Bible Boundaries on Your Pastor’s Salary

Pastor Ed Young, Jr. at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX is the subject of a WFAA local investigative report into allegations that he is living a luxury lifestyle on the backs of the tax-exempt gifts of the members of his church. Ed Young, Jr. responded to the charges during his Saturday evening service on February 6.

I covered this for two days on my own program here in Detroit, concluding yesterday with a summary of what the Bible says about how much a pastor can be compensated. Listener Jeff missed that part of the program and asked me to summarize the scriptural points, which I am happy to do here.

Here’s the gist of what I said about how the Bible puts boundaries around a pastor’s compensation:

I first went to the Old Testament and talked about how the Levites lived off of the sacrifices (animal sacrifices and offerings), making the point that God expects his people to care for and provide the support for the life of their shepherds/spiritual leaders. How much of those offerings could be utilized by the Levites was clearly stipulated. There were boundaries on the living the Levites could make off God’s people.

I then talked about how Jesus told his disciples not to carry a purse or money, making the point that money should not be the priority of ministry and further that any size purse is never big enough, creating in us a desire to accumulate more and more wealth. I cited the verse that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Then we went to 1 Timothy and Titus and pointed out that in both lists of the qualifications for pastors, a warning about money is mentioned. Then to Hebrews 13:5 – 7 where the writer warns us to “keep our lives free from the love of money,” doing so in the context of imitating “the way of life” of our leaders, a clear indication that a pastor’s life should not be characterized by wealth. Then to I Peter 5 where Peter warned his fellow elders to fulfill their calling “willingly, not under compulsion, and not for greedy gain.”

Finally to 1 Timothy 5 where Paul makes it clear that we are not to muzzle the ox who treads the corn, that the laborer (the one who labors in teaching the word) is worthy of his hire, but that Paul himself did not make the ministry his sole source of support for his lifestyle (1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8), therefore the best approach would be for ministers/pastors WHERE POSSIBLE to support themselves through other labor THOUGH SCRIPTURE DOES NOT REQUIRE THIS. That said, however, no pastor should become wealthy by worldly standards strictly from ministry income. The broader point was that the Bible allows for pastors to “live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14), not to get rich by worldly standards from the gospel.

6 Replies to “Bible Boundaries on Your Pastor’s Salary”

  1. If the best approach is for elders in the church to support themselves by the labor of their own hands (which I agree with) why is that not the default position?

  2. Unfortunately the organization structure of the majority of our churches makes outside support almost impossible, if the pastor intends to meet family obligations as well. Then, there are the mega churches…should they be restricted and by whom…if not, just what should the salary be based on there? Equal to a corporate CEO?

    I know what I think is an over the top life style…but, who should decide what level is too rich? Maybe the income level of the congregation should be the guide…somewhere in the mid range so the pastor is equally yoked with the congregation.

    Of course, the Big question…does God KNOW how much they make?…(the over the toppers)

  3. Nice to here from you again Nancy.

    I propose three additional questions.

    1. Was this salary under discussion a self determinism or a divine determinism?

    2. If it is divine, is there then criticism for God’s predetermined actions?

    3. If it is theistic determinism, who or what is the primary cause?

    Here is the problem.
    Assuming the divine determinism position, This salary must be “right” as it was God who determined it, and under the doctrine of voluntarism, anything God wills is right simply because he wills it.(Piper, Sproul, Gerstner, Edwards, Pink)
    In lay terms, God does not act within the bounds of a determined righteousness, but rather, righteousness is determined by the acts of God.

    And this my dear, is at the heart of the debate.

  4. We have missed the point here. The love of Money is the root of all kinds of evil. They question is…have modern pastors fallen for theove of money?

    But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
    1 John 2:11‭, ‬15‭-‬17 NIV

    You cannot separate the success of mega pastors from the eternal principle that “he who waters others will be watered” and “give and it shall be given unto you” it is a fact that these mega pastora are BIG givers, big thinkers and big believers. The problem is twofold. 1. Can they “do as Jesus did” and walk away from the millions? Or will they be like the rich young ruler who Jesus loved but could not cross over because his wealth ultimately ruled him. 2. Will they be ashamed in heaven? Jesus himself warned us not to lay up treasures on earth, not to seek earthly rewards. Remember the first shall be last in heaven. Whatever the comparison is in heaven id much rather have a heavenly ferrari than an earthly one!

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