Summary: Sermon articulates four reasons why pastors have the right to be financially supported by their congregations.
The Right To Get Paid
Today I’m going to speak on topic that I’ve dreaded preaching about for over fifteen years. The topic is controversial and the preacher delivering the sermon is immediately judged unfavorably. My topic is clergy compensation. Here’s the controversy. First, clergy who preach on their compensation appear arrogant, self-serving, and greedy. Yet, by avoiding the topic they are not educating the faithful and are diminishing their calling. Second, some parishioners are uncomfortable speaking about their pastor’s compensation because they feel that money can corrupt their ministry. They perceive that if they compensate their minister, he will no longer be working for the Kingdom of God, but will be trying to line his pockets with money. People perceive that clergy should have faith and “trust” that God will provide for their material needs. Jesus, some of the Apostles, and other pious saints are used as examples of ministers who succeeded in bringing people to God without relying on the local church for support. However, what does the bible say? Sure, faith and trust are important for any minister, but does the congregation have a financial responsibility for their support?
Our scheduled reading from 1 Corinthians 9:2-12 speaks about this topic and St. Paul makes the argument why the local congregation should support its pastors. So without further ado, here are the four reasons why pastors have a right to be financially supported by their congregations.
Pastors Have Right to be Supported Because They Are Continuing the Work of the Apostles
The original Apostles were well known in the ancient Church. They traveled throughout the world and were true missionaries. Local congregations supported the Apostles materially so they could devote their full energies to mission work. Eusebius, a Christian historian writes that some of the Apostles were even married and the Church supported their families while they spread the Gospel. St. Paul’s argues that since the early Church supported the Apostles and their families, he too has every right to be supported because he is an Apostle. St. Paul’s apostleship is further affirmed by the very existence of the Corinthian Church. His argument is rather interesting – let me explain.
Today, Notary Publics serve our society by validating signatures in legal documents. Once they establish a person’s identity, they witness the signature on a legal document, and then place their seal on the document. Their seal is “proof” that the signature was not a forgery. In ancient times, there was a similar system to validate documents. The mark stamped on clay or wax was important to people who were illiterate. The seal signified ownership and was then a means of authentication. St. Paul claims in his letter that the Corinthian Church is living proof that he is an Apostle. The Church bears his mark and was affected by his ministry as he led them to Christ.
I, and my brother priests are not Apostles. We, however, are entitled to be financially supported by the Church because our ministry is continuing the work of the Apostles and it can be traced to the Apostles. Our Orthodox Church claims the Apostolic Succession of its clergy. This is one of the unique aspects of our faith. According to our tradition, Apostolic Succession is “the direct, continuous, and unbroken line of succession transmitted to the bishops of the Church by the Apostles. The bishops, (who are the leadership of the Church) are considered to be successors of the Apostles; and, consequently, the duties and powers given to the Apostles by Christ are transmitted through "the laying-on-of-hands" to the bishops and priests who succeeded them by ordination (cheirotonia) to priesthood.” By virtue of our ordinations and service, you are our “seal” or confirmation that we are continuing the work of the Apostles. Pastors should have their basic needs provided so they can be unburdened by mundane, worldly cares and focus on winning souls for Christ.
Pastors Have Right to be Supported Because Workers Should Be Paid
Most people work for a living and they work so they can be paid. This is a simple fact of life. If you don’t believe me, just try cutting employees’ paychecks twenty-five percent and see how much everyone loves their job. Granted, I understand that there are many volunteers that work long days and receive no compensation, however, this is not the norm. People do not volunteer to help others unless their basic needs are covered. This is the very point that St. Paul is arguing to the Corinthians; people that serve the Lord need to have their basic needs provided. St. Paul uses three vocations in his example: the soldier, the farmer, and the shepherd. Soldiers risk their lives to protect and to serve their government. They are not expected to serve at their own expense. They are given basic food, shelter, and clothing so that they can be effective in their military objectives. Soldiers are not expected to have a day job to support them financially, and then serve as soldiers when they are called to duty. They expect basic provisions from the state. Farmers do not work for free either. They put in long hours to plant and harvest their fruit. They eat the fruits from their labor and sell excess produce for a profit so they can survive. Shepherds also expect to gain financially from their labor. They expect at a minimum some milk from their flock as payment. Soldiers, farmers, and shepherds all work to be paid and they reap the fruits from their work. Shouldn’t pastors who serve as front-line soldiers for Christ against the devil be provided with their basic needs? Shouldn’t pastors who help sow the seeds of salvation be allowed to harvest rewards from their vineyards? Shouldn’t pastors who shepherd their congregations be allowed to reap something for their labor? Pastors need to be compensated because they are God’s workers and all workers need to have life’s necessities provided.