What is the biblical basis for requiring a minister to be paid for their work?

Put another way, what is the biblical basis for supporting the notion of a solely-vocational pastor?

Note - I am NOT looking for a biblical basis that paying a minister anything is OK: there are myriad passages that could be turned to for that. This is exclusively about a mandate for such recompense.


3 Answers 3


In 1 Cor. 9:14, the apostle Paul wrote,

Likewise, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel.

οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν (TR, 1550)

In his commentary on 1 Cor. 9:4, John Gill wrote,

"Even so hath the Lord ordained"

That is, the Lord Jesus Christ (in Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7-8), it is an order and appointment of his that his ministering servants, who labour in preaching his Gospel, should be sufficiently taken care of, as to a comfortable livelihood; he has not indeed fixed it in the same way as the priests and Levites had theirs under the law; but as the one was just and right, that they should be maintained out of the things belonging to the temple and altar, and live on them, so it is his will and pleasure,

"that they which preach the Gospel;"

that continue to do so, that labour, and not loiter in the word and doctrine, who do the work of the ministry fully and faithfully, and not bear the name only of Gospel preachers: should live of the Gospel; not the Gospel itself, which is spiritual, and not corporeal food; but the sense is, that in consideration and because of their preaching the Gospel, they should be supplied with the proper necessaries of life:

I bolded what is of utmost importance. I preach the Gospel, but I do not do so "fully." It is not my sole occupation. I am not fully committed to doing so. But those who are, whose sole purpose is to preach the Gospel, they should be fully supported. Else, how shall they devote themselves to fully laboring in the word?

The apostle even confessed that he had the authority to forbear working (1 Cor. 9:6). Would Christianity have grown and thrived the way it did without the apostle Paul devoting his entire self to preaching the Gospel?

  • Paul also didn't take support from the churches in many places - he worked as a tent maker
    – warren
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 22:59
  • 2
    @warren Regarding not taking support from churches... What gives you that idea? He didn't take from the Corinthians because it was a stumbling block to them, but what other instance is there of him refusing support? I know there are passages that indicate that he didn't covet, and others that indicate that no other churches would support him, but that is not relevant to the question of whether they should have.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 23:04
  • @Jas3.1 - that is the specific example I am thinking of. In addition, he was typically supported (as one *sent) by his sending church. What about all the other ministers in the NT?
    – warren
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 23:43
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    @warren: Paulos could support himself as a tentmaker when necessary, especially when there was no Church to minister to him with financial support. I mean, let's think about it. During his missionary travels, he was the first one who created the churches in various locations, so obviously, there was no organized church to be able to support him when he abode in a particular location. So, if need be, he could rely on his craft. Otherwise, if there was an organized church (during the later years of his missionary travels), he could rely on them for support. Paul never taking support is erroneous
    – user900
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 0:23
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    The spirit of the Christian is that they cheerfully and willingly support their brothers. If Jesus commanded us to give to our enemies when asked, how much more should we be giving, and giving freely, to our own brothers in faith, especially to those whose sole occupation and devotion is saving souls? Also see the spirit of community that the first Church members demonstrated (Acts 2:44-45).
    – user900
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 0:25

One scripture used to support this view is 1 Timothy 5:17-18 which states

Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching. For the scripture says,

Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,


“The worker deserves his pay.”

Pastors certainly provide leadership to a church and work hard in their duties speaking and teaching.

In this scripture, the author of Timothy is claiming that the prohibition on muzzling oxen is because an ox should receive benefits for his hard work. Similarly, a pastor should receive a benefit for his hard work.


Moses recorded that the priests and levites were to receive the offerings given to the Lord (Numbers 18:8ff). This can be seen as establishing this practice -- to have those who do the work of God benefit from the offerings given to God's people.

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