Money is such a controversial topic in the church. As soon as some pastors begin a talk about money, some people turn the preacher “off”. I know why this is. Usually it is a response to the incorrect teaching and practical abuses of money in the church by church leadership. At other times, people don’t want to hear teaching about money due to their own greed.
Some ministries seem to exist to make the leader rich. Other churches seem to exist to keep their leader as humble as possible or as poor as possible!
What is the truth? Let’s look some of the apostle Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth to get some idea of the truth.
As you remember, there were arguments in Corinth over who was the most spiritually gifted and mature leader. Many were questioning Paul’s position in the church.
Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that he was used as the tool to plant the church in Corinth and to lead them to the Lord. This was all done at the direction of the Lord Himself, who Paul had actually seen in the city (Acts 18:9-10). Their very existence and growth was evidence of his calling in the Lord.
But, some were challenging his position and, therefore questioning his “rights” as a leader in the church. One of the rights they were questioning was his right to be supported financially by the church.
What does the scripture say about paying ministers?
- Sowers have the right to reap.
Paul uses some everyday examples to reflect this truth. A man who is planting in a vineyard eats of the fruit. A man who raises livestock drinks of the milk and eats of the meat. A soldier sows his life and reaps back support for his food, shelter, and tools of warfare. If ministers sow spiritual things in you, is it wrong for them to reap material things from you? Sowers should sow in hope of reaping.
- The Old Testament law set the standard for support.
Deuteronomy 25:4 states: “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” It is not oxen God is speaking of, but those who work in his field. Ministers work in God’s field: that is why they were created – just as an ox is created to plow. So, they should be able to live off of the grain that is produced where they are called.
In Nehemiah, chapter 13:10, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem after a trip back to Persia. He returns to find that the people have not been supporting the house of the Lord with their tithes and the Levites who work in the temple have gone back to farming to earn their living. Nehemiah asked in verse 11: “Why has the house of God been forsaken?” Malachi, a prophet who ministered during Nehemiah’s day rebuked the people for forsaking the house of God through withholding their material support and said that it was God’s plan that the people support the house of God and its ministers.
- God’s ways have not changed in the New Testament
Jesus, our Lord and Savior received gifts and support from those whom He ministered to. Luke 8:1-4 – “Now it came to pass, afterward that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.”
1 Corinthians 9:14 – “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”
Paul makes these points to verify his “rights” to their love and support. But, remember: Paul illustrates how he set aside his “rights” for the good of those who were in Corinth. Because of questions regarding his motives, Paul refuses his right to financial support to prove his motives were pure to those who were questioning him.
What a stark contrast to those who seek to get rich off of the ministry! If some today whose motives are being questioned did the same it might stop accusations of greed!
It is perfectly biblical for your pastor to receive a living wage for his service. How can we say we love them and and not be willing to support their calling! Nevertheless, greed is greed whether it works on Wall Street or behind a pulpit!
The love of money is the root of all evil but if love controls money then we will see it used for purposes that are godly and holy among the people of God.