Are elders supposed to be paid for their work?

Could we support the thought of a paid overseer, who “labours in the Word and doctrine,” from 1 Timothy 5:17, 18; 1 Peter 5:2-4? and why the mention of “filthy lucre,” if the pastorate were not a paid office?


The word translated, “honour,” (time) in 1 Timothy 5:17, is in forty occurrences, out of fifty, so translated; in eight others, “price”; “sum” in Acts 7:16, and in 1 Peter 2:7, “precious.” It is always, “honour,” in the Epistles to Timothy (see 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy  6:10, 16; 2 Timothy 2:20, 21). There does not appear any necessity to change the word here: “honour,” “respect,” “consideration,” are quite adequate. However, even if we adopted the sense of monetary payment, it would only be in recognition of spiritual services rendered, not as a fixed salary.

The form of the exhortation seems to preclude the idea of money due, whether the services have been well done or perchance left undone. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who LABOUR in the word and doctrine.” The principle that a teacher or evangelist has a right to “live by the gospel” is clearly taught in the Scriptures (see 1 Corinthians 9:7-14), provided he teaches or evangelises.

There is no idea of a “living” or ecclesiastical title or office. Assemblies which utilise their brethren’s gift are quite right to remember these adequately, and not to take too easily for granted that the preacher does not need anything beyond his bare expenses. As for the “Peter” passage, we can see no hint that what the questioner calls “the pastorate” was to be filled by a salaried official.

The elders, in the plural, are addressed here, as in the other passage, nor can we find the idea of the “presiding elder” or of “the pastor” of a church in this or in any other Scripture. Here the exhortation, “not for filthy lucre,” seems to preclude a stated salary. A servant of the Lord truly looking to Him for his support, is not serving for filthy lucre. The man who is receiving so much salary according to an arrangement, is bound, if he is a conscientous man to give a good money’s worth. The only man that I can find in the Scriptures, who agreed to do so much spiritual work (in this case as “a priest”) for so much pay, was Jonathan, the grandson of Moses (though not of the family of Aaron), and his salary was ten shekels of silver per annum, a suit of clothes and his meals (Judges 17:10). He broke the contract, only when a better living was offered him (Judges 18:19).

W.H.