The fifth biblical command for us in caring for our pastor leads me, as they say, to go from preachin’ to meddlin’.
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1Ti 5.17).
The word translated “honor” here is translated with the sense of “honor” in 30 of its 44 appearances in the New Testament. The other 4 nuances are “compensation” (5x), “price” (5), “value” in the sense of quality (3), and (economic) “value” (1). The verb form is usually translated in the sense of “respect” (17/21), but it also speaks of placing a price on something (Mt 27.9, quoting Zec 11.13).
Anybody see a trend here?
It speaks of honoring someone specifically because you see him as of significant value. And one of the most common ways society does that is by paying him well.
Pay the preacher.
Paul speaks of this concept more explicitly in Corinthians 9, where he’s discussing his ministry in the church at Corinth. He notes that he’s ministered among them at no charge—in fact, supporting himself by making tents (Ac 18.1-4)—even though he has a right, as a minister, to expect them to pay his expenses (1Co 9.4-6). He argues from social custom; soldiers, farmers, and shepherds all have their needs met by their work (1Co 9.7). Even the Law of Moses commands that the ox not be prevented from eating some of the grain that his labor is grinding (1Co 9.8-9)—and, he notes, the Law is not primarily about oxen; this command is intended to teach us something about how God cares for his creatures, and how we consequently should care for those who labor for our benefit (1Co 9.10-12). He observes further that under the Mosaic system the priests were paid for their work (1Co 9.13). Consequently, he deduces, “The Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (1Co 9.14).
Pay the preacher.
Back in our original passage, Paul notes that the pastor “work[s] hard at preaching and teaching.” The verb here is usually translated with the sense of “toil” (21/25x) and occasionally with the sense of “tire.” It’s the verb used to describe Jesus’ exhaustion on the long, hot walk from Jerusalem through Samaria toward home, when at midday he collapsed onto a seat by a well and, so tired that he couldn’t draw water for himself, he asked the Samaritan woman to give him a drink (Jn 4.6).
Pastoring is hard work. There’s the part you see, or at least see the results of on Sunday—the sermon preparation, including study, research, meditation, mental analysis; the really hard work of capturing everything the day’s passage says in a single, easily understood sentence; the mental labor of coming up with analogies, comparisons, that capture the difficult ideas involved—often when there is nothing that is really analogous (we’re talking about God, after all); evaluating the specific needs of the congregation to determine how precisely they can best apply these principles; and doing it all in a way that they will find attractive and encouraging rather than demeaning or disheartening.
And then there are the countless things you don’t see:
- the private counseling of weak, or discouraged, or angry and uncooperative people, where his mind is confronted with the worst of human behavior, and where he carefully lays out a biblical path and the counselee simply ignores what he says, to his own destruction;
- the calls in the middle of the night to minister by presence with those facing unimaginable grief, with the knowledge that there is nothing just or fair about what they are experiencing;
- the concern for the sheep that plays as perpetual background to every moment of his waking hours, and some of the sleeping ones as well;
- the ongoing, perpetual weariness.
Imagine that this is your life.
And now imagine the relief that would come if you didn’t have to wonder how you were going to afford 4 new tires this week, or a new water heater, or a plane ticket to visit your mother in a nursing home—if those things were simply taken care of by the people you lie awake thinking about.
Pay the preacher.