Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you.
1 Thessalonians 2:9
As I have been reading through Paul’s letters, I have come across several verses like these. Each time that I read verses like these, I am immediately challenged by them. As I have more and more started to feel a God’s pull on my life toward ministry, I have come to learn from these snippets that ministry should never equate an opportunity to make a living. I cannot think that just by participating in ministry that I am entitled to being paid for the work.
For Paul, he refused to design his message around those who could or would pay to hear it. As he would travel to a new place, it seems obvious (through verses like these that appear throughout his letters) that Paul would find work to support himself as he preached the Gospel. Paul was not a traveling preacher who financed his trips from the different people who accepted his message. At least, that doesn’t seem to be how he started his ministry.
Now in 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Paul does highlight the need to pay those in ministry. So, I am not suggesting that pastors should stop receiving any sort of financial help or salary. I bring up this point simply to reveal Paul’s dedication to the Gospel and highlight something that may have gone awry in ministry today.
As a missionary, Paul made sure that he was not a burden on any of the people whom he was trying to reach. He knew that if he didn’t carry his own weight, his message would seem self-serving. That is the last thing that ministry should ever be or even appear to be.
Christian society is full of mega-churches and rock-star worship leaders. It stands to reason to suggest that these worship leaders and the pastors of these churches are likely paid well. For the most part, I would say that these “Christian celebrities” do a lot of work for the church and if “those who work deserve their pay,” then it stands to reason that these people should be paid well (1 Timothy 5:18).
From the outside looking in, though, is there a point where this way of doing things starts to appear self-serving? This question may be all the more relevant for those of us who are on the inside. Does the Gospel lose any of its value when those who proclaim it seem to be doing good business?
I’m not even going to take a shot at answering that question here, but it is certainly a thing we need to consider.