“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching” [1 Timothy 5:17 NLT]
Having written about honouring true widows, Paul now turns his attention to honouring the church elders [verse 17-25]. He concentrates on two specific areas, paying the elders [verses 17-18], and the disciplining of elders who fall into sin [verses 19-22].
Elders who rule well, and especially those who “labour in the word and doctrine” [verse 17] are worthy of “double honour.” “Double honour” can be translated as “generous pay.” [The word “honour” here is used as in “honorarium.”]. If an elder really takes his ministry seriously, to the point that it requires much of his time, then it might well impinge upon his ability to earn an income in outside employment. If an elder/pastor is faithful in feeding and leading God’s people, then the church ought to be faithful and pay them adequately. This is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere, for instance, to the church at Corinth he wrote, “What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the Law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who ploughs and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest” [1 Corinthians 9:7-10 NLT].
Interestingly, Paul used that same quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4 in writing to Timothy [1 Timothy 5:17], and even strengthened his argument by quoting the words of Jesus, “The labourer is worthy of his wages” [Luke 10:7]
It seems that Paul, an apostle and an elder in the Church at Antioch chose to deny himself the right to be paid, but received gifts from the churches [2 Corinthians 11:7], and also worked as a tentmaker to earn money to support his ministry and so not burden the churches [Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12;
1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8].
It is also true that an elder should never be in the ministry simply to earn money. I recently heard someone ask the question, “If God has called you to a ministry, and the church is not in a position to pay you, would you still continue in the ministry that God has called you to and trust Him to provide?” Here is in acid test of motive.
Read 1 Corinthians 9:14. What did Jesus command concerning those who preach the Gospel?
Why do you think that payment for those who serve in the church has been such an issue? What is your opinion having read what Paul has written?