Situation of the Clergy Today
Mainstream religious institutions often have a clergy-class, separate from what is called the laity. The titled clergy are viewed as a group who should minister to the laity, instructing them, and coming to their assistance in times of need. In exchange for such services, an agreement may be in effect, involving the provision of a home, an automobile, and a salary or cash allowance. Other “perquisites” may be involved, including insurances, etc.
Whether or not a clergyman fulfils his or her part of the “job description” above, is not what I will discuss in this article. Rather, the question I will address is this,
Is it appropriate in the first place, to have a paid clergy class, according to the Inspired Scriptures – the Bible? What do you think? Some might argue, “A minister has to have something to live on. If he spends his time ministering, where can he get his income from?” Certainly, one must survive. Let’s see how the Bible says such survival should come about.
Does the Bible Authorize a Paid Clergy?
Jesus’ own words on the matter would certainly be appropriate. Let’s see what he had to say to his disciples in the first century, at Matthew 10:5-10,1
“These twelve (apostles) Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor money for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” (Brackets and Italics Mine)
Clearly, Jesus did not receive payment for sharing God’s message with his apostles. Neither did he authorize the apostles to charge for their message when they went to the people. On the other hand, they were not to take money with them, but they should depend upon God and the kindness of the people to feed them when they were invited into the household.
What About the Apostle Paul – a Christian Overseer and Missionary?
Next, let us consider the apostle Paul. While not one of the twelve, he was a Christian overseer and a missionary, and no man has written more Bible books than he. Did he accept a salary or did he look for money from those to whom he preached and taught?
Acts 18:1-3 indicates Paul worked to support himself, as a tentmaker. Thus, we read,
“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome), and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: (for by their occupation they were tentmakers). And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.”
Paul even said, at 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9,
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” (Italics Mine)
Yes, Paul – and we might add that Paul was not a clergyman – did not make it a practice to live off his brothers! Although he would accept it on occasion, Paul did not rely on hospitality for a living. Rather, he worked – as he says – night and day, in order to set the example for them, that one should not fail to work for a living.
Isn’t the Situation Different Today?
But someone might say, “It is no longer possible to do this. Minister’s must receive a salary to live.” Oh? Do you know those people who go door-to-door in your neighborhood, talking about the Bible? Did you know that each and every one of the adults who come to your door provide for themselves, whether by secular work, a retirement pension, or some other legitimate income? Not from a religious salary? That’s right.
Even today there is no basis to be found in scripture for a paid clergy class.
1 All verses used here are taken from the King James Version – not because of its scholarship, but because of its popularity.