Paul now turns his attention to how the church should treat its ministry leadership. He refers to the elders in the church and points to their essential duties: directing the affairs of the church, as well as preaching and teaching (v.17). There are two things the believers must give them: respect and financial support.
Firstly, elders who are called to minister in the church as shepherds (Acts 20:28) are to be given “double honour” (1 Timothy 5:17). In other words, they are to be highly respected. This is particularly relevant in our present day, when respect for those in authority is rapidly disappearing. A modern sense of equality, a highly individualistic perspective (the authority of the self is seen as greater), and a suspicious and critical attitude towards leadership further erode the authority of leaders. Of course, in some cases, the poor example of pastors and leaders does not help promote respect, especially when they are caught in sin or if they abuse their position.
Pastors and elders are officers instituted by God. They carry an authority derived from their divine calling and the authority delegated to them by the church. It is not an authority that is inherent in them, but one that is given to them by nature of their ministerial office. This authority must be respected if the church is not to become dysfunctional and chaotic. This does not mean, however, that elders have absolute authority. If they sin, they can be taken to task through a public rebuke (v.20). The church must handle complaints against them carefully (v.19). But a basic respect is due to elders and pastors.
Secondly, pastors and elders who devote their time solely to the ministry should be adequately supported for their earthly needs. Remember the saying, “as poor as a church mouse”? The attitude that pastors and full-time Christian workers should suffer on the edge of poverty must be resisted. Paul quotes Scripture (v.18)—“Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4) and “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7, quoting Christ)— to support his point that pastors must be adequately supported.
How do pastors exercise their authority properly or abuse it? How can church members give their pastors “double honour”? Is there something you can do to honour your pastor?
How can the church ensure that the “worker” and his “wages” are related justly and proportionately? Do you think the pastors and Christian workers you know are adequately supported? Why is this important?