning ministry altogether, unable to navigate the difficulty.
However, the Bible is clear that ministers should be financially supported. In the same context that Jesus commanded the disciples to freely give their message, he acknowledged that the worker is worthy of his food in Matthew 10 .10.
Paul also argued for the right of a minister to earn a living as he does ministry. That's throughout the chapter of 1
Corinthians 9. Ministry should be supported, but it shouldn't be sold.
So long as the gospel worker makes no exchange for his message, he is free to receive support.
Let's consider several implications of this distinction. First, vocational ministry.
The Bible not only allows, but even commends vocational ministry.
While the Lord often calls people to a bivocational course in life, both working in a secular job as well as in ministry, many have pursued such a course without warrant, needlessly stretching themselves thin.
Consider the fact that Paul himself took a break from making tents when he had the opportunity.
In Acts 18 .1 -4, Luke explains Paul's tent -making labors. But in the next verse, we read,
When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself fully to the word, testifying to the
Jews that Jesus is the Christ. That's Acts 18 .5. Evidently, Silas and Timothy brought
Paul financial support so that he might labor full -time in the proclamation of the gospel.
The churches of Macedonia were Paul's primary external source of funding. You can see that in Philippians 4 .15.
And elsewhere, in 2 Corinthians 11 .9, he confirms that they supplied his work while he was in Corinth.
Paul evidently preferred a focused ministry. And in his second letter to Timothy, he explains why this is ideal.
In 2 Timothy 2 .4, he says, A soldier refrains from entangling himself in civilian affairs in order to please the one who enlisted him.
The Lord supplies his laborers with what they need. And for many, he provides enough for full -time work.
To forbid vocational ministry is to forbid what God has ordained. Next, salaries.
While it never makes explicit mention of the concept, the Bible certainly permits salaried support.
Since the time of the Reformation, many have acknowledged the legitimacy of material support for ministers, but then criticized an irregularity in this support.
That is, so long as the financial maintenance is not salaried, it may be acceptable.
So this position I'm describing was adopted by people like Minnow Simons and further popularized by George Mueller and is held by many evangelicals today.
This approach has a number of pragmatic justifications. The ability of a congregation to give may only last for a season.
A minister may be tempted to appease regular donors in his preaching. A minister may cease to trust
God for his supply, etc. Of course, every single one of these issues exists with irregular support, and some perhaps even in greater measure.
However, the real issue, the issue at the core, is with biblical foundations.
As pious as a rejection of salaries may sound, it lacks any such grounding.
And so, it should not bind the conscience. Never does the Bible actually forbid salaried ministry.
The conclusion that ministers should not be salaried likely represents a well -meant attempt to grapple with the
Bible's strong prohibitions against the sale of ministry. However, the Bible nowhere distinguishes between regular and irregular funding.
Instead, it distinguishes between reciprocity and co -labor, sale and support.
Well then, should a minister's regular paycheck be counted as reciprocity or as co -labor?
Certainly, a man could go about his duties with a mercenary mindset, and the people could give with the same heart.
These would all run afoul of the biblical ethic. Yet if the people of God promote the proclamation of the gospel, a few giving their time and skill in teaching, the rest giving their funds, this is clearly a joint venture.
That is why John calls those who give to missionaries, fellow workers for the truth.
3 John 7 -8 Lastly, this applies to honorariums as well.
Ministers may indeed receive honorariums. Our concern for the support of preachers and other ministers does not end with those firmly installed in a congregation, but it extends even to those who may work temporarily with various congregations.
So, what is an honorarium? In the New Testament, the term honor frequently denotes price or value.
For example, you could look at Matthew 27, 6 -9, Acts 4, 34, Acts 5, 2 -3, 1
Timothy 5, 17. In all these examples, the Greek term for honor also means price.
Similarly, we use the word honorarium to speak of a sum given to a speaker.
Now, it is possible that these might have the shape of commercial transactions, one providing the other with a service, in exchange for a fee, but such a shape is not necessary.
Used rightly, honorariums may be regarded as a fruitful means of supporting interim preachers and teachers.
If the purpose of a church is to gather for the collective worship of God and the preaching and hearing of His word, the congregation and preacher work toward the same end.
Anchored by a mutual desire to properly honor God, a church provides an honorarium as an act of co -labor.
If, then, a regular preacher receives from his church in coordination with his labors among them, a visiting preacher may do the same.
This is why Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9, 5, could acknowledge that Peter was able to arrive at Corinth and receive financial support for his work there.
In conclusion, ministers should take special precautions not to transgress the
Bible's ethic of ministry fundraising. However, if we forbid what the Bible permits, and even commends, we wander into the realm of legalism, harming ourselves and others.
Let us not sell ministry, but let us encourage its support to the fullest.