“For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? . . . “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” (1 Corinthians 9:9, 11, KJV)
As a young boy, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s place in northern New Jersey. At that time, it was mainly farm land. We knew some of the farmers. After all there were only a few scattered homes in the area. The farmers were a hard-working lot. Across the road from my grandmom’s house was a field of wheat. At the harvest, the farmer would remove the grain from the stalks using a threshing machine. In ancient days, this process was not automated with machinery. It was done with oxen. A pair of oxen would pull a threshing board, weighted by the driver through the stalks to separate the grain from the stalks.
Paul uses the picture of the oxen threshing the grain quoting the Mosaic Law (Deut 25:4) to make a point. The verse states that one “shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” In other words, the ox was given the opportunity to glean from some of the grain as it was working in the field. The point here is a metaphor showing that if God so cared about the ox that labored in the field of grain, how much more He cared about His servants that labored in His field of the church.
Paul went on with another illustration. He wrote that the plowman and thresher labored in the hope of sharing in the crop. This was to show that the service to benefit others would be rewarded. He thus concluded, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” In other words, Paul concluded that the laborers who worked at sowing spiritual things in the church had the right to receive commensurate to their work. Even though Paul and Barnabas labored with their hands to keep from being a burden on the church, they did have the right to be blessed and sustained by the church.
Bringing this to the church today, let me make this statement. in the ministry, I have both struggled and been abundantly blessed. In my first church, a small church plant, I anticipated sacrificing. The first year I made $100 per month from the church budget. Yet, as we grew and our income grew, the board of the church raised my salary to $200 per month, even though our church receipts had grown four or five-fold. The problem was that they just did not understand the principle that Paul presented and what was entailed in the pastoral ministry. After explaining and teaching them these things, they got together and reconsidered. When I went to New Hampshire, the church there was very generous. More than I expected. The point I bring up here is that the workman is worthy of his hire.
I have spoken with pastors who seriously struggled financially in the ministry. In my view, most had a sufficient congregation to cover their church expenses and keep the pastor out of poverty. The issue was not the resources. These pastors often worked in low paying jobs just to get by. I don’t think that pastors need to be millionaires living in mansions. But then again, they should not be living in cardboard shacks either. Churches should ensure that they take care of their pastor’s needs. Your pastor works hard for your benefit. Do not let his family suffer if it is possible for you to provide sufficiently.