The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)
It is important to remember, while the New Testament describes leadership roles in the church (elders, deacons, evangelists) it doesn’t give us specific commands regarding how things are to be organized. This morning’s passage reminds us the leadership structures we find in the early church were varied and creative.
In Timothy’s situation in Ephesus, he was directed by the apostle Paul to instruct others so they, in turn, could be teachers (2 Timothy 2:2). Timothy was not called an elder, and many people see him as a first century model for full-time ministers who serve in our churches today.
Yet, in today’s passage we find elders in the early church often devoted so many hours to the work of the church they were financially compensated. The phrase, “Do not muzzle the ox” is a metaphor which reminds us people who make their living serving the church should have their financial needs provided by the Lord’s people. This is still the case today. Some churches refer to elders who fit this category as “paid elders.” Others place elders in full-time staff positions where they serve alongside other full-time ministers who are not designated as elders.
I am not sure how to determine when an elder is worthy of “double-honor” and should be financially compensated for his work. In my estimation, every elder I serve with in my present ministry deserves to be paid. They work hard for the Lord’s church, in addition to their other jobs that put bread on the table. But they willingly forego what they deserve so the church can afford to support people like me in full-time church leadership. For that I am very grateful.
If you have elders in your congregation who direct the affairs of the church well and serve faithfully in preaching and teaching, and you are not in a position to compensate them, or they refuse to be compensated, be sure to show them “double honor” in other ways. At the very least support them, and help them with their ministry by being willing to serve where needed. Give faithfully to the ministry of the church so they don’t have to agonize over how they are going to pursue God’s vision for the body. And give them the benefit of the doubt when they are unable to meet everyone’s need or solve every challenge.
Cards of thanks are nice too…as are personal words of encouragement.
In the church I serve we accept the fact the greatest status people have is when they visit as a guest. From that point on they move toward the core of church leadership. If they become elders they have become the greatest servants of all. That’s why our elders don’t think of their ministry as a “position” to be held, but rather a function to be performed for the Lord.
If you know an elder, honor him. You have no idea how many people needs he is carrying on his heart. And you also have no idea how much your kind works will mean to him.
Dear God, thank You for those who are deserving of “double honor.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.