By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: What is the extent of the application of 1 Timothy 5:17-18 today?
Reply: The passage under consideration is Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 5:17, 18 which reads: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching.”
Elders who are doing their work well, “especially those who labor in the word and in teaching” should receive financial support. “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” If a man is serving as an elder, devoting his full time (or at least a good portion of it) to that task, he should be paid for his services. Not only are elders who rule well to be respected and honored for the work they are doing, but they should also be honored by financial support. This is what Paul is teaching in this passage.
Preachers who devote their time to preaching the word should be supported financially. Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 9. He uses several illustrations to prove his point. “What soldier ever serveth at his own charges?” Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” (v. 7) Paul applies the Old Testament passage, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn” (Deut. 25:4) to paying preaching (v. 9). He applies the same passage to paying elders (1 Tim. 5:18). The principle, then, that applies to preachers also applies to elders. Paul asked, “If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?” (1 Cor. 9:11) Paul concluded this argument for paying preachers with the affirmation, “Even so did the Lord ordain that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel” (v. 14). So, as preachers who devote their time to the work of preaching the gospel should be paid, so also elders who rule well, “especially those who labor in the word and teaching” should be paid (1 Tim. 5:17). The passage is just as applicable today as it was then. Preachers and elders who labor tirelessly, giving their time and service, are deserving of monetary support.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 24, p. 741
December 19, 1985