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A Laborer Worthy Of His Hire
June 13, 2010
Many in the Church of Christ teach that "preachers" and "elders" cannot, nay, must not, be paid. This erroneous teaching is a misapplication of an opinion offered by Alexander Campbell, voice of the American Restoration Movement. Opposed to "located preachers for hire", Campbell said that churches are to financially support evangelists and leading elders. The scriptures, both Old and New Testament, teach that those who do the spiritual work are to enjoy, as the fruits of their labor, a portion of the material resources of those with whom they work. This is the law of God.
A Laborer Worthy Of His Hire
By Bernie Parsons
Presented to Globe church of Christ on 06-13-2010
Some in the conservative Churches of Christ say “it’s a sin to pay a preacher”, a doctrine largely adopted because of a statement by Alexander Campbell in 1826. Mr. Campbell found fault with a degreed preacher in the local congregation, going wherever he could get the best deal for his services. However, Campbell promoted the scriptural authority of financing both elders who worked in the local church, as well as traveling evangelists sent out to covert the lost. Yet, in the conservative Churches of Christ today, many still scream “Sin!” when anyone suggests that even a traveling evangelist or overseeing, leading elder be financially supported.
God has always decreed that those who labor in spiritual matters be taken care of materially by those to whom they render the spiritual service. In the Law of Moses, we find:
Numbers 18:24 "But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
25 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
26 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.
27 And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.
28 Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest."
The tithes of the other eleven tribes were given to finance the livelihood of the Levites, and a tenth of that was given to the priest to finance him and his family. Also, when war was made and spoils of war were taken, the priest and the Levites were given a portion of the spoils, or prey.
Numbers 31:26 "Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation:
27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:
28 And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:
29 Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of the LORD.
30 And of the children of Israel's half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of the LORD."
They were also given cities and lands among the lands of the other eleven tribes.
Numbers 35:1 "And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
2 Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.
3 And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.
4 And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.
5 And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities."
Priests were given the offerings to eat, and the hides of the animals that were sacrificed.
Leviticus 7:6 "Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it shall be eaten in the holy place: it is most holy.
7 As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it.
8 And the priest that offereth any man's burnt offering, even the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering which he hath offered.
9 And all the meat offering that is baken in the oven, and all that is dressed in the fryingpan, and in the pan, shall be the priest's that offereth it.
10 And every meat offering, mingled with oil, and dry, shall all the sons of Aaron have, one as much as another."
Ezekiel 44:28 "And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I am their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I am their possession.
29 They shall eat the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs.
30 And the first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest's: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house."
There is a lot more about this in Deuteronomy 19:1-5, Ezekiel chapters 44 and 45, and Nehemiah chapters 10-12. Moving into the New Testament writings, we see the theme continues.
Luke 10:4 "Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.
5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.
7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:"
Jesus and His teaching disciples were supported by wealthy women.
Luke 8:1 "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance."
The apostle Paul goes into deep detail about spiritual workers receiving compensation.
1 Corinthians 9:4 "Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
2 Corinthians 11:8 "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself."
Philippians 2:24 "But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants."
Philippians 2: 29 "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."
Philippians 4:10 "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Galatians 6:6 "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
Active, leading elders are to be financially supported, as well.
1 Timothy 5:17 "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward."
Some argue that, since we are all priests, if we pay one, we must pay all! They quote 1 Peter 2:9, but ignore where this quotation originated.
1 Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:"
Exodus 19:5 "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel."
All Israelites were priests, so to speak, yet the priesthood was supported as a separate function! All Christians are priests, so to speak, and we should assist one another, but that does not negate the message of Jesus and the apostles that those who labor in the spiritual affairs of the body of Christ are to be supported materially.