A photo capturing a humble pastor, surrounded by open Bibles, receiving a small donation from a congregant, emphasizing the biblical principle of supporting pastors financially.

What Does The Bible Say About Pastors Getting Paid?

The Bible has quite a bit to say about whether pastors should receive payment for their ministry work. At first glance, the scriptures may seem contradictory on this topic. However, when examined closely, they provide wise guidance for how pastors can be supported financially.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The New Testament affirms that pastors should be paid for their work of preaching and teaching, but it condemns pastors who are greedy for money or who peddle the gospel for profit.

The key principles are that pastors should be cared for materially by their congregations, but money must not be their motivation for ministry.

Old Testament Background

Tithes Supported Priests and Levites

In the Old Testament, God instituted tithing as a way to support the priests and Levites who worked in the temple and did not have land inheritances like the other tribes of Israel (Numbers 18:21-24).

The tithe (literally meaning “tenth” in Hebrew) was one-tenth of the people’s income and was brought to the storehouses of the temple to supply food for the priests and Levites (Nehemiah 10:37-38). In this way, tithing functioned as a kind of tax to support the spiritual leaders of ancient Israel.

Tithing was an important act of worship and obedience to God. Failing to tithe was considered equivalent to robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10). The prophets rebuked the Israelites when they failed to bring their full tithes and offerings to the Lord (Amos 4:4-5).

Overall, the consistent teaching of the Old Testament was that tithing was obligatory for God’s people.

Prophets Sometimes Lived Simply

Although priests and Levites relied on tithes for their income, prophets often lived simple, nomadic lifestyles dependent on God’s direct provision. Elijah was fed by ravens and lived for a time with a poor widow who had only a handful of flour and a little olive oil (1 Kings 17:1-16).

Elisha lived a similarly minimalist lifestyle (2 Kings 4:38-44). The contrast between priests and prophets points to the spiritual principle that leaders should follow God’s leading rather than seek material gain (Matthew 6:25-34).

At the same time, the New Testament teaches that ministers should be paid for their work. Paul argues that just as oxen should not be muzzled while threshing grain, so too should ministers receive support from those they serve (1 Corinthians 9:3-14).

Yet Paul voluntarily chose not to accept financial support at times to avoid being a burden. So although poverty is not intrinsically holy, the Bible commends those who are content with simplicity and avoid greed (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus’ Example

Lived Modestly

Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, lived a modest lifestyle during his ministry on earth. Though he was the Son of God, Jesus did not seek earthly wealth, riches or comfort. He had no permanent home and often relied on the hospitality of others.

The Gospels describe how Jesus and his disciples traveled from place to place, spreading the good news of God’s kingdom. Luke 9:58 records Jesus saying, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

This reveals that Christ lived simply, without an abundance of possessions or wealth.

Jesus’ modest lifestyle was in stark contrast to many religious leaders of his day who loved money, fine clothes and luxurious living (Luke 16:14). Christ cared for the poor and warned against the dangers of wealth (Matthew 6:24).

His example encourages Christians to follow God rather than chasing after money or earthly treasures.

Instructed Disciples to Depend on Hospitality

When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to preach the gospel, he told them not to take any extra provisions – no food, money or bags. Rather, he instructed them to depend on the hospitality of others (Luke 9:3).

Christ wanted his followers to rely on God’s provision as they carried out their mission.

The disciples went from village to village, healed the sick, drove out demons and preached the kingdom of God (Luke 9:6). They depended on the kindness and generosity of strangers for food and lodging. This required faith and trust in God.

Jesus gave similar instructions to the seventy-two disciples he sent out, telling them not to take any money or supplies but to rely on those who welcomed them into their homes (Luke 10:4-7). This practice of Christian hospitality enabled the gospel message to spread rapidly in the first century.

Christ does not call every Christian to an itinerant, possessionless lifestyle. But his instructions to the disciples emphasize dependence on God rather than material provisions. Pastors and missionaries often follow this model as they travel to spread the good news of Christ.

Paul’s Teachings

Right to be Paid for Preaching

The apostle Paul taught clearly that pastors and ministers have a right to be paid for their spiritual work. In 1 Corinthians 9:7-14, Paul argues forcefully that just as a soldier, farmer, or shepherd gets compensated for their labors, so should pastors receive wages for their ministry:

“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?…If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

If others share this rightful claim on you, don’t we even more?” (1 Cor. 9:7-8, 11-12)

Paul contends that compensating pastors for their spiritual leadership is not only practical, but biblical. He even calls it a “right” that pastors can claim. While self-supporting ministry is honorable, paid ministry should not be seen negatively.

As Galatians 6:6 says, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.”

Warned Against Loving Money

However, Paul issues a strong warning to pastors – do not view ministry as merely a means of financial gain. In 1 Timothy 6:5, he rebukes leaders obsessed with money, calling them “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth.”

1 Peter 5:2 also exhorts church leaders to not be “greedy for money” as they shepherd their flocks. Serving God and money simultaneously is incredibly difficult (Matthew 6:24).

While getting paid for ministry is biblical, a pastor’s ultimate reward and motivation should be seeking first God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33). As Hebrews 13:5 reminds leaders, “…keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.”

Pay is permissible, but the love of pay is poisonous. By guarding their hearts from greed, pastors can receive compensation without compromising their calling.

Statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics show the average yearly income for pastors in 2021 was $55,120. While on the lower end of US salaries, most pastors view their roles not as jobs but divine callings. As Paul says, “What then is my reward?

That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge” (1 Corinthians 9:18). While payment has its place, the privilege of gospel ministry far outweighs financial benefits.

Instructions for Elders

Worthy of Double Honor

The Bible instructs believers to give elders who rule well “double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). This verse highlights two crucial responsibilities of pastors and elders – governing and teaching.

Those who excel at these vital tasks are worthy of the utmost respect and care.

The “double honor” mentioned likely refers to both respect and financial support. Elders who devote themselves fully to shepherding the flock deserve to be highly regarded and adequately provided for (1 Corinthians 9:14).

While pastors should not be greedy for money (1 Peter 5:2), the church should ensure they lack nothing while laboring for the gospel.

Scripture does not forbid pastors from receiving a salary. But it sternly warns against viewing ministry as a means of financial gain (1 Peter 5:2, Titus 1:11). Elders are commanded to serve eagerly and sincerely, not for shameful profit.

Their chief motivations should be love for God, love for His people, and desire to see the gospel proclaimed.

Not Greedy for Money

Several passages address the crucial requirement that elders must not be lovers of money (1 Timothy 3:3,8, Titus 1:7). Tragically, some pastors succumb to greed and fleece the flock rather than feed it. This brings disgrace and ruin upon their ministry.

As shepherds of God’s people, pastors and elders must follow the example of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Like Him, they should demonstrate selfless humility, care, and dedication (1 Peter 5:2-4). Rather than exploiting their position for financial gain, they should aim to humbly serve without expectation of reward.

Furthermore, while churches should generously provide for those who labor in the Word (1 Timothy 5:18), pastors must never presume upon the church’s provision or feel entitled to lavish compensation. They are called to preach the gospel freely, not for the sake of money (1 Corinthians 9:18).

Scripture upholds financial integrity as a non-negotiable requirement for pastoral ministry. Elders who are lover of money, greedy for financial gain, cannot be entrusted with the care of God’s flock.

Cautions Against Abuse

Don’t Peddle the Gospel

The Bible warns against falsely using the Gospel for personal gain. As 2 Corinthians 2:17 states, ministers should not “peddle” or “sell” the word of God like a commodity. Rather, they should spread the Good News with sincerity and Christ’s authority.

Scripture condemns religious leaders who exploit their position for money, using slick words and deception (2 Peter 2:1-3).

While pastors can receive pay for preaching, their core motivation should be serving God, not greed. As the apostle Paul said, “We are not trying to please people but God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6). Contrastingly, false teachers “have hearts trained in greed” and fleece the vulnerable for money.

False Teachers Exploit People

Unfortunately, many pastors today mimic the false teachers of old. Jesus Himself warned against slick-talking “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that don’t actually care for the flock (Matthew 7:15). The prophets also rebuked leaders who treated ministry like a money-making venture (Jeremiah 6:13-15).

According to a 2022 poll, 45% of evangelical churchgoers believe their pastor seems “more money-focused than ministry focused. “ This aligns with the prophet Ezekiel’s warning that Israel’s leaders “do not take care of the flock” (Ezekiel 34:2-3).

God cares deeply for His people’s spiritual nourishment, not filling a preacher’s pockets.


In summary, the Bible affirms that those who devote themselves to pastoral ministry deserve to be supported materially. However, it strongly warns against viewing ministry as a means of getting rich or using persuasive speech to take advantage of people’s generosity.

The key principles are that pastors should be cared for by their congregations while remaining devoted to the gospel and resistant to greed.

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