Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17 ESV).
These words are usually followed in the secular world. We obey the government by being law abiding citizens. We obey the speed limits, we pay our taxes, and we listen to our secular authorities. We obey and submit to the secular government because we are commanded by God to do so in the 4th commandment. No one would ever think twice about paying their income taxes, or give strong considerations to disrupting the public order.
More important than obeying the secular government and supporting it with our times, talents, and treasures, is the support of our spiritual authorities. The words of Hebrews 13 are spoken at every ordination and installation of a sinful man into the office of the Holy Ministry. Does the church today submit to their spiritual authorities and support them in both mind, body, and soul? Better yet, does the church today see supporting the Pastor as the top priority in the life of the congregation?
Luther asserts what is due to the pastor in the Large Catechism saying, “Yet there is need that this truth about spiritual fatherhood also be taught to the people. For those who want to be Christians are obliged in God’s sight to thing them worthy of double honor who minister to their souls (1 Timothy 5:17-18). They are obligated to deal well with them and provide for them. For that reason, God is willing to bless you enough and will not let you run out. But in this matter everyone refuses to be generous and resists. All are afraid that they will perish from bodily needs and cannot now support one respectable preacher, where formerly they filled ten potbellies. Because of this, we also deserve for God to deprive us of His Word and blessing and to allow preachers of lies to arise again and lead us to the devil. In addition, they will drain our sweat and blood (Large Catechism 4th Commandment 161-163).
1st Timothy 5:17-18 declares, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Again, St. Paul wrote to the Churches in Galatia saying, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:6-8).
Do we doubly honor the faithful Pastor? Is the pastor’s salary and health insurance the top priority in every budget plan? What is more important for the church to pay, the building loan debt or the pastor’s salary? What takes greater precedence, bulking up the youth programs or giving the pastor a book fund for his continued studies? Do we make sure that he has sufficient funds in order to continue his education in doctrine of the church? Do we make sure that he is physically healthy in order that his weight doesn’t add to his stress? Do we make sure that he has plenty of time to spend with his family? In summation, do we see the pastor as the priceless treasure of the church? Do churches borrow 3 million dollars from the bank to insure they can pay the pastor for 20 years, or do they take out such extreme amounts in order to erect buildings, create church signs, or send the youth to far away lands for week long mission trips? We must repent. The pastor is not the priceless treasure in the Lutheran Church today. Because of this, God does not bless us. As Luther spoke in the Large Catechism, we are being deprived God’s Word because we reject the messengers that He sends.
The Pastor’s vocation is to hand over the goods of the cross to the Church. He is to preach, teach, baptize, and commune. He is to visit the sick and the widows. He is to reprove, rebuke, and exhort in season and out of season. He is to absolve repentant sinners and withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant. Because the pastor does this, the church responds by tending to all the temporal needs the pastor has. This should be a joy. The pastor shouldn’t feel guilty for getting paid or feel bad that the church argues about his salary. What greater joy is there than to have a faithful pastor to tend you the blessed sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd? Let us listen to Sacred Scripture and the words of Dr. Luther. Let us sort out our priorities and realize that we are not taking care of our clergy they way in which God commands us to do.