Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hirelings and Pastor’s Wages

Is a pastor a pastor because of a wage or because he believes that he is a shepherd called to encourage and equip a group of people.

The simplest way to find this out is to stop the paycheque.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep."
John 10:11-13

Ezekiel spoke about false shepherds.
"1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them."
Ezekiel 34: 1-6

How do many shepherds define their sheep? There is some varying schools of thought as to whether a pastor wants to know if a parishioner is giving towards his salary. In the long run there is an expectation that a pastor's sheep are those that pay for his services.

How do parishioners define who their pastor is. I found this out when I was fired as a pastor and I think it was the greatest gift I could have received. The day I stopped getting paid was the day people no longer recognized me as their pastor. Their definition of a pastor was one who takes their money.

Many pastors are trapped into serving a group of people as a hireling and many church members feel they need to pay to have his services. The motives and the giving of respect are confused because of the exchange of money.

What happens when the salaries decrease or there is a staffing cutback. The ministers that were "called", simply leave for "greener" pastures. What else can they do but find a group of people that are willing to pay them? Getting a job or owning a business is out of the question. Many are stuck with a lifelong dependency on the sheep.

Pastors talk forever and a day about being “called” by God to a local church. Amazingly one of the major determining factors for knowing they are called is by the amount of dollars that are exchanged. They and their parishioners even feel they are biblically mandated to receive a wage. One of the most popular verses which is interpreted to support the paying of pastors is,
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” 18For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,"[b] and "The worker deserves his wages."
1 Timothy 5:17,18

And yet paying wages and giving honor are distinct from each other. The reward for a local elder is honor, even double honor. This wasn’t a codeword for money.

This verse clearly distinguishes finances from honor.
“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Romans 13:7

Here is an overlooked passage quoting Paul as he charged how elders were to conduct themselves,
"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Acts 20:32-35

No doubt Paul argues that an apostle (not a local elder) has a right to be helped but he was careful not to receive a wage if it became a hireling model and his motives for bringing the gospel could be questioned.

“11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. 16Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.”
1 Cor. 9:11-18

The selling of the gospel has become such common practice that God’s people think everyone who preaches should receive an “honorarium”. Many preachers believe this quite passionately. This is no different than paying for a good singer.

You can go to a lot of single person ministries out there and I guarantee that they will give you a charitable receipt to support them. They likely even donate to their own ministry. And even though it is illegal to get a donation receipt for giving to a specific person, lots of churches and ministries skirt this issue by making themselves an employee of their ministry. They then give to their ministry which is really just themselves.

Most churches have more than one elder and yet only the one called pastor gets paid. Why doesn’t every mature believer who becomes an elder get paid? Why is it that the weak are the ones paying the strong? The transaction goes like this, the strong give spiritual support and the weak give financial support. A good reason to become strong, I guess.

Paul didn’t seem to think that,
7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
2 Thess. 3:7-10

Why is there such a distinction between lay people and professional clergy? It seems the guy asking for money every week for himself deserves special recognition because he humbly takes his sheep’s money.

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."

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