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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic

Financial Support for Ministers (Part 2)

The Importance of Music in Worship
The Church and Going to Church
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 1)
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 2)
Introduction: Financial Support for Ministers
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 1)
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 2)
Church Leadership and Authority Conditional
Communal Living

[Continued from Part 1]

4. In I Timothy 5, Paul speaks of the local elders receiving double honor and equates this with the notion of a laborer's reward (the same word as I Corinthians 9:17-18.)

I Timothy 5:16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged;that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. 19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

Remember earlier when we stated that the protocols regarding support for local Church leaders were not laid out in I Corinthians 9 but, being different than the protocols for traveling missionaries, were laid out in detail later in I Timothy 5? Well, here we are and we will show that the protocols are, in fact, different. We know they are different standards of support because the mechanism of support is different.

Regarding missionaries, they traveled to new communities to spread the Gospel and teach those new converts. As such, their financial support came from one of two possible sources, both of which were Biblically valid. First, according to Jesus' original instructions in the Gospel accounts, they could receive support from one house in the village they were staying. They were not to move from house to house.

Second, they could receive support from Churches they were not currently ministering to so that they could present the Gospel without charge wherever they were going. But regarding local elders, they drew support from the communal distribution established in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35. We will show that this fund was entirely need-based (supplementary). And since the means of support for local leaders was different than for missionaries the level of support was also inherently different.

Because of verse 19, we understand that these instructions regarding elders refers to local church elders, those that were appointed by Paul in Acts 14:23. We know this because in verse 19 Paul is instructing them on how to deal with elders seemingly in his absence and as a matter of practice.

The first thing we notice about this verse is that not only were elders to be chosen based upon certain qualifications (See I Timothy 3 and our two-part article entitled "Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling"), but they were also to receive "double honor" and "reward" on a performance basis.

When we examine the term " honor" in the context of the laborer's reward we find that it is the Greek word "time" (Strong's #5092) which is defined as follows.

5092 time {tee-may'}
from 5099; TDNT - 8:169,1181; n f
AV - honour 35, price 8, sum 1, precious 1; 43
1) a valuing by which the price is fixed
1a) of the price itself
1b) of the price paid or received for a person or thing bought or sold
2) honour which belongs or is shown to one
2a) of the honour which one has by reason of rank and state of office which he holds
2b) deference, reverence

There are 43 instances of verses containing Strong's number 5092. The first three are sufficient to demonstrate the range of its usage.

Matthew 27:6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price [5092] of blood.

Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price [5092] of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

John 4:44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour [5092] in his own country.

Based upon this wide range of meaning, this verse could be stating anything from the financial dues of an elder to the respect due to him. Two other occurrences of this word appear just one chapter later in I Timothy clearly indicating respect and high regard. There is little doubt that I Timothy 6:1 is a parallel to Ephesians 6:5-8 where slaves are commanded to be obedient to their masters and not to slack in their work.

1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

1 Timothy 6:16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

So, it might be that the reward Paul has in mind here is simply the honor and respect due to such leaders similar to the statement found in Hebrews.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

If this is what Paul meant then his use of the word "double" would make perfect sense. The better the elders rule, the more honor we should show them in regard to submitting to their teaching. If a ruler does not rule well, then they are not worthy of as much respect and submission.

However, because of the fact that this notion of "honor" is coupled with notions of the laborer's reward and "not muzzling the ox" in verse 18 which corresponds directly to I Corinthians 9, we believe that what Paul is talking about here is, in fact, some form of financial support. But what kind of support? How was the support raised? And what was the level or amount of support?

The key is still the use of the word "double" with regard to the honor given them. "Double" here obviously indicates twice a normal amount. It is clear from Paul's instruction that the amount of "honor" was performance based. That is to say those who ruled well (and particularly those who labored in the word and doctrine) were worthy of "double honor." The measure of the "honor" due them was in proportion to the quality of their "rule" particularly in the word and doctrine.

But what is Paul saying? What was the original measure of honor and to whom was it given? Is he saying that those who rule well should receive double the amount that those who do not rule well receive? Would Paul condone a standard amount of financial dues to those who do not "rule well?"

If Paul is talking about money, one key to understanding this "doubling" is to first understand the economy the Church in those days. We often forget what Acts says on this subject and on this topic it is very relevant. In the second of the two following verses we will even find the Greek word "time."

Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Acts 4:34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices [5092] of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

First of all, the first definition of the Greek word "time" is " a valuing by which the price is fixed." This demonstrates that the term generally conveys a "value." You show value to a prophet. You bring the "value" of your land to the apostles to distribute. Presumably then, the apostles would take that "value" and divide it up to those in need among the Church community.

Back in Acts and in I Timothy 5, Christians were at times selling what they had and bringing it to the apostles who were then redistributing it to every member according to their need. Suppose we take I Corinthians 9 as our cue, and interpret "honor to elders" in I Timothy 5 as a reference to financial dues. Understanding that the first century Christians drew their provision from Church distribution would shed a great deal of light on I Timothy 5. It would then seem quite likely that the "honor" or "value" being doubled was the amount that the elders were to receive from the weekly distribution.

Further proof that this is what Paul had in mind is in I Timothy 5 itself. Notice how Paul starts off this passage.

I Timothy 5:16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. 19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

Paul starts off by talking about distribution to the needs of widows. He instructs about when their needs should be met by the Church and when it should be met by their surviving family members if possible. That seems oddly unrelated unless we take into account our theory about the meaning of "double honor" at which point these two would blend perfectly.

The way Acts recounts this distribution, money was distributed as needed. So, if a man worked and needed no money, he did not draw from the distribution. If a man worked and needed some of the distribution to supplement his own income, then he could draw from it according to his need. If a widow or someone with no income was there, they could draw from the distribution to meet their needs. Conversely, you had to attempt to provide for yourself or you could not draw from the distribution.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

So, in this sense, even the reward given unto elders who ruled well was supplemental to their existing income. This fits perfectly with Paul's instructions in I Corinthians 9. There he focuses on leaders with traveling ministry whose reward it was to have the rest of the Church pay their way as they went so that they would not have to fund themselves and ideally, (according to Paul), would not have to charge those where they were going.

Here he applies the same gerneral rule to local leaders. But we must keep in mind that this is a new scenario and Paul is adapting an old rule to it. Remember that the rules regarding support originated in the Gospels when only missionary work was being done. But by the time Paul is writing this a new position had developed. There were now stationary leaders in local churches, and Paul is applying the same general principle but modifying the protocols to fit that situation.

As we have said, the protocols for missionaries fit that position specifically. From the very texts we understand that those protocols were designed around the fact that missionaries would be traveling constantly from one place to the next. And as we have shown, even I Corinthians 9 simply reiterates this.

But although local ministers could draw on the same general principle, their situation was unique. For one thing, they would not be traveling. In the New Testament, we see provision for missionaries in two ways. First, collections were sometimes raised from one or more Churches to send them to another Church. Second, in following the protocols given by Jesus, missionaries could draw support by living and eating in one home wherever they went, but they were not to move around.

Local leadership positions were entirely different. They were permanently appointed to serve in each city and as such would probably have a house of their own in that place. Thus, they would not need to stay with a new person in each village they travelled to like missionaries would. And, as we will soon see, they did not raise collections for their provision either. We should note that when the raising of collections is mentioned in the New Testament, it is always associated with traveling missionary work, and it is always with the goal that missionaries would not have to charge those they were ministering to, as Paul himself states directly in I Corinthians 9:18.

However, local leaders would still be making the sacrifice of taking time away from the rest of their available work schedule to teach and administrate the affairs of the Church. As such, they were due a reward. But what reward and how should it be raised?

Paul answers this clearly in I Timothy 5. Special consideration was to be made for them from the weekly distribution. This was particularly so if they did their tasks well and if their duties were in the area of the word and doctrine. This last point emphasizes along with Acts 6 and Luke 10:38-42 (Mary and Martha) the hierarchy the apostles placed upon the teaching and study of the Word over other service works. (Remember that the word for minister, even as applied to Paul himself and to deacons was one that meant "servant." See our two-part article entitled "Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling.")

Our findings can be summed up as follows.

Given that the modern Church does not sell its belongings and present it to our leaders to redistribute according to our need, it seems odd that our leadership would insist on maintaining such obsolete principles as a basis for our paying them regular, full-time salaries. (We do not mean to suggest that this ancient communal system at work in the early Church SHOULD be obsolete, but merely that the modern Church regards it as such.)

We do mean, however, that it seems more than a little inconsistent for the modern church to uphold an elaborated form of a small portion of 1st century church economic practice by employing pastors, and then leave out the overarching practice of shared wealth, possession, and property for the rest of the community of believers. If we believe this practice is demanded of the modern church than we should implement it in its entirety for the benefit of all not just some in the interest of remaining Biblically consistent.

On the other hand if we believe this practice is not Biblically mandated for the modern church then we should be true to this conclusion and not practice any of it and certainly not appeal to parts of it in order to bolster the legitimacy of our more recently developed economic practices. It would be difficult to demonstrate from the scripture that the writers of the New Testament were advocating that part of this 1st century practice was intended by God to continue and change throughout the life of the church for all time while other parts were soon to become completely obsolete.

And we should not hastily overlook Paul's own efforts to avoid charging those he ministered to even as a missionary. After all, Paul maintained his profession as a tentmaker.

Acts 18:2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.

In addition, we have no indication that the rule in II Thessalonians 3:10 would not apply equally to local leaders as it would to lay people. After all Paul gives no indication in this passage that the rule only applies to laypersons. This rule seems to have been given in order to govern the weekly distribution, which further indicates that the rule probably applied to all who drew from that distribution, leadership and laypersons.

If local leaders don't work to make provide for themselves, they shouldn't be taking provision from the rest of us. The fact that their labor in the word and doctrine is above and beyond their regular weekly labor is precisely what makes it a sacrifice and an act of service.

And additionally, this would keep from having unqualified men choosing a labor-free lifestyle by becoming pastors instead of working professionals. In our opinion, one of the worst results of the Church's historic evolution to full-time, salaried pastors has been the creation of a two-class Body of Christ. This two class church invariably creates the mentality that we need pastors precisely because the rest of us don't have the time to become the experts in the Word and doctrine that they are. So we pay them to be what we think we cannot and need not become.

This results in a perpetually increasing state of biblical ignorance. Because ministers and lay people all come from the same general stock they are both stuck with this same understanding of the dynamic. The people get more ignorant because they have already accepted the notion that they cannot understand the Word or doctrine and are not called to do so. And thank God, that's what we have leaders for. The leaders get more ignorant because the people don't know the word well enough to challenge them on any level.

At least in someway, Paul seems to have seen this problem coming, which may have been why he refused to charge those he ministered to. On some level, Paul recognized a potential conflict of interest that prompted him to associate making a living from the Gospel as both a right and "a potential hindrance to the Gospel of Christ." Paul also refused to invoke this right because he saw the use of it as leading to the abuse of his leadership role. All of this is clear from I Corinthians 9:12,18. And this is why Paul thought it was a matter of the utmost importance to make his ministry of no charge.

But didn't the other apostles make use of this right? Yes, according to Paul they did. But the question is not whether the other apostles had the right to do this, the question is, what has possessed our modern church leaders to think that they are wiser than Paul in this regard? And unless they are missionaries, they have no right to full support no matter whose example they claim to follow.

The basis we do have for local leaders to receive provision comes out of a communal distribution system that was in place at that time, is not in place today, and was inherently supplementary in nature. Those who CAN work to support themselves SHOULD do so. To not do so at the expense of the Church was to break the rule expressly stated in II Thessalonians 3:10. And it is an abuse of the leaders place in the Church. There is no place in the context of the New Testament for local ministers receiving full-time salaries from local or home congregations that work to support them so that they do not have to work for a living. Supplementary income maybe acceptable, but outright salaries for those who do not work is definitely not.

So, what can we conclude about the New Testament perspective on paying Christian leaders?

1. Leaders had a right for support from Churches when they were doing missionary work abroad as was the case with the apostles and the brothers of the Lord. Like men serving in the military or going to plant (start) vineyards (church congregations), they had the right to forbear working while doing so. But the scripture applied this protocol only to missionary work, not local ministry. Matthew 10:1-14, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6, and Luke 10:1-12, I Corinthians 9:5,17-18, II Corinthians 11:7-9, Philippians 4:15-19.

2. On a local level, every member of the Church received according to their need from a weekly Church distribution created by the voluntary selling of property and goods by some members who then brought the proceeds to the Church leaders. Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; I Timothy 5:16-18.

3. The wage (or reward) due to local Church leaders was not the same as that due to missionary workers. The reward due to local Church leaders was that they could receive a double portion of the weekly distribution supplement. This is spelled out specifically by Paul in I Timothy 5 in the same way that I Corinthians 9 focuses on those doing missionary work. In this way the "ox was not being muzzled as it treaded out the grain."

The reason for the difference was likely because of the difference in the job descriptions. Local leaders were permanent. As such, if they were to be supported by "one house" on a permanent basis, this would become a burden. On the other hand, missionaries typically moved around so no one would permanently be burden with their provision.

Conversely, because the livelihood of a local leader would not be disrupted by constant travel as would be the case for a missionary, their capacity to earn a living themselves would not be disrupted anywhere near the same extent as a missionary's would be. So, nothing in their job function would prevent them from working for a living, but still it might cut into their work time somewhat. To supplement this, they were to draw from the Church's weekly communal distribution. But like the rest of the Church, if they did not do what they could to meet their own needs, they could not take from the supplement. I Timothy 5:16-18, II Thessalonians 3:10.

4. Since the communal economy of the first century Church is not practiced by the modern Church (unless we want to reenact such a communal economy) we have no basis for expanding one of its provisions as a basis for full-time salaried local pastors and ministers.