Those Who Labor in the Word

Acts 20:33‑35; 1 Corinthians 9:1‑14  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Answer: There ought to be no doubt as to the principle. Those who labor in the word, whether among those without or among those within, are entitled to the care of the church of God. The saints are bound to see that they should be supported without anxiety on their own part. The law itself lays it down, and this, the apostle’s twofold citation of Deut. 23:44Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. (Deuteronomy 23:4) shows, as regards not merely the wandering evangelists, but the stationary elders who labor in the word and teaching. It is mischievous to make it a question of poverty. Divine love has its privileges, especially in honoring those who are its chief witnesses and workers. This no doubt is an appeal to the loving compassion of the saints; but no circumstances should hinder the privilege of loving respect and grateful care for those who give themselves up to serve in the word. Hence says the apostle (Gal. 6:66Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. (Galatians 6:6)), “let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things.” There is such a thing as the activity of love, not the need of poverty only; and it would be a loss indeed and shame to the saints, if, because the teacher was not actually poor, there was to be no room for love in the taught. Were such ideas to supplant or enfeeble plain scripture, the saints would be demoralized.
On the other hand it is a blessed testimony where a man possessed of the best gift and full of the most self-denying labors, like the apostle, is not above working with his hands in order to minister to the wants not of himself only—but of others. In Paul’s case it was not laying aside the Lord’s work to acquire a respectable and lucrative profession, but the use of a trade he already knew to provide things honest and to help others in want. But, precious as this is, and not less in this day of clericalism than of old, the church has no just claim to plead such a scripture to excuse her own selfishness and neglect. It is a good word from one so working to his fellow-laborers small or great; but it is quite out of place when pleaded by the saints in order to repress the faith of a spiritual laborer, or to forget their own duty to such as are given up to the Lord’s work. Would they have Him and His work put in a subordinate place? or the devotedness of the saints quenched? It is most of all serious, where one who has in his hand to the plow is exhorted to take up an occupation for the support of himself and his family, as if the Lord hed said not a word to the contrary both for the exercise of his own faith and of love on the part of the saints.