Should pastors be paid? Should they be required to work to support themselves? What does the Bible say about whether a pastor should be paid or not?
Sadly, the two lowest paying professions for those who hold Bachelor Degrees or higher, are for teachers and pastors. Does it seem that society in general doesn’t esteem them as highly or ascribe much worth to them based upon the amount that they are paid but are there two more important vocations in society? I’ll let you answer that. Teachers and pastors obviously do not enter their profession for the money. Many pastors have to work to support themselves and many teachers have to work in the summer to do the same thing. Amazingly, almost 42% of pastors are bi-vocational and nearly the same number of teachers have to work in the summer because their salary is not enough to support them year round. For pastors, this means that they must work to support themselves and pastor the church. This is nothing short of having two jobs and when you consider that many pastors are often continuing their education, you can see why the average pastor lasts only 3 years at any one church.
Hazards of the Pastorate
The Fuller Institute had some pretty shocking statistics about pastors in 2005. The results are as follows:
- Seventy one percent report fatigue and burn out daily and/or weekly
- Eighty percent of pastors reported feelings of wanting to leave the ministry at least one time
- Seventy seven percent of pastors reported friction in their marriages and as a result, 38% of pastors were divorced or in the process of one (almost 4 in 10!)
- Pastors reported that 78% of church members regularly did not attend Sunday school or Bible studies (primarily Wednesday nights or Sunday nights)
- Fifty eight percent of all pastors’ marriages will end in divorce
- Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry every month in the U.S.
- Eighty percent feel unqualified
- Seventy eight percent feel their seminary did a poor job in educating them
- The saddest statistic of all is that 8 in 10 pastors will leave the profession after 10 years and the average stay for a pastor at one church is 3 years.
A Laborer is Worthy of His Wages
There are dozens of references in the Old Testament that show the Levitical Priesthood were paid out of the tithes and that this was their primary means of making a living since they were not allowed to own property and so we won’t cover these verses. We will restrict our Scriptures about whether a pastor or elder, which he is sometimes called, should be paid or not. First Timothy 5:17-18 is where Paul tells Timothy to, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, The laborer deserves his wages.” Where Paul says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” is an Old Testament Law of mercy where animals that labored deserved to eat and so the same principle was felt important for elders or pastors. Every elder is a teacher and every pastor is technically an elder and so the term elder can be used interchangeably with the word pastor.
Paul’s Admonition for Pastors Being Paid
Perhaps the greatest exposition on whether pastors, which are sometimes called teachers, should be paid or not is in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14:
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written) for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
It seems obvious that pastors should be paid but some churches are so small and membership is so poor that a full time salary is hard to come by. Some of the fault may lay with members who do not give any money or so little that what is given must be used to keep the doors of the church open. It seems obvious from the New Testament that pastors should be paid for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, “do we not have the right to eat and drink?” (v 4), “or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?”(v 6) because “who serves as a soldier at his own expense?” (v 7). “Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?” (v 8.9), and if pastors have “sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?” (v 11, 12) because “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (v 14). That should settle this issue. A laborer is worthy if his wages and you shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain. If they were commanded to be this merciful to laborers and to the beasts in the field, should we do any less for our pastors?
Have you prayed for your pastor(s) today? Here are some prayers that you might consider:
Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.