When Paul preached in, what is now, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, there were many travelling sophists (philosophers who spoke well in public); they commanded a good income. By contrast, Paul and his apostolic team did not ask for money; instead they worked as tent menders in local markets (Acts 20:34 , 2 Corinthians 11:9 ). When the church was established in Ephesus, Paul continued his ‘tent-making’ for about 3 years while he taught the church.
As the Ephesian church grew, it became obvious that some elders were well able to teach and preach, and needed to be released from their ‘day jobs’ in order to serve in the ministry of the church. Paul then authorised Timothy to say that the ‘tent-making’ model may not be a sustainable way to support the ministry as it became a ‘full-time job’. Therefore the elders should be properly supported financially. That support should not be mean or inadequate for the minister’s needs. Some of the hardships Paul suffered voluntarily should not be the only model of ministry. Those who work hard in the gospel should receive enough to sustain a family.
Although these verses have been used by some greedy ministers to extract more money for their churches, there are still many more poor pastors than rich ones. We should pray for those who labour as pastors, teachers and evangelists; but we should also ensure that they have sufficient means to fulfil their ministry and support their families. Of course, many churches simply do not have enough money, but perhaps that is one reason why the needs should be made known to all the church, so that these verses can be honoured through increased giving.
© Dr Paul Adams