The Minister’s Salary – Is It Ever Too Much?
- Thursday, April 07, 2005
Question: How much money should a minister be paid? Is there an upper limit? Salaries for ministry leaders range from $0 to over $949,000 per year, plus additional financial perks. Does the Scripture have anything to say about ministerial salaries?
There are several lightning rods that create division in the local church. There have been music wars, youth wars, and power struggles. Sadly, the wake of destruction left behind in many of these local churches is a poor testimony to our faithfulness to the Great Commission. We are so busy fighting each other that we forget the real enemy isn't the church. The world watches and scorns our faith.
But in my experience there is no greater lightning rod in the church than the pastor's salary. There are some, albeit in a minority, who adhere to the false theory that it is God's responsibility to keep the pastor humble but the church's job to keep him poor. But what do the Scriptures teach? Here are some general themes. We are to give honor to those who govern the church but a double honor to the one who handles the Word of God and teaches us its precepts. It teaches us that a workman is worthy of his hire.
But it also teaches ministers to learn the spirit of contentedness. Paul said he knew how to abound and how to suffer loss. This means he knew what it was like to be rich and to be poor. Paul was at one time a wealthy man who lost it all defending himself in court. He embraced his wealth and his poverty and practiced Godly stewardship in his personal life. He made a point of never being indebted to the church nor to lay a burden on them for his support. Yet, he received their generous offerings given in love and expressed his great appreciation for them. Some of the churches could afford very little yet gave above their means to support Paul. Others had plenty to give but were stingy in their mission outreach.
The church cannot function without money. It is not money that is evil. It is the love of money that causes greed and lust to flourish. But now to the question at hand: What should a church pay its pastor? A local church body lives within a cultural context that is different depending upon its demographics and size. For example, a church in the North Eastern part of the nation will require a standard of living much higher than a church in the heart of Mississippi. It is more expensive to live in New York than it is in many other parts of the nation. The rule of thumb I have used for years in helping churches to understand what they should pay their pastor is this: A pastor should be paid on the same level as the average person in the congregation he serves. The church should see to it that his family is cared for and his work properly rewarded. He should never have to plead for monetary recognition. The spirit of the church should be that if he serves the body faithfully and does his work with honesty and integrity he should receive the honor of a decent wage and the double honor of work well done.
But the pastor must learn to exercise all Godly care that he does not live a lifestyle that could offend the body. That is not to say he cannot live in a nice house, or drive a nice car. But he must be prudent in handling his finances so as to reflect that his love is for Christ and not the world of materialism and hedonism.
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