Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Unpaid Local Ministry

There is considerable debate among Christian churches on whether there should be a paid ministry or not. Many Christians look to two scriptures to support their case that it is acceptable for local ministry to be paid from the tithing of the members of their church.

1 Cor 9:14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
1 Tim 5:17-18 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

According to many modern translations, 1Cor 9:14 has been interpreted to say: "get their living from the gospel?" The KJV and other older versions say, "So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to live of the gospel." So, the issue here is, what makes more sense. Is this scriptures saying, the Lord wants that those who preach His gospel should live it, or that they should make money from it.? To understand the question we need to compare the different Bible versions and look at the original Greek. With the Internet and websites like Biblos.com, comparing multiple Bible translations, original manuscipts, and Lexicons can be done with a click of the mouse.

Looking at 20 translations the money vs. obedience interpretation is 50/50. So, lets look at the original Greek and see which interpretation is more justified. Should those who preach the gospel live it, or should those who preach the gospel receive ill-gotten gain, and filthy lucre from it. I don't know Greek but I am proficient in Spanish, so I will compare the Greek to the Latin and Spanish.

οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν
Ita et Dominus ordinavit iis qui Evangelium annuntiant, de Evangelio vivere.
Así también ordenó el Señor a los que anuncian el evangelio, que vivan del evangelio

The next step is to look up the root words which comprise the phrase in question in a Lexicon. A Lexicon is a Bible dictionary that describes the root meaning of the words in the Bible based on the usage of the word in other places in scripture and other contemporary writing of the time. Lexicons also can disagree. It is also important to not only understand the meaning of the root word, but also the case and tense of the word.

εκ preposition: a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause literal or figurative; direct or remote)
του definite article - genitive singular neuter: the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom) -- the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.
ευαγγελιου noun - genitive singular neuter: a good message, i.e. the gospel -- gospel.
ζην verb - present active infinitive: to live -- life(-time), (a-)live(-ly), quick.

So, who would I interpret this?

[Thus/So] the Lord [ordained/directed/required/proscribed] those who [announce/proclaim/preach] the Gospel, to live [of/from/*omit*] the gospel.

Now, how do you get "make a living" or "earn a living" or "get a living" from this? Are the modern interpretations justified? The things I noticed here is the Spanish use of the subjunctive tense. This prepositional phrase is not subjunctive which is a tense which expresses doubt. It is active infinitive which is closer to indicative or imperative because the Lord is requiring it. If I were to assume subjunctive tense, then I would translate this into English "Thus the Lord ordained those who preach the Gospel, should live the Gospel." So, I don't necessarily agree with the Reina-Valera, but I wouldn't say its wrong.

But, how do you get "earn a living" from this. This translation requires that a similar idiomatic expression for "earn a living" is being used here in the Greek or that the verb for "to live" be used twice. I just don't see any support for that in the text.

Now, what about 1 Tim 5:17-18? This verse does not support the idea of a paid local ministry either. First off this chapter is taking about the "Law of the widow" or the responsibility of the church to care for the widow, poor and fatherless. In the verse preceding, Paul makes the point that the Elders or Presbyters of the church should take the responsibility to care for the widows and even take them in and care for them instead of putting that responsibility solely on the church. Paul says, "let them (the Elders) relieve them, and let not the church be charged." This is similar to what he says in 1 Tim. 5: 4.

What is the broader, cultural and historical context of this verse? The early saints were living the Law of Consecration and laying all their substance before the Bishop. Then, each head of household would be given a portion according to his families needs. Accordingly, Paul is saying that those Elders who have taken widows and fatherless into their care, are deserving of "double honor" or a double portion just like the eldest birthright son.

Now that we see these two verses do not support the idea of a paid ministry, we can look at other verses in the New Testament which are contrary to this practice.

1 Pet. 5: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Acts 20: 33-34 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
Matt. 6: 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

In the first verse, Peter tells the leadership to feed the flock willingly and not for money which he terms "filthy lucre" or ill-gotten gain. In the second, Peter reminds the people that although he has dedicated his life to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ he as still provided for his own needs and for those with him. It may be that Paul was independently wealthy and used his savings to fund his missionary journeys. But the scripture that is most important on this issue is the following.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The church membership should be subordinate to the leadership in authority but not in spiritual gifts, blessings, wealth or anything else. But when a local pastor used the tithing of his flock for his own support, this creates a huge conflict of interest. This practice is known as priest craft. Several modern Christian denominational and non-denominational churches are pattered after 1 of 2 flawed models. Either the pastor is elected by a council of Deacons or Elders, or the pastor owns the mortgage on the church. Either way, there is a significant conflict of interest. Either the pastor with be burdened with the task of not offending the electorate in the first case, or in the second, he is burdened with not offending the tithe payers. Both these leadership models will consciously or subconsciously affect how effective the Pastor is in calling his flock to repentance, and it will affect how much time and attention that Pastor will pay to certain members over others. Not all Pastors would necessarily be affected, but then they will be faced with continual mutiny and discontent and will have no hierarchy to support them in their call. This is why as we see in the Bible and the Early Church Fathers that Bishops are to be ordained and appointed and not elected or self-proclaimed.

What does the LDS Scripture have to say on this issue?

D&C 42:71-73 And the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families supported out of the property which is consecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned; Or they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services, either a stewardship or otherwise, as may be thought best or decided by the counselors and bishop.

D&C 51:13-14 And again, let the bishop appoint a storehouse unto this church; and let all things both in money and in meat, which are more than is needful for the wants of this people, be kept in the hands of the bishop.And let him also reserve unto himself for his own wants, and for the wants of his family, as he shall be employed in doing this business.And the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.

At first glance, these verses sound like they are allowing the Bishop and his counselors to live off the tithing of the people. That is not what it is saying. If you take into the historical context of these verses, the early LDS Saints were living the United Order with "all things in common" like the Early Christian Saints. Under this system, the Bishop and his counselors were required to operate the Bishop's Storehouse. While the local leadership were not paid for giving sermons, and visiting the sick, which can be done in addition to having a full-time job; the management of the storehouse was a full-time job and therefore the Bishop could rely on the storehouse as all the rest of the Saints did.

This principle is applied in the church today to cover those who work for the church to run its corporate needs. While there are many volunteers, those who are employed by the church to operate and manage its facilities are paid a competitive and just rate. But they are paid for skilled labor and expertise and not for preaching.

D&C 43:12-13 And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him;

This verse refers to the hierarchy of the church who are required to devote their full time and attention to the work of the ministry. These workers in Gods kingdom which include the Apostles, Seventies, Mission and Temple Presidents are allowed a living stipend to supply their needs. But there is no conflict of interest here, because they are the top and excommunicating or offending a few members is not going to affect their livelihood.

1 comment:

MainTour said...

Another example of this in action was the very high turnout the LDS church got at California Yes on 8 Street rallies. The membership is ready and willing to accept the call to duty.

No other group (for or against) was able to mobilize its membership like this.