Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things– Ga 6:6.
While the preaching of the Gospel itself is free, which includes the message of salvation, prayers for healing, deliverance, the baptism in the Holy Spirit along with the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, the going itself however requires financial support in order to make it possible.
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!– Rom 10:15
King David understood the principle of spiritual exchange: when Araunah freely offered him oxen and wood for a special sacrifice demanded by God, king David refused them as free, saying,
Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.– 2 Sam 24:24.
It is precisely in this way that we, as the Body of Christ, can enable a ‘gift minister’ to go about ministering to the Church. Many a called minister may have a family to support, unable to pursue their gifting and calling fully because their time is divided between working a secular job, and trying to minister whenever they can on the side. It should then be the duty of God’s people to release such as have real gifting and calling into full-time ministry in order to be a blessing to the Body of Christ.
1. It is surmised that because the apostle Paul did not accept or receive (financial) support, that no minister should.
Answer: It was specifically toward the region of Achaia where Paul refused to accept support, that being where Corinth was (1Cor 9:3-14) . If he refused, it was in being an example to them (Acts 20:33-35; 2Thess 3:7-9). This does not mean that Paul didn’t receive financial support from other places as is made plain in this text:
I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. – 2Cor 11:8-10.
For various reasons, perhaps related to the Corinthian church being Paul’s very own spiritual children (1Cor 3:6, 10; 4:14-15; 1Cor 9:1), and their particular immaturity (1Cor 3:1-3), that they were to be treated by him with extra carefulness and delicateness, lest the work should be lost. For this reason, he was less burdensome to them, though he could have been, given his spiritual position.
2. It wasn’t with money, but actual food and lodging that were the hire of traveling ministers.
Answer: Given the context of many of the Biblical texts we may examine (see Lk 10:7; 1Cor 9:6-11; 1Tim 5:17-18), it is obvious that money was involved. This is made all the more clear in ministers receiving strict warnings against being covetous or avaricious (1Tim 3:3; Tit 1:7, 11; 1Pet 5:2), which would make no sense unless there was actual money involved in their support. Also, in today’s practical world, this misconception makes no sense.
Though of course it is recognized that sometimes only food and lodging can be offered in support, this is certainly acceptable.
3. That because Paul was a tent-maker, all ministers should support themselves with a job when they go forth to minister (Acts 18:3; 20:34; 1Cor 4:12; 9:6; 1Thess 2:9; 2Thess 3:7-9).
Answer: Ministers, whether they are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers (Eph 4:9, 11-12) are gifts to the Church, and serve a crucial role in bringing the individual believer unto a place of spiritual maturity and perfection in Christ’s fullness. As such, their full time ought to be dedicated to their calling, gifting and ministry to be of utmost benefit to the Body of Christ. The apostle Peter put it succinctly when he outlined what the work of apostles and preachers ought to be:
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables…But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.– Acts 6:2, 4.
Also, the apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy concerning how much spiritual and mental energy he was to devote to the Word of God, and it’s ministry to others, is as follows:
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. – 1Tim 4:13, 15.
There is no evidence, after Pentecost, that any of the Twelve went back to any kind of employment, fishing or otherwise. Only the apostle Paul, and he was self-employed primarily for two reasons: 1) As some kind of relational peculiarity with the Corinthian church; and 2) To be an example to the younger churches in terms of being dutiful, and giving toward others. But he certainly taught the ‘right’ of ministers to be financially supported by those to whom they ministered. Certainly, if one were to be able to give themselves wholly to study, and the ministry of the Word, they would need to be freed up from the necessity of being employed (by self or others), in order to do that. And, that requires gracious support from God’s people.
4. That teaching people for free opens up the message to a wider audience who would otherwise have been excluded from hearing it.
Answer: Actually the opposite is true. If a minister or spiritual teacher is not financially compensated for their labor, they’re actually limited in the time and energy that they would otherwise be able to expend toward ministering the Word to others. Hence, less people, not more, would be helped if one had to keep down secular employment as well as minister on the side. Again, it’s as Peter said,
It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables…But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.– Acts 6:2b, 4.
5. It makes one less spiritual to accept money for their services.
Answer: The implied assumption here is that money itself is evil or ‘dirty’- and so the one who handles it, too, is likely so. Yet, Paul doesn’t say that money itself is the root of all evil, but the love of it (1Tim 6:10). Money in itself is neither good nor evil, but is a neutral force, used for both good or evil by those who’re either good or evil.
If one causes the content of their message to depend on the money they expect to receive, rather than delivering the unadulterated Word of God, then they should not be ministering. If one cannot remain a pure conduit of God’s Holy Spirit because of money, then they should not be ministering.
6. People are more spiritual when they are poor.
Answer: When one is poor, more often than not, they’re more coveteous, constantly vying to get out of their financial woes. Poverty often turns one toward crime, rather than toward humility or virtue. Not necessarily so, but often so. This is what Agur meant in his proverb:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.– Prov 30:8-9
From this proverb it follows rather that being rich or poor does not necessarily lead to virtue, but rather present their own difficulties and temptations. So, being poor is not itself virtuous, yet neither is wealth. Rather, as Paul says,
But godliness with contentment is great gain. – 1Tim 6:6.
Therefore it is an unreasonable and unbiblical expectation of ministers or spiritual teachers that they must be poor in order to prove their spirituality or humility.