This topic came up in our weekly church Life Goup Bible Study while going through 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16.
The Study guide is Titled "Marks Of A Mighty Church, and the chapter was titled, Committed to the Standard of God. Verse 9 discusses leadership in ministry and their finances.
Paul in this instance notes that though there should be support financially, in this case he derived it from other churches and personal tent making. The tent making does not come across as a normal standard, nor the fact that he did not expect finances from the Thessalonians, who lived in a bustling economic community. We are not sure of the reason why, but perhaps other religions there were led by leaders in it for the money, but certainly Paul wanted to state the integrity of his message and motive.
As we look at Scripture concerning the topic of finances and supporting those in ministry, here are some things to consider...
The Apostle Paul, in his letters and teachings, did address the topic of financially supporting those in ministry. He emphasized the importance of supporting and providing for those who were dedicated to spreading the Gospel and serving the Christian community. Here are some key principles and passages related to this:
1. 1 Corinthians 9:7-14: In this passage, Paul defends the right of ministers to receive financial support. He uses the analogy of a soldier, a farmer, and a shepherd to highlight that those who work in ministry should receive their livelihood from the ministry they serve. He argues that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel.
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
2. Galatians 6:6: Paul encourages believers to share all good things with the one who teaches. This implies financial support for those who are engaged in teaching and ministry work.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
3. 1 Timothy 5:17-18: In this passage, Paul speaks about honoring elders who lead the church well. He specifically mentions that "the laborer deserves his wages," suggesting that those who serve in leadership and teaching roles in the church should be compensated for their work by the church.
17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
4. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9: Paul mentions that he did not burden the Corinthian church financially while he was with them but received support from other churches. This demonstrates that he recognized the importance of financial support for those in ministry.
7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
5. Philippians 4:14-18: In this passage, Paul thanks the Philippians for their financial support during his ministry. He acknowledges their partnership in the Gospel and highlights the idea of sowing and reaping, suggesting that those who support ministry work will receive a spiritual harvest.
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
Overall, the Apostle Paul believed in the principle of financial support for those in ministry, and he taught that it was both reasonable and necessary for the functioning and growth of the early Christian communities. This support allowed ministers and missionaries to devote their time and energy to spreading the Gospel without being overly burdened by financial concerns. However, he also demonstrated a personal example of working as a tentmaker to support himself when necessary, which showed the importance of self-reliance when circumstances required it.
Learn to know those in leadership over you along with their needs and prayerfully support them in line with Scripture, learning to live by faith as even they do.