Providing for Those in Ministry?

Should the church provide for those in ministry? This might sound like a foolish question, but it's one that must be addressed. Since some have become frustrated with the abuses of certain churches, the lavish lifestyles of some pastors in the face of the need of their people and the peoples around them - all backed up with continual pleas to tithe - they have fled to the opposite position (rather than a biblical one!). Using these things as an excuse, these individuals claim that there should be no such thing as full-time ministers or paid ministry positions. Is there any validity to their claims?

The Bible speaks of abuses by those entrusted with the care of the church, as a means of warning against them. When reading this next passage of Scriptures remember that the words, "circumcision group" are merely a way of saying "those who work to enslave people to any aspect of the Law." This idea was specifically true of some Jews in Paul's day (see Titus 1:14) and it's also true of many Gentiles who try and live like Jews, in some or all aspects, in our day.

Titus 1:6-11 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach-and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

Elders, and leaders of the church, need to be upholding sound doctrine. It's bad enough when any unsound doctrine is being promoted; it's worse when unsound doctrine is being used for dishonest personal gain. By definition it is for personal gain if they benefit from it in any way, directly or indirectly, and dishonest if they know from Scriptures that their teaching or practice is not applicable to the church.

As already mentioned, for various reasons including the abuses of some in ministry, there are those who claim that no Christians should be in full time service or paid Christian ministry. Often they use the example that Paul worked to provide for his needs and that of his companions on more than one occasion. They ignore the fact that this was an extraordinary outworking of God's grace. Paul, himself, supported the idea that he had every right to earn a living through the gospel, but that he (of his own freewill) chose not to. He never made this a mandate nor insinuates that God did either. In fact, when available, Paul accepted gifts to further the ministry he was entrusted to, which would have helped to provide for his own personal needs as well. While it should never be beneath any Christian in ministry to perform secular work to make ends meet - as the need arises - it's not a requirement. If we may digress, once again, for a moment: Consider how many so-called church leaders would abandon their flock if the going got personally tough financially. Getting their hands dirty in "menial work" is considered beneath their stature and education. But again, regarding proper provision for those in ministry, to the Scriptures...

1 Timothy 5:17-18 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (See Matthew 10:10 & Luke 10:7 also).


  • Those in Christian ministry need to earn a living, but it is contingent on their doing it well!

  • Christian ministry is not a blank check to unlimited income. "Wages" implies suitable income to live commensurate on the work being done.


Paul's own defense, of his right to earn a living from the gospel, is found in his first letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 9:3-12 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don't we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?


  • Those in Christian ministry need to provide for their family and for the well being of the ministry they are called to be carrying out.

  • Believers should share in providing for the costs of carrying out ministry, especially in regards to evangelism and missions! While God calls and equips certain people for specific ministry, the whole church is part of what makes it happen.


The apostle Paul wrote further, in another of his letters, about the support he had received from one particular church.

Philippians 4:10-19 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.

18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.


  • Believers should help provide for those who are in physical need as they work to spread the gospel. The privilege of giving is open to, and should be shared by, all believers as God enables them!

  • The free giving of the believers who recognized the need was sent by one appointed by the church, assuring it was all used for the purpose it was given.


This brings us back to a series of questions that have persisted throughout many sections of this work.


  • How can anyone say that a tithe must be given to the church before any other giving by a believer?

    Our tithes belong to the local church. We have no right to tamper with what belongs to God. Our gifts to parachurch ministries should always be over and above our tithes and offerings to our local church. (From a tithing sermon by Dr. Jerry Falwell,

    Many churches teach that all tithes must be given for local church ministry before anyone gives to missions or for evangelism, etc. Where is their biblical basis for this?

  • Some even say that the tithe, or giving to the church, should be paid before meeting the needs of family. Scriptures says...

    1 Timothy 5:8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

    Does giving to the local church negate this personal responsibility to care for family, poor, and missions?


While not directly related to the question of supporting those in ministry, the question of providing for the upkeep (or purchase, etc.) of a building also comes up frequently. Again, people seem to run to both sides of this question. Some claim no church (local fellowship of believers) should ever own a building. Far more claim the opposite, that the tithe was mandated by God to support having the building as well.

Because Tithing Helps the Church Carry Out the Great Commission. The church is commanded to go into all the world and preach to every person, baptizing the converts and teaching the commands of Christ. This requires money to print tracts, purchase radio and TV time, erect buildings... (From the section "Why Give to God?", part of a tithing sermon by Dr. Jerry Falwell,

As we've already determined by Scriptures; the tithe was never used to support (or erect) the building in Old Testament times, so precedence would be hard to claim. In fact, in the New Testament you'd be hard pressed to find any passage in support of funding a building, with or without a tithe. Why? Until the church became institutionalized a few centuries after the time of Jesus, the church (being the believers) met in whatever places they could find, ranging from the big public area of the temple before it was destroyed (Acts 5:12), subsequently in private homes (Colossians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Romans 16:5, Acts 20:20, etc.), and still later even catacombs (a slightly more morbid public place). Is this to say that having a building is wrong? No. A building is no different than any other tool or possession that a believer, or group of believers, might acquire. The questions always must be... How is it being used? Is it efficient use of the Master's belongings? Nowadays with people thinking of a building when they hear the word "church," and not of the people, who truly are the church, it's time to start considering if we've put way too much emphasis on the structure. If vast amounts of our time, efforts, and resources are being consumed on the building to the point of preventing us from caring for the poor and those in ministry (especially in regards to missions and evangelism), it might be time to start asking which is more important. Our actions will testify to our answer, regardless of our words.