Ministry today is often viewed as a profession, a career and an occupation. We have been reminded quite often that “the laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7) and that we should not muzzle the ox when he is working (Deut 25:4). When I preach about the call of God into the ministry, the first thing that most people think of is a paid position and the first question that they have is about financial support. It seems that most people automatically connect ministry with a paying full-time job and I wonder sometimes how much interest there would be if there were no possibility of financial reward.
When Malachi was sent by God to Jerusalem shortly after the temple had been rebuilt, he was appalled by the apathy of the people and especially of the “clergy”. He made the observation that the priest seemed to be motivated by what they could get out of their service rather than by sincere love for God and a desire to build His Kingdom. “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nothing?” he asks. “Neither do you kindle fire on my altar for nothing. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts; neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” (Mal 1:10)
I have no problem with ministers who make a living from their work in the ministry…I am one of them in fact. But if financial remuneration is the incentive and motivation for ministry, there is a real problem.
I started preaching when I was 14-years-old and ever since then, in many different capacities I have always worked in “the ministry”. Most of the time I have been in ministry it has been totally volunteer and has even cost me dearly. I have had to work secular jobs to support my family. Even as a senior pastor I took no salary and never felt entitled to anything. If there were no money in ministry I would still be doing it today and for the rest of my life. Why? Because I love Jesus and because it is what He has called me to do. I cannot imagine not ministering. Ministry is not my job…it is my life. I AM a minister…it’s not just what I do. I am amazed sometimes to think that today I am able to make a living doing something that I love so much.
Jesus told his disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34). This is reward enough. It is remuneration enough. And then he gave this exhortation, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27) As ministers we work not for money or for food, but we work for Jesus. Money will follow ministry and as you seek first the Kingdom of God all these things will be added to you.