And yet Lord Jesus said, “A worker is worthy of his food.”
How does one balance the words of Christ, “Freely give” and “A worker is worthy of his food”?
After the evangelist preached and prayed for the sick, she declared, “I have done my part. Now it’s time for you to do yours.” This was the beginning of a lengthy instruction and plea to her audience – followed by the collection plate. Did she properly balance “Freely give” with “A worker is worthy of his food”?
The responsibility of those being ministered to is to share what they have with the minister. The responsibility of the minister is to give without charge. It really isn’t complicated. Disobedience of one is not grounds for disobedience of another.
Matthew 10:7,8: “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
True servants of Christ are obedient to Christ. They give “freely”. Freely means without charge or pay. Those considering themselves “called into the ministry” (we are all called) should be examples of faithfulness to the One they claim has called them. The otherwise is flaky.
Paul taught, “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” And, “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock but does not drink of the milk of the flock?” And, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.”
There is nothing in Paul’s words suggesting a demand from the preacher for services rendered. His words do not validate a salary or wage. Let’s bounce back into the Old Testament and check out that familiar encounter between Elisha and Naaman the leper….
“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria” sought out Elisha for the purpose of getting healed of leprosy. Elisha complied, instructing the leper to “go and wash in the Jordan seven times.” Naaman was healed and Naaman was grateful and Naaman offered Elisha a gift – not an insignificant gift, but great wealth which the NLT describes as, “750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing.”
Preachers take note: Elisha was a preacher. Elisha’s response should matter much to every preacher and every person wanting to know God’s perspective on the matter of selling spiritual services. Is Elisha not a notable hero of the faith, “a man of God”, “a prophet in Israel”? Elisha’s response….
2 Kings 5:16: But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
Hmmm. The “man of God” refused payment. Hmmm. 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold. Hmmm. Lots of clothes.
God could have instructed Elisha to charge something – like maybe just one gold coin, or a pair of sandals – just so preachers could have a precedent. But no, there does not seem to be one instance in the Old Testament whereby someone sold God’s precious truths or one’s ministration.
Now back to Paul….
1 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT): I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.
Obviously, Paul was supported on his missionary trips, etcetera. But he didn’t charge for services rendered. God provided through whosoever.
Paul could have had a comfortable, even wealthy, life. (“If possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.”) But no, he worked with his hands rather than be a hindrance to the gospel, this to his eternal benefit; riches gained from his christian ministry would have been accomplished at the expense of rewards in heaven.
And everyone knows the greatest preacher ever, our Lord Jesus, though He was supported by “many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him”, never charged for all the good He did. Doesn’t Jesus’ invitation to “Follow Me” suggest we are to follow His example? Can we really follow Him who said “Freely give” while charging for services rendered?