“The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” (Galatians 6:6)
We received a comment-question on the article Planning for tomorrow/worrying about tomorrow. It is from Christservant:
Some non-believers in Christ often say or ask why many Christians work in the Lord’s field and depend on others to feed them. They look at them as if they are some lazy people… And to support what they say, they often refer to the talents parable in Matthew 25:15-30…
What do we say to that?
The Lord bless you and keep you!
In Christ’s Love,
Indeed, you said it: they are not believers in Christ; they don’t believe in Christ and they refuse to obey Him. As we have seen in the article, true believers have given up all their possessions, and they rely on the Lord alone for all their needs. We have seen this in more details in the following article: Did Jesus come to make us materially rich? So you can’t expect those who have not experienced the Salvation of the Lord to understand what it means to serve the Lord with all what we have.
Of course, there are also people who are stumbled by false teachers who take the money of people and deceive them. And yet, the Lord Jesus told us that true believers won’t follow those false teachers as they know the voice of their Shepherd (cf. John 10:4-5). So the true believers obey the Lord and do the right thing by His Grace, without being affected by lies.
Now, when people accuse those who work in the field of the Lord as lazy people, they are also accusing the Lord of lords of laziness! As we have seen in the article “Did Jesus come to make us materially rich?”, Jesus only did the work of His Father. After He worked as a carpenter until He was almost thirty years old, He left that work to preach the Gospel and fulfill the work of our Salvation. And his true disciples served Him with their possessions. True disciples have given up everything, and all what they have belongs to the Lord; it is the Lord who decides what to do with their possessions. Jesus had to give all His time for His public work of preaching, so He would not waste His time working another work. The same happened with His Apostles who left their jobs and everything and followed Jesus, as we see in passages such as Matthew 4:20,22, Mark 1:20, Mark 10:28, 1 Corinthians 9:4-6… Of course, this doesn’t mean that all Christians need to leave their jobs, as not all of us are called to be preachers or evangelists or pastors. We all are called as saints, to give up everything and to be witnesses of Christ in all what we do, including our jobs. And indeed, when we do our work faithfully, then our work is the work of the Lord (cf. Colossians 3:23-24). And if someone doesn’t want to work, then he is disobeying the commandments of God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 and similar passages). So whether you work a worldly job or you work in the field of the Lord, you should do your work from your heart, faithfully, as serving the Lord and not yourself or your pocket or any human master. And here, the passage of Matthew 25 about talents means that if a person is called to serve in the field of the Lord, he will be refusing to use his talent if he refuses to serve in the Lord’s field!
But it is very important to understand that serving the Lord in His Church is not a job like any worldly job, but it is a service that should be done with love; the agape love that does good and serves without waiting for anything in return. You notice of course that in all our topics the key in the answers is this agape unconditional love with which God loved us. It means to give everything and to serve and to do good without waiting for anything in return. So the service of the Lord is clearly not a job like worldly jobs. When you find a job, you certainly make sure to know how much is the salary, and you discuss the vacations and such things with your boss. And if you have your own job, you don’t serve people for free; you make them pay for your services. Of course, as we said above, even in these worldly jobs the Christian serves with unconditional love as serving the Lord, and he doesn’t wait for anything in return for serving the Lord. But although we are not of this world and we don’t think like the world, and yet we are in the world, and so the laws of labor of each country apply on us, and the Lord has willed that we obey the laws, and in the same time He has provided for us to have by this means from His hands our daily bread, as He said. But it is not the same in the Church. The Church has nothing to do with the worldly system, and it is led by God and not by a human government. The Master is God, and the one who comes to serve in the Lord’s field is not an employee like in the case of a worldly job, but a servant and a steward (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1). So the man who comes to this service should know that he’s not coming for an employment or for a worldly job, but for a stewardship in the house of his Father in Christ, because the Church is not an organization but an organism (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13), and in this body or organism the members work as members of a body and not as employees… So the one who comes to serve the Lord should come with this attitude of serving our Father and not a boss, and this service should be done with love without waiting for anything in return, by giving for free what we have received for free (cf. Matthew 10:8, 1 Timothy 6:5-7, 1 Corinthians 9:16-18).
So a man who comes to serve the Lord for money, having in mind that this is a job from which he will make worldly treasures, then he is already not fit for the service (cf. 1 Timothy 6:5-7, 1 Timothy 3:3). When he serves with this attitude, then Jesus says about him: “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)
When a man comes to this service with the right godly purpose of serving the Lord and not money, then the Lord promises to provide for his needs and for the needs of his family, as we have seen in the article “Planning for tomorrow/worrying about tomorrow”. The Lord says “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). And the Lord is not a bad worldly boss who keeps the wages of his servants and does not pay them, as James says: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” (James 5:4) But He is a good Father who gives all good gifts, as James also says: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17) And so the true servant should work in the field of God as a steward in the house of his father, and not as a slave in the house of his master; he should wait for a reward of Grace and not for a reward of merit. And in the case of those who serve in the field of the Lord, God has promised that He will provide for their needs (not just the material needs of course — cf. Mark 10:29-30) through His people, and He has commanded His people to take care of each other with love, and also of His servants (the evangelists, and preachers, and pastor-teachers…) as this is the work of the Lord for which the people of God should consecrate their everything, and not just their money. To know more about this, read 1 Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Corinthians 9:8-14, Matthew 10:9-11, Luke 10:7, Hebrews 13:16, Galatians 6:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). So if we want to answer to the title of this article:
Q. Should we pay for those who work in the Lord’s field?
A. NO! We should consecrate our everything for the work of the Lord, and the Lord will reward His servants through our love for Him and through our consecration.
How poor is the church that has not this attitude of love!
So we must make sure to understand that the service is not a worldly job in which the servant should expect a salary, but a sacred service in which God promises to reward His servants. The servant should not become a burden on the church. You find the principle of not burdening the church when we have the means to provide for our needs in passages like 1 Timothy 5:16. Of course, 1 Timothy 5:16 does not fully apply on a servant, but its principle should be taken in consideration by a servant who cares for the work of the Lord and not for his pocket… For example, if a certain local church has very poor members, and if the pastor has children who work, his children also should help their father materially, especially that one of the characteristics of a true pastor is that he keeps his children in obedience and good conduct (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4). You find this principle in 1 Timothy 5:4,8, Exodus 20:12, Matthew 15:4-6, etc.
The truth that I just mentioned is closely related to the fact that the Bible never says that a servant of the Lord or a minister cannot have a job besides his stewardship in a local church. On the contrary, we have the example of Paul who, besides being an Apostle and even a pastor for a time, also worked as a tent-maker (cf. Acts 18:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8). If a servant can work at the same time as serving the Lord, then he should not burden the church. Of course, the church will continue to help him and to share with him with love. But when the work entrusted to a servant is very big, especially in the case of pastors of large assemblies with numerous members or even little local churches but with many challenges in the ministry, then the servant will need to work full-time in the field of the Lord to fill the spiritual needs of that local church. In this case, the church should be ready to support that servant more than it would support a servant who also has another job (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17). Of course, if the servant has children, they also should help, as we have seen above.
And in some special cases, even a servant who is entrusted with many works with many difficult challenges must with wisdom and love choose not to use this right of refraining from “worldly” work, and he must choose to continue working besides his ministry, just as it was the case with Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28, 1 Corinthians 9:1-18). And even in this last case, the faithful and loving believers will help the servant of the Lord (cf. Philippians 4:16-17).
But if a servant is not fit for the service (for example, for the office of a bishop or a deacon as described in 1 Timothy 3:1-13), then this servant should not have been in that office in the first place! But if he’s there for any reason, then this should be seriously considered in the Church, and it is the responsibility of elders and responsible leaders in the Church to look into this matter. So it is not the work of members to decide or to make problems because of personal opinions concerning the pastor or an elder. Paul advises the evangelist Timothy: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19) So all should be done with love and respect to the order that God has put in His Church. As we said above, the servant who does not do his work with faithfulness must not be a burden to the church (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-15, and a similarity in 1 Timothy 5:16). In this case, if he has needs, the church should help him as a brother with love and should advise him to work if he’s physically able, and also his children should help him if he has children (cf. 1 Timothy 5:4,8, Exodus 20:12, Matthew 15:4-6).
We thank the Lord for all the servants that He gives as gifts for His Church, and we pray that He strengthens them by His Grace to serve His Church with love and faithfulness. And we take to heart the blessed commandment of our Lord: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ