Paying the Preacher
1 Corinthians 9:1-4

Someone has written: “The pastor teaches, though he must solicit his own classes. He heals, though without pills or knife. He is sometimes a lawyer, often a social worker, something of an editor, a bit of a philosopher and entertainer, a salesman, a decorative piece for public functions, and he supposed to be a scholar. He visits the sick, marries people, buries the dead, labors to console those who sorrow and admonish those who sin, and tries to stay sweet when chided for not doing his duty. He plans programs, appoints committees when he can get them, spends considerable time in keeping people out of each other’s hair. Between times he prepares a sermon and preaches it on Sunday to those who don’t happen to have any other engagement. Then on Monday he smiles when some jovial chap roars, “What a job, one day a week!”

Someone else has also described “The Perfect Pastor.” “He preaches 20 minutes and then sits down. He condemns sin but never steps on anybody’s toes. He works from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, doing everything from preaching sermons to sweeping. He makes $400 per week, gives $100 a week to the Church, drives a late model car, buys lots of books, wears fine clothes, and has a nice family. He is tall on the short-side, heavy–set in a thin sort of way, and handsome. He has eyes of blue or brown and wears his hair parted in the middle, left-side, dark and straight, right side, brown and wavy. He has a burning desire to work with youth and spends all his time with senior citizens. He smiles all the time while keeping a straight face because he has a keen sense of humor that finds him seriously dedicated. He makes 15 calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing non-members, and is always found in his study if he is needed. Unfortunately he burnt himself out and died at age 32."

The sad truth is that people often expect a pastor to be everything but what God expects him to be. In the passage before us, Paul talks about pastors and those in full-time ministry. Specifically, he talks about paying the preacher. I have the privilege of being with a lot of pastors and it is my opinion that most preachers are under-paid. It some cases it is an out-right sin how some churches take care of their preacher.

In the book “Pastors at Risk”, it was found that one of the top 4 problems in clergy marriages was the income level (70%). It was found that 22% of pastors seek supplemental income to make ends meet and 69% of the spouses work outside the home to make ends meet.1 George Barna in his book “Today’s Pastors” writes: "Those who wish to get rich quick are well-advised to avoid the ministry.”2

I should be point out that a pastor is not in the ministry for the money but when it comes to money and income, most pastors are well below the average. Barna writes: “No matter how you slice and dice the figures, they are well-below the national average among married-couple families…Most pastors are part of such households and by virtue of the occupational experience and educational achievements should be exceeding the average.”3

He continues: “Realize, too, that in tens of thousands of churches across America, the pastor’s wife is expected not to work but to serve the church in a volunteer (or minimal wage) capacity while playing the role of homemaker. Whether these expectations are proper is not the point: the point is that pastors, by objective standards, are underpaid.”4

In verses 1-14 Paul not only speaks about paying the preacher, but also of paying the preacher adequately. Now I realize that when a preacher preaches about this subject there will always be someone who will criticize and say the preacher is trying to get a raise. If that is the case, I have two responses. First, 1 Corinthians chapter 9 happens to follow 1 Corinthians chapter 8. Secondly, since it is God’s Word chapter 9 is to be preached, and you are to hear it, and we both are to obey it.

Let’s look at what Paul had to say about paying the preacher. First:

 1. He Defends The Right Of
Preachers Being Paid Adequately

In verses 1-6 Paul defends himself as well as all pastors in this matter of money and income. On 2 occasions, Paul in his writings, stated that a pastor was not to be “greedy of filthy lucre” (I Tim.3:3, Titus 1:7). Peter declared in 1 Peter 5:2, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

The pastor is not to be motivated by money or captivated with money. His motive must be the glorification of the Saviour and the edification of the Saints. But, Paul also declared that even though the pastor is not to serve for money, he is worthy of being adequately compensated for his work. Paul declared in 1 Tim. 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

The words “double honor” literally mean “two-fold.” Paul was declaring that a pastor that rules (stand before, presides) well, and especially those who labor (work hard, fatigued) should not be poorly compensated but properly compensated by receiving well above the average. In fact, he says that he should receive twice the average salary.

In the first 6 verses of 1 Corinthians he defends the rights of pastors for such compensation. He says in verse 3, “Mine answer to them that examine me is this.” The word “answer” was a legal term speaking of one’s defense against a charge that had been made. Like a lawyer arguing clients rights, Paul defends the right of a pastor being adequately paid and the right of a pastor to expect to be adequately compensated.

He says in verse 4, “Have we not power to eat and drink?” Paul uses the word “power” 6 times in this chapter and it means “authority, right.” The idea of having the right to eat and drink is that he has the right that such things are provided for him. He was speaking of the right of a pastor to expect that he will be financially and materially taken care of in his work.

Now Paul defends this right in light of 2 things. First, there is the pastors:

A. Work For The Lord

Notice verse 1, "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?" Paul asks 4 questions. The first is, “Am I not an apostle?” The word “apostle” speaks of someone commissioned by the Lord and separated unto the Lord. It is someone sent by God. It is someone who is a messenger of God.

There were apparently some in the church that questioned whether or not Paul was an apostle and he thus asks, “have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” One of the requirements for being an apostle was that one was to have had a personal experience of seeing the Lord Jesus (that rules out these so-called apostles in our day). Paul had seen the Lord on the road of Damascus and therefore was qualified.

Paul was declaring himself to be an Apostle. He was describing his work for the Lord. One reason he should be financially provided for was because of who he was. God had separated him for a specific work for God.

Secondly, there was the pastors:

B. Work In The Lord

Paul asks in the latter part of verse 1, “are not ye my work in the Lord?” Paul defended his rights not only because of who he was but also for what he had done. Paul had led many of the Corinthian believers to the Lord. They had been saved under his preaching and had been taught the Word of God under his ministry. They were the fruit of his ministry.

Notice verse 2, "If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." Paul was saying, “Others may say that I am not an apostle, but you are proof of it. You are the “seal” of my ministry and apostleship.” Paul defended his right in light of the ministry he had among the Corinthians. Their lives had been touched by his life. They owed much to Paul for all he had given to them and done for them. When a pastor, one that has been set apart by God and called to shepherd a flock, pours himself into the lives of his people, he deserves and even has the right to be adequately paid by those people.

Notice verse 5, "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" Most believe that Paul was a widower. We know that he was a member of the Sanhedrin before he was saved and no one was allowed on the Sanhedrin without being married. Whether he was married or not, we don't know.

But in verse 5 he states that he has the right to marry if he so chose, just as the other apostles. The words “a sister a wife” refers to a Christian wife, someone that is saved. He had the right to have a companion as any other. He also adds that if he was married, he also had the right to be provided for in such a way that his wife could be a part of his ministry. The phrase “to lead about” literally means, “to take along.” He specifically mentions Peter in verse 5. The scripture seems to indicate that Peter was married and his wife traveled with him. His point was that a pastor should be paid in such a way that his wife would not have to work but be with him in ministry.

Notice verse 6, "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?" Paul declares that he had as much right as others to get make his livelihood from the ministry without having to work on the side. Paul is defending his rights to be paid adequately and his rights to expect to be paid adequately.

Secondly, we see that:

 2. He Describes The Reasons For
Preachers Being Paid Adequately

In verse 7, Paul gives some logical reasons why a pastor should be adequately paid. He gives 3 illustrations to strengthen his defense. The first illustration is that of a:

A. Soldier 

He says, “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?”  The picture is of a soldier that serves his country in the military. The phrase “at his own charges” means “at his own expense.” A soldier does not have to buy his own uniform, gun, and meals. His country provides for all these things. His country pays his wages and supplies him with all he needs to be a soldier.

The second illustration is that of a:

B. Sower

In verse 7 Paul asks, “who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?” The picture is of a farmer or vinedresser. He asks, “What farmer does not enjoy the benefits of his harvest and fruit?” Who works a field or vineyard without getting paid for it, was what Paul was asking. He that labors in the field expects to be paid for his work.

The third illustration that he gives is that of a:

C. Shepherd

Finally Paul asks in verse 7, “or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” The picture is of a shepherd or herdsman. The shepherd tends his flock and cares for his flock that the flock may in return take care of him in a financial, material, and physical way. His work is not for free. He is compensated for the work he gives.

The point Paul is making is obvious. As Warren Wiersbe wrote: “The lesson was clear: The Christian worker has the right to expect benefits for his labors. If this is true in ‘secular’ realm, it is also true in the spiritual realm.”5 Just as anyone works a public job expects to be paid, the pastor should be paid as well for the work he does.

Thirdly, we see that:

B. He Declares The Requirement For
Preachers Being Paid Adequately

Paul continues by making it clear that what he saying is not just his opinion about the matter but what God requires. Paying the preacher adequately is not just a matter of love but law. Notice verse 8, "Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?" He want us to know that the matter he is discussing is something that God has addressed as well. It is something God commands and requires.

First, Paul explains that:

A. It Is Commanded By The Law

Paul gives two examples of how the law commanded that adequate pay be given to those set apart by God for His work. In verse 9 we read, "For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?"  Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4. He also quoted the same verse in I Timothy 5:17-18 when speaking about paying the preacher. God had given the law that while the oxen worked they could not be muzzled so as to be allowed to eat as they worked. But Paul makes it clear that such a law was not just for the benefit of oxen but also to establish a divine principle.

He says in verse 9b-10a, “Doth God take care for the oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes?” Paul was asking, “Was it because oxen had a special place in God’s heart that He established such a law, or did the law have us in mind?” He answers his own question by saying in verse 10, “For our sakes, no doubt, this is written.” The law of the oxen was intended to teach that those who serve God in certain offices were to be provided for in their work.

He says in verse 10, “that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.” The word “hope” does not mean what we normally think of when we use the word hope. It speaks of something that is expected. The point is that preachers who work for the Lord should expect to be adequately provided for in their work.

The sons of a lawyer, a doctor, and minister were talking about how much money their fathers made. The lawyer’s son said, “My father goes into court on a case and often comes home with as much as $1500.00” The doctor’s son said, “My father performs an operation and earns as much as $2000.00.” The preacher’s son said, “That’s nothing. My father preaches for 20 minutes on Sunday morning and it takes four men to carry the money.”

Some people have the ideal that a preacher is not to have much or anything in life.  Their attitude is, “Lord, you give him power and we will keep him poor.” But notice what Paul said in verse 11, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" The word “carnal” refers to things pertaining to the flesh. Paul uses it to speak of material things. Paul says, “If I sown unto you spiritual things, I should reap material things. It is my right to benefit materially for what I do for you spiritually.”

Notice verse 13, "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?" The second example Paul gives involves the priests that served in the Temple. In Numbers 18:8-24 God described how the priests were to live off what was provided by the children of Israel. They were allowed to keep a portion of the offerings of meat, meal, crops, etc to provide for them physically.

Also, they were financially provided for through the tithes of the people. We read in Numbers 18:24, “But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the Lord, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”

Everyone else had been promised a section of land as an inheritance except the Levites. The Levites had been selected to serve in holy things and the inheritance God gave them was the tithes of the people. God made financial arrangements for the Levites. Their financial income was to be provided for by the people of God. Considering it was a tithe of the nation, you can imagine that they were well provided for financially. Paul is making it clear that paying the preacher adequately was commanded by the law.

He also reminds them that:

B. It Was Commanded By The Lord

Notice verse 14, "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Just in case someone might argue that the law no longer applies, Paul made it clear that it was something Jesus Himself commanded. The word “ordained” speaks of that which has been instituted. What the Lord had ordained and instituted was that those who preach the gospel were to live by the gospel. That is, they were to be materially and financially provided for by the Churches and their ministry.

In closing let me sum up all we have seen. Being in many churches each year and being around as many pastors as I do, I must say that it is tragic how Churches often treat their pastors and take care of them. There are some churches and some deacons that are going to answer to God for how they financially and materially provide for their pastors.

Sometimes I think it is due to an ignorance of what God requires and commands. Sometimes I think it is due to the fact that no one will stand up and speak up and give leadership to see that the pastor is taken care of. At other times I think it is just plain old down right sorry ness.

A pastor should be appreciated and compensated. His appreciation and compensation should not be based on the size of the Church but based on as Paul told Timothy, their ruling well, especially those who labor in word and doctrine.

The longer a pastor labors among a people the more he ought to be appreciated and compensated. Each year of service he gives ought to be generously acknowledged and appreciated. A pastor that remains faithful to God’s Word and labors to bring his people to understand God’s Word ought to be rewarded materially and financially.

The attitude of churches should not be, he makes more than me, or better than the preacher down the road, or he already makes so and so a year. A church cannot do enough for a pastor who rules well and labors in the word and doctrine. He deserves twice as much (Double-honor).

As Paul said, “He has the right to expect such.”


1.  “Pastors at Risk” by H.B. London & Neil B. Wiseman, Victor Books, 1993, pp.34-35
2.      “Today’s Pastors” by George Barna, Regal Books, 1993. p.37
3.      “Ibid.” p.39
4.      “Ibid.” p.39
5.      “Be Wise” Victor Books, 1983, p.100