4. A Minister’s Just Salary
I have presented the position that it is just, fair, and biblical for a church to pay their minister/pastor a fair and just wage. Others have taken the position that the ministers of a church (pastor, deacons, elders, teachers, etc.) should never accept money for their labors as a minister. I do not think in most cases, we can extend this sharing in the financial burden of these men of God down to Sunday School teachers, but at least the pastor of a church should be full-time in his service for the Lord, and the church people should pay this.
I need to explain the different situations of people and churches here.
A small church or new church plant. In the case of a very small church, a new church plant, or even a church that has had a split or other similar problem, we need to understand the New Testament on the matter. When starting a new church, the work of evangelism is intense, and as the workers (usually the pastor alone or the pastor and his wife) are the only ones doing it. In this case, there is no money available to pay his salary. In this case, it is completely New Testament to work secular work while you work the Lord’s work. There is really no other way to do it. When this situation forces the group to go to this option, I think this is what Paul’s missionary efforts were at the beginning. This does not excuse a larger group of people to not pay their minister because they just don’t want to (on principle), or because they are cheap and are not wanting to donate to God’s work.
The Jewish Synagogue System. Most of the New Testament churches were basically following some modified form of the Jewish synagogue system. Once the single only valid place to worship (being Jerusalem) was destroyed, the Jewish adapted to local places of worship. In each of these, far from Jerusalem, a group of believing Jews would get together and desire a place and act of worship. They worshiped whether there was a rabbi (teacher) or not, but their immediate goal was to get a building and a teacher for themselves. They did the stop gap measure of distributing the teaching among the mature men, and everybody recruiting more members. Once they had 10 families, they searched for a rabbi to come and be their teacher. The 10 family rule was based on the fact that each Jewish family had a man of the house that worked to support his family. The women worked in the home and had no income per se except what their husbands brought in. Today many families have both husband and wife working. If we take that into consideration, a small group of 5 to 7 families (with 8 to 11 wage earners) would fit the case. Each one gives a tenth of his income, and at least 10 tenths would make a just salary, based on the average of everybody in the group. The rabbi’s tithe would pay for the incidentals of the synagogue. The rabbi and all its members would pay and work to build the actual building.
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Using that principle (precept, because that is what was done by believers in later Hebrew history of the Old Testament and the New Testament), we can see that there is no problem for even a small group to pay their own minister. Since in that day, work was oriented to fields and farming, but today things are different so in our situations today, the church can be giving a partial salary while the minister works secular work until the congregation grows enough to undertake his full salary.
A good size church. Once a church grows to the point where they have a number of regular people attending and participating, there is no reason why they should not pay their pastor (also undertake the bills of the church).
A very large or lucrative church. If we consider that the precept in the synagogue system was an average of the members’ income, this is a good rough gauge for how much a church should pay their minister. Maybe a church with $100,000 income each week is not going to give their pastor $10,000/week salary. At some point it becomes more excessive that wise.
A Scriptural Defense for Paying a Minister
Lev 19:13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
Deut 24:14 Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: Deut 24:15 At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee.
The first consideration here is that every believer is to do valid work and support his own self. A preacher does valid work in visiting, evangelizing, preaching, teaching, and praying in the ministry where he labors. From those people, they should pay his economic support. It is important to understand that the general rule is that the people receiving the benefit of his labors are the ones to bear the burden of his financial and economic support.
The Bible considers it fraud to contract somebody to do work for them, and then to not pay that person. This can be a promise of payment and then not doing it, or an argument that the person should work for free.
Matt 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
Luke 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
I am a missionary and I have lived since 1983 by the gifts and donations of God’s people that believe in my ministry and my calling to that ministry. Yet I find these verses difficult for me. The principle that Jesus used to set the law of operations for the evangelists was that the workman is worthy of his meat. They were not to “go from house to house”, i.e. begging for money. I would presume that they were not to impose or excise a salary from the people that received the Gospel. So my only alternative conclusion is that Jesus wanted them to preach and teach this rule that a minister is to be paid by those to whom he ministers.
I think the principle that we cannot get around, that we have to insist on, is that each believer has a responsibility to support the work of God that they are a part of. This follows a preceding principle that ALL SAVED INDIVIDUALS HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO FIND OR FORM A LOCAL CHURCH TO WORSHIP AT. This is obvious in the New Testament epistles. People wherever they find themselves started a group of Christians to worship and further the work of God. I would add to this preceding principle the clarification that they were also required to participate, both by attending, tithing, and laboring (in prayer, helping in any way they could, teaching, etc.). All of this precedes our principle in view, this group (as small as it may be, even one or two individuals) have the obligation to support any minister of God that is laboring among them, even on an eventual or occasional basis. It is beyond me how so many Christians can justify exactly the opposite, that they refuse to accept any financial assistance, and morally depreciate anybody else that does so.
Let me insist here that these instructions are not optional. We don’t follow them if we so feel led to do so. They are in the Bible, and therefore we are sinning if we do not teach and insist on them, obeying them, abiding by them. So many good-hearted ministers have labored with groups not taking any personal help from them, and when the minister moves on, somebody else comes in their place, and they don’t have money in the stock market, or pensions or other sources of income to live by, and they can only live by receiving a just wage or salary, and the group looks on this minister as carnal for wanting or expecting them to pay his salary. Lev 19:13 and Deut 24:14-15 (mentioned above) come to mind quickly here.
1Tim 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
1Cor 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 1Cor 9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. 1Cor 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
You cannot get around the very obvious here that God wants his people to pay for the ministers that minister to them. In 1Timothy 5:18, Paul was instructing Timothy for repeating in the local church setting where he was. So that situation was very definitely a local assembly. The rule was the laborer should be rewarded for his labors.
For all that people wish to twist and turn Scripture to say something else, this is what it actually says.
Secondly, 1Corinthians 9 is a defense of Paul’s missionary ministry receiving donations for what he is doing. He was defending the “right” of missionaries to work at other people’s expense. Even though this was God’s rule, Paul felt the possibility to make an exception in the Corinthian situation to work a secular job and receive money from other churches (in essence robbing them) in order to labor in Corinth. The “robbing them” is not that it was wrong for him to receive their financial help, but rather it was wrong for the Corinthian church to have the economic ability to support Paul, and they didn’t, throwing that responsibility off and onto other churches. Paul’s not wanting to argue with highly carnal and contentious Christians gave them a great benefit of living by means of “other means” because the Corinthian carnality impeded his simple receiving economic help from them (both when they could and when they were morally obligated to do so).
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If you study the context, Paul’s argument is that it is biblical and right and just to be supported by the people you minister to, and in the Corinthians case, Paul suffered wrongdoing to his own self in order to avoid their contentious and argumentative spirit.
What is a “just salary”?
My understanding of a just salary is something that is adjusted to the individual minister’s case, as well as adjusted by the economic power of the church paying him. A large church with economic means but that refuses to give money is a sin. Equally, giving too much money or too little money is wrong. Giving too little may be necessary at first, but the goal of a church from its inception should be economic stability. Giving too much should be taken into consideration what is an average income of the people in the church, and that should be the basis for deciding what is “just.”
I think the key here is to teach what God has given us to follow, that the local church should be paying for its own expenses and the salary of the people who are working in it. There are some points where people run wild with this, and we need to take these up also.
A TV ministry, A non-Local Church Ministry
I will use this as an example, but the principle is widespread. A group centered around a charismatic personality sets up “a ministry”, and they come around wanting churches to support them with a hefty monthly donation. The bottom line is that denominationalism is not seen nor taught in the New Testament. Denominationalism is the set up where there are people who control the church, but they are not local but regional. The entire concept of the Catholic pope is that there is a single representative of the church on earth before God, and that is the pope. Being the representative, he is also the one who controls and commands, and everyone below him needs to contribute economically to him and that superstructure he represents. This is highly unbiblical.
A denomination is just another version of the same thing where a local group of people (a church) gives up their own sovereignty to a “higher up” to laud over them, and in some sense, that “higher up” receives money from the “lower downers”. This is classically what false prophets want to establish. They want to enslave God’s people, and this usually involves control and money.
If people want to substitute a TV minister for a local church. Fine. Find that in the Bible. There are situations where people cannot get out of bed, and they watch these programs. For the most part, these TV ministries are all false prophets. If a local church puts their Sunday services on the Internet or TV, I have no problem with that. But people should seek to be connected to a local ministry, even if they are bed-bound. They can listen to sermon tapes of that ministry, and their tithes and offerings should go to that local ministry.
A False Prophet
A mark of the false prophet is his high regard for money, specifically, he wants to live in pleasure and luxury. He works a group of people to achieve this. If he is an example of Christ for the people under him, why doesn’t he sacrifice twice as much as his people does? So often even shows of sacrifice by these people where they place a $1000 dollar check in the offering plate are offset by the entire offering being given back to them.
A just salary is not an embarrassment to let your people know how much you are making. At the same time, a just man of God in charge will make safeguards of his taking money from the church “unjustly”, and will place people that are neutral to him (not yes men) over the financial affairs. Honesty and fairness and openness are very important elements to protect in a church situation.
It is not wrong to preach the truth of God
It is wrong to refuse to preach part of God’s truth
Some people want to place any pastor preaching on the obligation of the people of God to support their own ministers as a fraud, a “money grubbing” preacher, or in some way he is wrong. We must be clear here and STRONGLY INSIST! If God has taught us this principle, ordering us to do it by direct commandment and by precept, then any person, argument, or any other thing that causes us to not follow God’s principles is a satanic force. We must insist that this is not “a good thing if your people will accept it without a problem“, it is a truth of God that must be insisted upon and practiced no matter how difficult it is for people to accept or abide by. We must obey ALL that God has instructed us, and this is something that so often Pastors refuse to preach “to be good to their people” supposedly. That is a cop-out. By not obeying God on this point, these pastors are damaging and hurting the spiritual lives of their congregation. They cannot get by and still be approved by God if they do not teach the whole counsel of God.