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Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits – Conclusion

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in discipleship, elders | 8 comments

Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits – Conclusion

Last week, I published the first five posts in this series on the connection between elders/pastors and financial benefits. After introducing the series, in the next four posts, I analyzed the only three passages in Scripture that mention elders/pastors and finances in the same contexts: Acts 20:33-35, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and 1 Peter 5:2.

In those passages, I concluded that Luke recorded Paul referred to his own example and told the elders from Ephesus to work with their hands (separate from their work shepherding and helping others) so that they could support themselves and others. (Acts 20:33-35) While it’s impossible to tell whether or not “double honor” refers to some kind of financial benefit, Paul tells Timothy that the “double honor” should be given to those elders who are already leading well and working hard in the word and teaching. “Double honor” is not given so that so someone would serve as an elder. (1 Timothy 5:17-18) Finally, Peter said that elders should not serve for the purpose of financial gain, but should do so freely. (1 Peter 5:2)

So, in the only passages of Scripture in which elders/pastors and financial benefits are mentioned in the same context, there is no indication that churches should pay salaries to people so that they will be their elders/pastors. In fact, these passages teach the opposite: elders/pastors serve others without regard to any type of financial benefit and work (independent of the “work” shepherding others) to support themselves.

Now, as I said in the introduction, I said that Scripture does not support the idea of paying a salary to someone to be an elder/pastor. The passages that I analyzed above form part of the reason that I believe that. However, these passages are not the only reasons that I believe Scripture does not teach that people should be paid salaries so that they will be elders/pastors. There are other passages that inform my understanding on that topic as well.

For example (but again, not extensively), Galatians 6:6 is one of the passages that most clearly indicates that some type of financial gift could be given from one Christian to another based on someone’s service. Here is that passage:

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. (Galatians 6:6 ESV)

Now, the phrase “all good things,” may not refer to some type of financial benefit, but it could refer to that. However, the problem is that “all good things” is to be shared with “the one who teaches.” This does not refer exclusively to elders/pastors but to anyone who teaches someone else. There is nothing in the passage or context that reduces the phrase “the one who teaches” to only certain people teaching in certain contexts. Instead, in this passage, Paul is talking to “the one who is taught” and instructing that person about their response to someone (anyone) who teaches them.

Many times, other passages are brought into this discussion, passages such as 1 Corinthians 9 or Matthew 10. However, these passages specifically refer to apostles or others who are traveling away from home (see 3 John for another example of these itinerant servants). The authors of Scripture clearly indicate that we should care for those who are traveling away from home – which means they are also traveling away from their places of business and source of income. (Of course, some itinerant servants – perhaps many – can support themselves while they travel, and so they should.) Elders do not travel away from their home, so the connection is not valid.

The same could be said for arguments that reach back to the Levites or priests in the Old Testament. The Levites were not allowed to own land which meant that they could not use their land to support themselves. Again, this is not the case today for elders. Also, the New Testament authors never connect elders/pastors with Levites or priests. Instead, all believers are said to be priests now.

Finally, the argument is made that it is beneficial for the church if elders/pastors can spend more of their time studying, preparing lessons/sermons, discipling people, administrating the church programs, etc. These are not scriptural arguments, and these are not responsibilities placed on the shoulders of elders/pastors. It is much more beneficial for the church for elders/pastors to “work with their hands” to support themselves and, at the same time, serve others in the ways that God has gifted them. Why is this beneficial? Because this is what every other believer does, and according to Paul the church grows when all believers work together, not when the elders/pastors have more time to do the work.

Yes, it would be a huge change to elders/pastors and to churches if churches did not pay salaries to people in order for them to be their elders/pastors. In the short term, it would be difficult for all involved, and if anyone decides to move in this direction, it should be carried out carefully. However, in the long run, it would be better for both the churches and the elders/pastors.

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Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Acts 20:33-35
  3. 1 Timothy 5:17
  4. 1 Timothy 5:18
  5. 1 Peter 5:2
  6. Conclusion

8 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-5-2012

    Several years ago I was in a fellowship where that pastor carried significant influence, his decision were regarded as “from on high”. It struck me that these men had seldom if ever worked in the real world. Yet many wee quick to provide counsel. How different it would be if they were experiencing the same issues the common folk were experiencing, and how it would temper their “counsel”.

    Thanks Alan for your time in digging out this series.

  2. 3-5-2012

    “Finally, the argument is made that it is beneficial for the church if elders/pastors can spend more of their time studying, preparing lessons/sermons, discipling people, administrating the church programs, etc.”

    This is the last stand in doing it our way, and I’ve heard this often when people agree they see how God says something should be done, “but…”

    How we value our own logic. Taking our cue from Jesus, but in the opposite approach, we teach, “God says…, but I say unto you (my way, instead.) Do we really think we’re smarter and more practical and being realistic? Do we think, after all, this stuff is from long, long ago, and God has His head in the clouds if He thinks that will work here and now? Have we confidence He doesn’t really understand our day and our society and our needs, etc.–but I/WE do?

  3. 3-5-2012

    Thanks Alan
    Your `exception` for travelling apostles would seem to apply the same logic as my `exception` for those who Elder on a full time basis. So I still do not see a clear cut prohibition on paying full time Elders. However I also do not see any justification for this to be the norm, Elders are plural, and serve a local church (so not generally a mega church) – so the norm would be a team of Elders who work part time and serve (freely) part time. This would allow the local church to support the widows and orphans and other ministry such as travelling apostles (read cross cultural missionaries.
    Are you going to do a series on the church and giving next then?

  4. 3-5-2012

    Jim,

    I also think it’s valuable for elders to be working while they are serving. Like you said, just the ability to understand what others are going through is very important while trying to shepherd others!

    Art,

    I think most people who make that argument have very good intentions. To be honest and fair, how many Christians have seen anything else? However, there are beginning to be more and more examples for people to learn from.

    David,

    The difference is that the “exception” for traveling servants is found in Scripture. I don’t find the same “exception” for those who are not traveling.

    I wrote a series called “Giving and the Church” last October. That is a link to the introduction, and the links to the other posts in the series are at the bottom of each post.

    -Alan

  5. 3-7-2012

    Great series and good comments made by others! Thank you for this post. I hope you will consider creating a downloadable PDF which combines the series into one article.

    Many pastors point to Jesus sending out his apostles and the seventy-two, telling them to rely on the hospitality and care of others, as an example of the paid preacher. These instances, of course, did not equal a full-time salary, as others might try to suggest. What it did equal, though, was total dependence upon God–both when their message was received and support of any nature was provided, as well as when it wasn’t and they left town dusting off their sandals with no provisions.

    It is interesting to note that Jesus did not tell his apostles or disciples to accept help from others UNTIL he sent them out. In each case, with the apostles and other disciples, their traveling ministry and time of service came to an end (at this stage during Jesus’ ministry). Presumably, the associated support came to an end too. It certainly wasn’t based on a lifetime ‘professional status’ as ordained apostles or preachers.

  6. 3-7-2012

    Rick,

    I should be able to do that (i.e., create a pdf file). Thanks for the reminder!

    -Alan

  7. 5-11-2012

    Alan,
    You have treated elders/pastors in reference to finances, but you have neglected to look at the apostolic references in scripture…..unless you have treated it somewhere else.

  8. 5-11-2012

    Trevor,

    Yes, this series is about the connection between elders and finances. (I added the term “pastors” because so many use the term pastors to refer to elders.) I have not written an entire series on the connection between apostles (itinerant servants) and finances, but I did write one post in a series about giving on that topic: “Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place.”

    -Alan