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How Well Should Pastors Be Paid?

Before we can answer how well pastors should be paid, we first have to establish that they should be paid.

The Bible is clear enough on this—see I Timothy 5:17-18. Having established that they ought to be paid, we have already moved away from the pseudo-gnostic notion that there is something inherently sketchy about it.

That is, if we are inclined to think they ought to be paid nothing, we will likely find any payment gross and obscene. Such is envy badly disguised as piety.

In principle, I am persuaded that a man’s pay ought to be determined by agreement.

That is, in the marketplace there are those who value my labor at x. I value my labor at y. If there is overlap, I have a job.

Under such a market scenario, someone cannot be overpaid. When we grumble about this athlete, that actor or that other business executive making big dollars, our real beef is with those in the market who are willing to pay so much. No need for us to get troubled when others make agreements we might not make.

Remember that when God established the nation of Israel, He established in the marketplace no price ceilings or price floors.

But the pastor is not entering into the marketplace, selling his services to the highest bidder. His calling is distinct from the market place.

In Old Testament Israel (recognizing of course that pastors and Old Testament priests have far from a one-to-one correspondence), He established the Temple system, which ensured provision for the Levites quite apart from what the market would bear.

In like manner, we who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ do not sell this message from the pulpit, but deliver it joyfully as we have received it, without cost.

The next challenge is perception.

Some churches pay their pastor very well indeed because it becomes a matter of pride for the church. Other churches believe they should pay their pastor very little, lest he look unspiritual.

I think those who think in these terms are the unspiritual ones. There is nothing spiritual about driving a rundown car, or eating beans and rice, nothing unspiritual about going out to dinner or owning a well-made suit.

So what’s the bottom line?

I’d encourage a church to aspire to these goals, in this order.

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Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. is a Teaching Fellow at Ligonier Ministries and professor and lecturer at Ligonier Academy in both the Bible college and D.Min. programs. He is also founder of Highlands Ministries and author of Believing God: 12 Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept. You can follow him on Twitter @RCSproulJr.