Should Pastors Be Paid? (Timothy 13)


(READ 1 Timothy 5:17-25)  Paul instructed Timothy about how to treat people.  He talked about financial support for widows in need.  That brings up the questions of financially supporting pastors.  Should they work for their salary instead of taking money from the church?  After all, didn’t Paul support himself as a tent maker?  Paul told Timothy just what he thought about a pastor being paid in 1 Timothy 5:17: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”

“Elder” was the Jewish term used for the leader of a synagogue, the same as “Overseer” was used of a Gentile leader.  They both refer to the person we would call “pastor.”  Paul said there two main responsibilities for these men.  First, they were to “direct the affairs of the church.”  They didn’t have to do everything themselves, but they had to see it got done.  They were like the principal of a school, like the leader of a synagogue.  In Ephesians 4:12-13 Paul says pastors are to “equip God’s people for words of service.”  Pastors don’t do all the work themselves; they train others to minister and serve.

The second responsibility for pastors is “preaching and teaching.”  Shepherds must feed the sheep or they won’t mature and grow.  The same is true of pastors.  Teaching the Bible is how we equip others to serve (Ephesians 4:12-13).  We can get so busy with all the other responsibilities and duties of leading a church that we neglect studying the Bible and developing good messages to teach His Word.  That is very wrong (Acts 6:4).

Pastors who direct their church and feed their people are “worthy of double honor.”  A pastor receives honor and respect from the people to whom he ministers.  He is also to receive financial support so he has time to study, pray and minister.  If he works for a salary, he has far less time to serve.  Pastors are as worthy of financial support as they are of respect and honor.  How do we know Paul is talking about paying a pastor here?  Read the next verse.

“For” means he is giving proof of what he just said.  His proof is what “the Scripture says” (5:18).  He quotes two Old Testament passages to prove that people should pay pastors: Deuteronomy 25:4 and 24:15.  Not only do pastors need the money to live and minister, people need to learn to share and sacrifice to contribute to the ministry.  God gives His people extra finances so they will have some to pass on to their pastors, but often in their greed they want to keep it all for themselves.  Those who pastor well are to be honored and supported.  But what if a pastor isn’t serving well and people complain about him?  Then what?

When there is criticism of a pastor, it has to be proven by 2 or mor people and not just gossip (5:19).  If there is truth to what is said, the offending leader must be publicly corrected (5:20).  If the sin was publicly known, the correction and repentance should be public as well.  It’s important to be fair and impartial when evaluating accusations against a pastor.  Treat him as you would want to be treated.

A lot of these problems with pastors can be solved by making sure the men who are chosen to be pastors are godly, mature men (5:22, 24-25).   Don’t be too quick to ordain someone who shows promise (5:22).  Give them time to mature.  Make sure you know them well and watch their lives (5:24-25).  If you put unworthy men in places of responsibility, it is partly your fault when things go wrong.

All of this is very hard on Timothy who is fearful of confrontation and criticism.  The stress and anxiety are so bad he wants to leave.  It is even affecting his health, so Paul advises he drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake (5:23).  Water was unsanitary and a little wine could help.  The content of alcohol in wine then was very low.  Many medications today have alcohol in them, so a small amount could be beneficial to him.  That was just treating the symptoms, though.  Timothy needed to trust in God confront his fears to be truly free, and so do we.

So, we see that pastors who direct their church and preach and teach well should be given honor as well as a salary they can live on.  We shouldn’t listen to criticism of pastors unless it is proven by at least two people, but if it is true, we must correct the errors in a gentle, loving way.  To prevent many of these problems, make sure those you put in position of authority are godly, mature men.

Do you teach your people that it is important for them to give you a livable salary, equal to their standard of living? 

Do you handle problems with church leaders in the way Paul tells Timothy?  What can you do to improve?

What part of ministry causes stress and anxiety in you?  How do you handle it?


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