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What is the Biblical basis for preachers to be paid from members' tithing?

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    I've voted to reopen this question, but you should know that many or most Christians do not consider "tithing" the correct term to use. Tithing was strictly a tax for supporting the Jewish priests and Levites.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 26, 2017 at 23:56
  • If you want the question to be more neutral you could change it to "from members' gifts"
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 27, 2017 at 0:10
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    "Do not muzzle the ox as it treads out the grain" and "The workman is worthy of his wages". Jul 10, 2023 at 11:58

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I have been wrestling with this question since I am currently working as a missionary to university students on campus and rely on a support team who give financially to this ministry.

There are a few models from the Bible we use. The Old Testament is perhaps most clear with the way the Levitical priests were cared for. The Levites did not inherit any part of the promised land, since they were set apart by God (Numbers 3). Leviticus 7 explores how the Levites would be able to eat from the sacrifices given to God. They were essentially cared for by the community from what was given to God. Numbers 3:44-51 explores how money was given to the Levites in a specific purpose. Now, this model is obviously not exactly what we have today, but it sets a precedent that those set apart for the specific work of attending to God are provided for.

In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 is specifically talking about those that preach and teach being worthy of their wages. Similarly, when Jesus sends out the 72 in Luke 10, the same idea is present, the worker is worthy of their wages. Matthew 10:10 carries the same idea.

One point of push back could be passages where Paul explains they did not burden the church. In 1 Thess 2:9-10, Paul explains how hard they worked so that they would not rely on the generosity of others. However, these passages are often in places where Paul is trying to highlight the Gospel above everything else, so that he could not be accused of selling the Gospel to people.

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    Welcome to the group BJoub... this is a good answer, especially for a first attempt. I upvoted it. Please do take the Tour etc. (linked at the bottom left of this page). You also might want to add the text of key verses in you answer, especially from 1 Tim. 5 - "Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor, especially those who toil in preaching and teaching. 18 For the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is threshing,” and, “A worker deserves his pay.” Oct 31, 2023 at 14:42
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That's an easy question to answer. The key is to know what the title pastor was referred to in both the Old Testament & also the New Testament. They didn't use the term pastor, like we do today. In the OT the term pastor was called a Priest. In the NT the same title pastor is known as an Elder. (Some of the synonyms for those titles, can be found at the bottom of this message.)

If you use a Bible search engine like these & look for "priest" plus "tithe", you can find the answers which you're looking for. (Or you can scroll down & keep reading.)

Here is the OT answer from Numbers 18:28 (NIV):

In this way you also will present an offering to the Lord from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord’s portion to Aaron the priest.

Aaron was the high priest. So the best part of the tithes was to go to him. We call that "the best of the best". It's the top 1%. (Formula: 100% / 10 = 10% / 10 = 1% = Best of the Best = the Lord's portion!)

Here are some NT answers:

Hebrews 7:5 (NIV):

Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham.

This is the verse which you're looking for:

1 Corinthians 9:12-13 (NIV):

Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Here is why you're probably confused:

Paul didn't want to be a burden on anyone, so he chose tent making as his trade. Just remember that his calling was to be a traveling missionary to the Gentile world & not necessarily a stationary synagogue elder to the Jews in Jerusalem.

Part of Acts 18:2-3 (NET):

... Paul approached them, 3 and because he worked at the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them (for they were tentmakers by trade).

Paul didn't want to take anything from the tithe as he wanted a reward. Paul just has a hard time explaining it though in 1st Corinthians 9:15-18. In v. 19, we see what his heart really wanted:

1 Corinthians 9:19 (ESV):

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.

There are some indirect verses too. Since I'm not going to do all of your Bible study homework for you, you can continue studying by checking out these verses too:

If you're thinking about becoming a pastor, you'll need to read 1st Corinthians 9 plus the entire Bible, MANY MANY times & pray a lot to ask God if it's His will that you should become one! For the sake of your own eternal future, DO NOT choose the profession lightly! But seek His guidance through prayer & Bible study. Then patiently wait upon The Lord to answer you! If He says yes, then by all means pursue becoming a pastor! If He says no, then don't force it. See James 3:1 for the reason. Someday, I hope to see you in Heaven!

Here is a note about the title of the ordained office, for clarification purposes: One of the synonyms of the title for a priest/pastor/elder would be a Presbyter. Bible translations tend to refer to priests in the OT & elders in the NT. It's someone who reads the Words of God - AKA scrolls - and then teaches the congregation. The printing press wasn't invented until around 1440 A.D. Anyone who was called by God & then ordained by God & set apart where God gave them their primary job, which was to read His Word and/or copy His Word or translate His Word like Martin Luther did & preach + teach His Word to others, would be considered a priest, rabbi, elder, overseers, presbyter, bishop, reverend, pastor, etc... (The Internet wasn't invented until the 1960's with the WWW in 1990. Now we can easily get digital copies of the Bible for free!) Someone who didn't preach 2,000 years ago, but just copied scrolls, was a scribe. Someone who served under a priest, but isn't a full-time called & ordained pastor, but was allowed to serve in the church - like on weekends & is a full-time worker somewhere else... like in an office or a factory - is a deacon.

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  • "In the OT the term pastor was called a Priest." That seems very inaccurate to me. "Pastor" means "shepherd", and the priests are rarely if ever called shepherds. Saul is called Israel's shepherd, and then the frequent occurrences of shepherd in Jeremiah and Ezekiel seem to be less specific - I'd take it as referring generally to Israel's leaders.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 28, 2017 at 6:10
  • @Clomp In your first paragraph, by elder do you mean presbyter as brought to us in English from Greek? Also, do you feel that Genesis 14 may also inform a biblical basis? If so, adding it would IMO improve the answer. If not, no worries. Apr 28, 2017 at 13:42
  • @KorvinStarmast Yes. I looked up the definition of Presbyter & that is what a priest is. Someone who teaches the Word of God to the people. Back then they had very few copies of scrolls. They had to read, then teach. Today, everyone can get a printed or a digital Bible. Yes, Gen. 14 shows us that a priest who blesses the people & also blesses God, plus who doesn't ask for money deserves the honor of a tithe. Jesus even gives His 72 disciples instructions in Luke 10. See v. 7.
    – Clomp
    Apr 29, 2017 at 4:35
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    Priests of the OT and pastors of the NT are not synonymous. Their roles were not the same and I think the answer is misleading to suggest so.
    – Birdie
    May 1, 2017 at 6:05
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    @Clomp at the very least the NT says that the church is a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9 and somewhere in Hebrews I believe), but of course the church is not comprised of all priests.
    – Birdie
    May 2, 2017 at 9:55

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