The Cries of the Reapers

Thomas Hickey, Jr.
Akron, Ohio 44306

"Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob him . . ." (Lev. 19:13).

"Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in the land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee" (Deut. 24:14-15).

"Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn" (Deut. 25:4).

"Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers be wrong; that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work" (Jer. 22: 13).

"For the laborer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7).

"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven" (Col. 4:1).

"Behold, the hire of your laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth" (James 5:4).

Perhaps you have skipped over the above passages without reading them; if so, please turn back and read them carefully before proceeding further into this article.

These passages of scripture have occupied space in the word of God for many centuries. They have sometimes been read, but have seldom been discussed. I can never recall having heard these passages discussed, especially in the context in which we wish to emphasize them.

Has it ever occurred to the reader that these passages expressing God's will might equally apply to preachers as well as to people?

There are two subjects which I have never liked to discuss: giving and preacher support. But with me as well as with many others, I feel the subject is long past due for study and discussion.

During the ten years that I have preached the gospel, I have seen things that were enough to make one's blood boil. Brethren have mistreated preachers financially until I have hung my head in shame and disgust. I have seen brethren invite men to come long distances for gospel meetings, then leave their fine homes night after night in their new automobiles and drive to the meetinghouse to hear the preaching of the gospel. At the close of the meeting the preacher would be told, "We are just struggling along here and not able to pay you." Sometimes the man may have driven his car. Perhaps he flew, or rode a train; likely he had a family back home that was being neglected during his absence. Rather than being able to take something home to his family, he may have had to go home and borrow to cover the loss he sustained.

Usually, brethren who will treat a man this way will not even say "thank you! " They will gripe because he preached too long, or did not dress neatly, or was not friendly enough, or because he stepped on their toes.

Many times brethren defraud preachers of the very expenses sustained in getting to the place to preach. Brethren have the idea that local men can't preach well enough to hold a meeting, so will ask a man to come a distance of 1,000 or 1,500 miles, then refuse to pay his expenses for making the trip. I have sat in business meetings and heard brethren say, "We pay them all the same." Then they will ask a man to come from many miles away when they know that they do not intend to pay his way. I believe that in many instances the hire of the laborers has been kept back by fraud! James said (in the new testament) that the cries of such were entered into the ears of God.

I have talked with a number of the preachers who hold several meetings each year and have found that in about half the meetings a man may hold, he can expect not only not to be paid, but to have to pay his own expenses as well. Sometimes churches will write to other churches and request that a preacher be sent, and even then will not assume enough responsibility to pay the man's expenses in getting there. In such cases the man usually bears the loss himself. Most preachers are ashamed to let brethren in their "home congregations" know they have been treated so badly. so bear their own expenses and say nothing.

In ten years of preaching I can only recall one church which ever paid me anything like an adequate wage for holding a meeting. I had gone to hold a meeting for a little country church and had expected it to be nearly a charity meeting. At the end of the meeting, and to my amazement, the brethren paid me $200.00 for two weeks meeting. I have held meetings in which my expenses ran as high as $300.00 when I did not even receive a thank you for my efforts. But amidst my grumbling I pause to reflect that I have never refused to hold a meeting for lack of support and do not intend to so refuse. I have never begrudged an opportunity to preach the gospel.

One of the great things that brethren refuse to consider in the support of preachers is the expense involved. I have heard brethren literally grumble and gripe at being asked to drive their car ten miles in a personal work program and then ask a man to come 1250 miles for a meeting and refuse to pay his plane fare.

Brethren also refuse to take into account the cost of operating an auto several thousand miles annually in the work of the church, but without fail expect the man to supply the car. I have often wondered how long the brethren will continue to support me if I were to sell my car with no intention of buying another. How many calls would a man have to make if the brethren had to pay his taxi fare?

It is a proven fact that the cost of operating an auto generally runs between ten and fifteen cents per mile. Even the Internal Revenue Service no longer questions a claim of ten cents per mile auto expense! But brethren usually feel they have done some great wonder when they pay man two cents a mile for gas.

As a rule, preachers do not speak out along these lines. This is true of me, also! We consider this to be a part of the suffering and ill treatment that a man can expect when he sets out to preach. But brethren need to realize that the Bible teaches that it is right to support preachers and it is wrong to defraud anyone of his just due.... even preachers.

I do not wish to imply by this article that there are not also preachers who take advantage of churches, for I am sure that there are. Back about 1958 l wrote an article for the GOSPEL GUARDIAN entitled, "Who Has Put the Dollar Sign on Preaching?" I stand by that article today. I am no more delighted by an avaricious preacher than by a defrauding church.

Brethren, surely there is a balance of nature to be found here. Cannot those who want to do right try a little harder to please God with respect to these matters?

I feel confident that any good preacher will always want to help a struggling church, even at the cost of personal sacrifice. But I also feel strongly that each church should do what it can to pay its own way, and when the treasury of a small church is depleted its members should be as willing to sacrifice individually as they are to call upon a preacher to sacrifice for them! Too, churches that are larger and can do more should try to make up for the inadequacies of the smaller churches. And when a church is small and struggling it can at least demonstrate hospitality on the part of its members, and it can express sincere appreciation so that a man will at least have a warm glow for the appreciation of his efforts.

Truth Magazine IX: 10, pp. 14-16
July 1965