The topic of preachers requesting funds from church members is controversial in Christian circles. Some argue that it is justified based on certain biblical teachings, whereas others contend that it is problematic or open to exploitation.
If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Several passages in the New Testament provide instructions for financially supporting ministers of the gospel, but the biblical emphasis is on voluntary, cheerful giving – not heavy-handed appealing for donations.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine multiple key scriptures that speak to this complex issue. We will discuss appropriate versus inappropriate ways for church leadership to address the congregation about financial matters according to biblical standards.
With insight from Scripture, we aim to clarify God’s perspective on this sensitive but important matter.
Ministers Deserve Wages, But Must Not Be Greedy
1 Corinthians 9:9-14 – Let the Elders Who Rule Well Be Considered Worthy of Double Honor
In 1 Corinthians 9:9-14, Paul argues that ministers deserve to receive wages for their spiritual work, just as oxen deserve wages for plowing or soldiers receive wages for warfare. However, ministers should not view church funds as an opportunity for personal gain or wealth, but rather to provide for their basic needs.
Verse 14 states: “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” This affirms that churches should financially support ministers actively preaching the Word.
Additionally, elders who “rule well” should receive double honor, implying financial remuneration.
1 Timothy 6:3-11 – False Teachers Seek Gain, But Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain
In contrast to properly supported ministers, 1 Timothy 6:3-11 condemns those teaching false doctrine for financial gain. Verse 5 states: “ imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” This refers to those exploiting believers under pretense of religion to obtain money and wealth.
Rather than greed, Paul urges contentment in verse 6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Ministers should find satisfaction in serving God and not peddle His word for profit. While earning a modest living from the gospel is warranted, lavish lifestyles and prosperity theology conflict with scripture’s warnings against greed.
Giving to Ministers Should Be Voluntary and Cheerful
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – God Loves a Cheerful Giver
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, Paul encourages the Corinthians to give generously and cheerfully to those in need. He explains that whoever sows generously will also reap generously. God loves a cheerful giver, and He is able to make His grace abound to believers so they have all they need and plenty left over to give joyfully to others (2 Corinthians 9:8).
This passage highlights some key principles about giving to ministers and religious organizations:
- Giving should be voluntary and from the heart, not under pressure or obligation
- Generosity in giving pleases God more than the specific amount
- God blesses and provides for those who give cheerfully out of love
2 Corinthians 8:10-15 – Giving Should Be According to What One Has, Not Under Compulsion
In 2 Corinthians 8:10-15, Paul discusses the example set by the Macedonian believers in giving generously to help Christians in need. He explains that they gave voluntarily and eagerly according to what they had, not under pressure. Paul encourages the same attitude among the Corinthian believers.
Paul also references the story of the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:14-18), noting that those who gathered much shared with those who gathered little so that in the end, everyone had what they needed. In the same way, our plenty should supply what others lack.
The principles on display are:
- Giving should be in line with what one has, not based on pressure or made up expectations
- There should be equality in meeting needs so no one lacks necessities
- Surplus resources should go to supplying shortages faced by others
The Love of Money Leads Many Astray – Warnings Against Greed
1 Timothy 3:1-3 – An Overseer Must Not Be a Lover of Money
In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul provides requirements for overseers and deacons in the church. One key trait he specifies is that an overseer “must not be a lover of money” (1 Tim 3:3). The motivation for ministry should be loving God and people, not money or material gain.
As Paul exhorts elsewhere, “people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9).
Sadly, many TV evangelists and mega-church leaders have fallen into this temptation that Paul warns about. With multi-million dollar jets, mansions, expensive cars, and lavish lifestyles, it becomes evident that greed has corrupted their ministry.
Rather than being examples of self-sacrifice and generosity, their obsession with fund-raising and extravagant living is exactly what Paul said would ruin them.
Titus 1:5-8 – A Church Leader Must Not Be Greedy for Gain
Paul’s letter to Titus echoes the same requirement that overseers must not be “greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7). Church leaders should see their position as an opportunity to humbly serve others, not get rich.
They should follow Jesus’ model of self-giving love, not exploit their authority for money and possessions.
According to a recent survey, the average salary for a senior pastor is $99,000, ranging from $55,000 at smaller churches to $148,000 at larger churches. While financial support for ministers is reasonable, the problem comes when some pastors abuse their position to drive the compensation to extremes way out of proportion to their congregation’s income level.
1 Peter 5:1-3 – Elders Should Be Examples, Not Exploiting People for Money
Peter also addresses church elders in his first epistle, admonishing them to be “eager to serve” and to set an example for their flock (1 Pet 5:2-3). Like Paul, he warns that they should oversight out of obligation, not out of greed.
There should be no “domineering,” no heavy-handed authority, no exploitation of people for financial gain.
Unfortunately, this kind of exploitation is a huge turn-off, especially for young people today. Surveys show that millennials are leaving the church in droves, with many listing perceptions of “ethical lapses” among leadership as a major factor.
The next generation of the faithful will not tolerate spiritual abuse or manipulation for money.
|Healthy Compensation Practice
|Unhealthy Compensation Abuse
|Reasonable salary/housing allowance set by unbiased committee
|Outlandish salary/benefits set by pastor to benefit himself
|Accountable reimbursement policies for work expenses
|Reimbursement with little oversight for questionable expenses
|Ethical fund-raising focused on mission
|Pressure tactics; over-emphasizing money
Faithful Ministers Place Contentment Over Coveting
Philippians 4:10-13,19 – Paul Learned Contentment in All Circumstances
The apostle Paul provided a powerful example of learning to be content in all circumstances. While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to the Philippian church, thanking them for supporting him financially.
He assured them that he had learned to be content whether living in plenty or in need (Philippians 4:11-12). Paul’s contentment did not come from favorable circumstances but from the strength Christ provided him (Philippians 4:13).
Even when lacking basic needs, Paul discovered that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul encouraged the Philippians that God would supply all their needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Paul discovered that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). His example reminds ministers that coveting wealth can lead to ruin, whereas cultivating contentment places the focus on pursuing godliness.
Hebrews 13:5 – Be Content with What You Have
The author of Hebrews commanded believers to keep their lives free from the love of money and be content with what they had (Hebrews 13:5). This wise advice applies to everyone, but it is especially relevant for ministers. The allure of riches has corrupted many preachers over the centuries.
Scripture contains serious warnings against ministers peddling the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17) or shepherding God’s flock for dishonest gain (1 Peter 5:2). Church leaders who crave money have wandered from the faith and brought ruin on themselves (1 Timothy 6:10).
God calls ministers to find their contentment in Him, not in prosperous circumstances. Serving humbly while trusting the Lord to provide amply for their basic needs allows pastors to model the selfless example of Jesus.
Giving Should Fund Gospel Ministry, Not Personal Luxury
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – Collection to Support God’s Work and People
The Bible encourages Christians to give financially to support gospel ministry and help fellow believers in need. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 instructs the Corinthian church to set aside money each week for the purpose of supporting the Lord’s work and providing for the needs of others:
The passage clarifies that collections within the church should fund gospel ministry, assist struggling believers, and facilitate outreach. This is in line with many other passages commanding Christians to generously support missionary work and ministry to the vulnerable (2 Corinthians 8:4, 2 Corinthians 9:12-13).
Some argue that the principles in 1 Corinthians 16 condemn pastors or evangelists who solicit donations for themselves. However, the passage does not forbid financial support for ministers. Rather, it provides guidance that giving should empower ministry, not enrich preachers.
Contributions to the church should facilitate ministry to others, not fund extravagant lifestyles for leaders.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 – Giving Should Relieve Needs, Not Fund Extra Comforts
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 provides additional direction on giving that funds pressing needs rather than luxury:
The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. ‘”
This passage promotes proportional equality where all have the necessities of life but none live in indulgence. Here, Paul challenges the Corinthian church to give amply to impoverished believers in Jerusalem.
This would relieve desperate need, providing funds for food, shelter, clothing, and ministry expenses to spread the gospel.
Some interpret the passage as a check on clergy drawing large salaries from congregational giving. The goal should be meeting basic needs – not accumulating surplus comforts. Resources should equip ministry to reach the lost and assist the poor before funding lavish lifestyles (see also 1 Timothy 6:8).
According to a 2022 Barna Group survey, the median salary for Lead Pastors at Protestant churches in the U.S. was around $68,000. While reasonable for cost of living today, the principle of funding necessity before luxury remains relevant.
Overall, Scripture promotes giving to empower outreach, not enable excess.
In reviewing key biblical passages, we see that while ministers deserve to be supported financially for their spiritual labor, and believers are encouraged to give voluntarily toward gospel work, there is also a strong emphasis on motives and attitudes behind the giving.
According to Scripture, preachers must not be lovers of money or greedy for financial gain. Instead, they should lead by example in contentment, without exploiting people. Likewise, the congregation should decide for themselves to give cheerfully according to their means, not out of pressure or with a selfish mindset.
The biblical model advocates mutual care and provision within Christ’s Body – not heavy-handed appealing for donations or funding of self-indulgence. When handled appropriately, giving can wonderfully support ministry to expand God’s Kingdom.