Open Your Bible
1 Timothy 5:17-25, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Deuteronomy 25:4, Galatians 6:4-10, Hebrews 13:7-17
BY Seana Scott
Burmese miners crouched along a watershed with their feet squelching in mud as they washed gravel to unearth rubies—the precious gem that sells for a high price. In 2014, an 8.62-carat pigeon’s blood Burmese ruby sold for $8.6 million. But these days, miners are extracting fewer and fewer gems. Like the gold rush on California’s coast in the 1800s (that dried up within a generation), the mines in the Union of Myanmar seem almost empty.
Sometimes it can feel like the church is like a stripped ruby mine: another pastor in moral failure, another church leader abusing power. But beyond the headlines, there are many more faithful men and women who serve diligently. They lead, teach, and live out the truth of Scripture with integrity, often without headlines.
These kinds of godly leaders should be highly valued—more than an 8.62-carat ruby. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy, his son in the faith, to give “double honor” to faithful, effective leaders, especially to those who teach (1Timothy 5:17). “Double honor” means to value and monetarily provide for something. Some scholars think this instruction might not have been limited to male elders but also might include deacons and deaconesses (leaders who faithfully serve the needs of the local body of believers).
Either way, talk of money and church leaders can cause most of us to squirm. But the truth is Scripture teaches us to take care of our leaders in every possible way, including financially. I think Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 5 serve as a helpful place to start considering financial payment for spiritual leadership. The worker deserves their pay. Do not muzzle an ox while it’s threshing (1Timothy 5:17–18, Deuteronomy 25:4). In other words, remuneration for the difficult work of leading is appropriate. Paul uses an example of an ox, but we could also imagine modern examples. “Don’t cut off a salesperson from their commissions.” “Don’t hold back a check from a contractor.” “Don’t keep a diligent spiritual leader from compensation for their effort.”
My husband dedicates more hours than a nine-to-five scouring Scripture, teaching diligently, and leading with integrity as a pastor. I buy milk and ground beef with the generosity of believers honoring their leaders. Our local congregation also shares with us in other ways, like filling my daughter’s closet with hand-me-down dresses or offering a vacation cabin for a retreat. They share all their good things with their teacher (Galatians 6:6).
Who teaches you in your faith? Who diligently exhorts and leads you by example? How can you share your resources to uphold them in their work? Maybe you drop off an anonymous gift card, earmark a percentage of your income for ministry, or offer another resource. It might look creative for each situation, but let’s take Paul’s exhortation to heart. Let’s show “double honor” to those who lead us well, for faithful spiritual leadership is worth far more than a pigeon’s blood ruby.