Money in the Church, or What’s Wrong with a Pastor’s Salary

Here are a few scriptures in the New Testament that point to the idea that some can receive money for their teaching/ministry: Galatians 6:6, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” and 1 Cor 9:13-14, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat [of the things] of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of [the offerings of] the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”

These scriptures clearly say that some leaders can and should be paid, but I would counter that many people who are paid in the church ought not to be, and that the church leaders were never made rich off of the ministry, but rather had their basic needs met and the rest of the offering was distributed to the poor. Paul, concerned with the mixing of taking money from those to whom he was ministering, didn’t collect any offerings from the Corinthian church, but rather subsisted off of the Macedonians while he was ministering in Corinth (2 Cor 11:7-9). Furthermore, we find in Acts 18 that Paul also worked as a tentmaker while he was at Corinth to support himself rather than take money from the local church. So, even an apostle supported himself while he lived in a town and ministered there even though he says he had a right to be paid for his ministry. In 2 Corinthians (esp. chapter 8) we find out the reason why Paul did this: he didn’t want his ministry tainted by asking for money for himself, especially since he was collecting money for the poor in Jerusalem. In fact, the scripture in Galatians also has a counterbalance, of Gal 6:10 where Paul writes that the local church should care for their poor.

All of that is background to say what my view is: we as a church abounding in riches should be willing to support those who dedicate themselves fully to the ministry, especially those who are doing missionary work, so that their being supported from where they are ministering doesn’t pollute the Gospel; however the idea that we allow our local church leaders to get rich off of ministry, especially preaching, is a very sad thing, and we are turning the house of prayer into a den of thieves (Matt 21:13). Nowhere does Paul mention that the local church leaders in Corinth should be paid, but rather says in 1 Cor 14:26,29-31, ” How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if [anything] is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” People weren’t lining up around the block to become apostles, as Paul writes earlier in 1 Cor 4:9-11, “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We [are] fools for Christ’s sake, but you [are] wise in Christ! We [are] weak, but you [are] strong! You [are] distinguished, but we [are] dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.” Paul doesn’t paint the picture of a man that was taking 10% of any of the churches to which he was ministering as his wage, but was only interested in having his basic needs met! The idea that we are effectively making every local pastor more than equal in rewards to that of an apostle while ignoring the apostles unwillingness to pollute the Gospel with money hurts the development of the gifts within the rest of the church (who should be teaching along with their leaders) and also takes money that could be used to both support missionaries and the poor and funnels it into the hands of those who could distribute their responsibilities and work but rather are often made rich.

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