Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Feed the Ox!

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm

1 Timothy 5:17-18 – 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.”  (NASB)

There is a vital question that should be asked by every church regarding the support of their pastor, or in larger churches pastors, “What would be a fair and equitable wage for his labors?”

Too often the question is asked, “What is the smallest salary upon which the pastor and his family can live?”  Church budgets are tight, but too many times the budget ends up being balanced on the back of the pastor when there are other areas, less important areas and less biblical areas that could be cut.  In the above passage we find a number of principles that guide us in knowing how much a pastor should be paid.

First, we see the minister should be competent.  He rules well.  He is a true shepherd to his flock.  He is a capable preacher/teacher.  A man fitting those descriptions is worthy of “double honor”.

Second we see the worker is worthy of his wages.  The Greek construction ties the “considered worthy” of verse 17 with the wages of verse 18.  It makes grammatical sense to see Paul is talking about money.  “Double honor” taken at face value means a double salary.  Do we worry that the Pastor is being paid too much?  The Bible tells us he is worthy of a salary that is double what the average person would make.

Generally, the faithful pastor won’t be paid double the normal salary of the average person in his church or his community.  It is even likely the faithful pastor would refuse such a large salary, but the point is – he deserves it.  The ox treads out the grain, and the pastor continues faithfully in his work.  The fact he does not have to labor at a secular calling is a blessing to both he and the church.   The church has the privilege of putting him aside to tend to his calling, and the church should not begrudge him his wages.  The church does well to err on the side of generosity in his salary instead of trying to pay as little as possible.  Err on the side of generosity and expect the blessing of God which comes to those who give liberally and with a free hand.

The pastoral salary should be the number one monetary priority in a church.  It is more important than the building, it is more important than programs.  But, more is in view than just money.  BAGD tells us “honor” means “price – value – honor – reverence”.  So, we might do well to think of both remuneration and respect.  The elder who rules well and preaches the Word in truth is doubly valuable!

In our day, there is a point just as important we can draw from this text, but it far less obvious.  “Double honor” also limits the salary of the Pastor!  He’s not 100 times more valuable.  He’s not 10 times more valuable.  The Bible says “double honor”.  There’s an inherent modesty and limitation here.  This keeps the minister from greed and pride and becoming a hireling.  It also keeps the church member from engaging in pastoral idol worship.  Pastors are not sports figures, rock stars or celebrities.  They are not to be worshipped or given extravagant salaries.  They are paid, hopefully comfortably paid, so they can serve Christ and His church without care and without needless distraction.

We find monetary abuses among many, especially among the stereotypical tele-evangelist or pastors of mega churches.  Accounts of financial misconduct seem to always be in the news.  The world loves to point at the greedy minister who lives in luxury and is always asking for more donations.  At the same time, these pseudo-pastors often justify their mega-salaries by comparing themselves to CEO’s of large corporations.  They argue that the CEO is worthy of his huge salary because of his immense worth to the organization.  However, the Scriptures never compare the minister to a CEO.  Ministers are compared to soldiers, farmers, shepherds, beasts of burden (oxen) and Temple priests (see 1 Cor. 9:7-14).   Sadly, we would agree that many so called pastors do act more like CEO’s than they do servants of Christ, giving the enemies of God cause to mock.

Finally, it should be noted that many pastors faithfully serve in small churches.  The type of support the pastor deserves simply isn’t possible, in fact, adequate support is not possible.  Thus the pastor must be bi-vocational.  This too is in the providence of God and hopefully it is not a permanent situation.  Even the small church should be as generous as it can be with the goal of full support when God so allows.  By setting money aside from the budget on a regular basis, or helping the pastor where she can, the church can move toward the ultimate goal of supporting her pastor.

The man who refuses to minister, because the church cannot pay him adequately finds himself dangerously close to the category of “hireling”.   While he needs to take care of his family, he also is not in the ministry for the money.  The reason a pastor is paid, is to free his time.  The bi-vocational pastor must carefully weigh his ministerial, work and family obligations, and prioritize to the glory of the Lord.  The man who neglects his family in this situation is likely to lose his family – and what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own family?

Likewise, the church that can pay their pastor a proper salary, yet refuses to do so is in danger of mistreating the Lord’s servant – and forfeiting the blessings of God.  The workman is worthy of his hire.  Blessed is the church which has a faithful Workman of God!

Steve Marquedant
Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Ontario, California
  1. Excellent! A balanced view.

  2. “The pastoral salary should be the number one monetary priority in a church. It is more important than the building, it is more important than programs.” This is a very true statement, I never thought about it before. The only real blessing of any church is the Pastor, everything the congergation reaps is from him or them. There are many men who pastor churches that are not truly called of God, I pray that those who are truly called are being blessed with their proper wage and honor. I also pray that we who benefit from the great blessing of a called man of God, to oversee us, will take very seriously the need to give generously to the Lord, for His kingdom, His glory and our good. I too think this is an excellent article and well balanced view.

  3. I find this article to be both revealing and refreshing as it approaches a very controversial topic (pastors & money) with an extremely balanced and biblical view. This is definitely a hot button topic due to all of the hirelings that do exist in the world today. I guess if the qualified pastor is due double honor I guess that would mean that the hireling is not due any at all. Oh, that people would just read their bibles and pour there hard earned resources into the true work of God. To God be the Glory!

  4. What we give to our church should go for God’s work but often in some churches that isn’t true. A pastor should be one who serves the Lord by shepherding the people and is worthy of his hire. Also we neglect to pray for our pastors. That is important, too.

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