Money and Ministry: Making a Living

People who dedicated themselves full time to God’s service deserve to be paid well for their work.

Would you expect a contractor to remodel your house free of charge? Do you go to the doctor without paying for his services? Would you go to the store to get food without bringing money to pay for it? Of course not — money is a part of every profession. So why do so many people have a problem with money and ministry?

All work has value. Whether someone provides you a good you need to survive or a service that will make your life easier, you compensate them. We pay people to show them our appreciation for their time and effort and to enable them to provide well for their own needs.

When it comes to money and ministry, though, things get awkward. It takes money to run a ministry, but many great organizations are limited in their effectiveness by poor financial management. Following God’s Master Plan for your money can help with ministry finances. But it’s also important to clear up the misunderstanding that money and ministry don’t go together. Because the Bible is clear that they do.

If you work in ministry full time, that work should provide you with a livable wage that will support you and your family. Even if you work part-time in ministry, you should get some compensation for the amount of time and effort that you put into the work.

Money and Ministry: What Does Jesus Say?

Jesus addresses the tension between money and ministry in Luke 10:5-7, when He gives His disciples instructions on how they should handle the practical aspects of traveling ministry assignments:

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

Later on, in I Timothy 5:17-18, Paul gives similar advice to his protege Timothy, who is also working in full-time ministry:

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Both of these passages make the same point: People who work hard in ministry deserve to be compensated fairly for their time and effort.

Jesus understood that “the worker deserves his wages,” and He instructed His disciples to receive physical support from the people that they ministered to. Paul used this instruction — as well as the Old Testament prohibition against forcing an ox to labor without feeding him — to convince Timothy that people who work in the church should receive both honor and financial reward.

Real-Life Application

This teaching has real ramifications in ministry as well. Some people become uncomfortable when they arrive at the intersection of money and ministry. They believe ministers shouldn’t make much money or that wealth is incompatible with service to God. But scripture doesn’t support those ideas. Looking at the teachings of Jesus and Paul, it’s safe to say that God intends for His full-time workers to make money and to enjoy a life of financial contentment.

What does this all mean for you? If you run a ministry or do faith-based non-profit work, you need to make sure you’re being paid for your work. It can be tempting to forego a salary, especially if money is tight for your organization. But you can’t live that way for long — it’s simply not sustainable.

You need to have an income and personal money independent of your ministry’s cash. Unless you have some other resources at your disposal, working in ministry without an income will eventually lead to stress, worry, discontentment and burnout. It may sound noble to work for free, but ultimately foregoing a paycheck does more harm to your organization than good.

If you work in the secular world, these principles have real implications for you too. The work of the Kingdom must be funded, and God expects those of us with incomes to give generously to fund that work. Our tithes provide the funding that makes church happen, and our generous giving is what allows missionaries to take the gospel to all corners of the earth. Just as you wouldn’t expect a doctor, contractor or grocer to work for free, you shouldn’t expect your ministers to work for nothing either.

Managing Money in Your Ministry

If you work in ministry, you might have experienced some tension surrounding your finances. Financial trouble can stress you out and might even make you wonder if a life of ministry is worth the hardships. But if God has called you to His work, He doesn’t intend for money to get in your way.

If managing your personal finances while you work in ministry is overwhelming, I have a free resources that can help. My video series “Stress Free Finance” will give you simple steps you can take to eliminate your financial stress, get out of debt and live the life of blessing God made you for. Here’s a quick preview video. you can sign up for the series in the form right below.

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