Paying a Decent Wage
Deut. 25:4 ¶ You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.
1Cor. 9:8 ¶ Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same?
1Cor. 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?
1Cor. 9:10 Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop.
1Cor. 9:11 If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?
Moses’ law stipulated that the Israelites were to take good care of their animals. If one fell into a ditch, they were to retrieve it. This was not only in regard to their own animals, but they were to care for the animals of others’ as well.
The oxen were yoked together to work on the threshing floor. As they walked around the millstone, the stone would grind the wheat. At the same time their feet would tread the grain. The owner was never to muzzle the ox while it was doing this work. How unkind it would be for this animal to be working hard among all this food and never be allowed to eat any of it! Instead as they worked they were to be allowed to eat and be sustained for their labor, from their labor.
In the New Testament Paul referred to this passage but was applying to those in the ministry. His point was that if we are to treat animals kindly and allow them to eat from their labors, how much more-so with humans. Specifically those who were in ministry. If he and other missionaries had sown spiritual good among the people, should they not be allowed to be fed from among their labors?
The ox was to be allowed to eat from the grain which he was threshing. Interestingly the ox ate while he was working. He didn’t overeat — he wasn’t gluttonous, but he ate enough to be able to continue his work with the necessary strength.
Those who are ministering should be paid a decent wage from among those whom they are serving. It should be a decent wage — enough for them to be satisfied and have the strength and energy to continue ministering. However, there are a couple of reasons this may not be happening these days. One is that we are not seeing a lot of spiritual growth among the churches. Where there is not spiritual growth there will not be material benefits. The ox was able to eat because he was working and therefore there was something to eat from. We are living in a day of spiritual drought in some parts of the world. The people in the pew as well as the pastor are dying.
In some places there is great work that is happening and there is spiritual growth, but there are lay leaders who don’t believe the pastor should get paid. Rather, by keeping the pastor poor we are keeping them humble! No, instead the pastor should be able to receive enough and be satisfied — to meet his/her needs by the loving care provided to them by their parishioners. They should receive a decent wage. When they don’t, it’s as if we have muzzled the ox that is treading the grain. Can you imagine the frustration? Seeing all the resources around you and yet starving at the same time?
That same frustration reaches outside the church. If people are not given a decent wage for the work that they do, they will be like the muzzled ox. Hungry and tired from their labors and wondering if they will ever get fed. In the meantime the mill owner has more than enough.
God wanted his people to be fair when it came to animals because he loves them. How much more does God love those who are made in his image? May we treat one another with the respect due one who is created in the image of God. In doing so we may be showing love to God himself.
Lord, please help me to be sensitive in caring for others. Amen.