Vol.V No.VIII Pg.7
October 1968

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

What is a "hireling"? Is it wrong for a church to pay a preacher a "salary" for preaching the gospel?


The terms used in describing the "support" of one who devotes his time to the proclamation of truth are of far less importance that the work done and our "fellowship" in that work. Paul clearly establishes the right of the preacher to be sustained in physical things by those who profit by his spiritual "sowing" (1CO.9:6-14). Paul was supported in Corinth by "other churches" (who sent "wages" K.J.) (2CO.11:8). GAL.6:6 says "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things". This "fellowship" would include material support, from individuals.

A "hireling" receives material support, but not all who receive such are "hirelings". "Hire" generally refers to "the price paid for the use of a thing or place, for personal service, or for labor". A church operates (saints act collectively) thru agency; i.e. someone acts on behalf of, as an agent of, the group (PHI.2:25-30; COL.1:7; ROM.16:1-2). Consequently, if a group of saints wished to act collectively in publicly proclaiming the truth, they might obtain the service of a qualified man, paying a "salary" in exchange for this service. This arrangement would not necessitate any wrong on either part.

But "hire" and "hireling" have acquired a bad connotation. Service done solely for reward, the "pay" being the motivating influence, is most degrading. Webster's dictionary of synonyms says, "That is mercenary, in ordinary usage, which is actuated by (usually sordid or self-seeking) considerations of profit or reward. Hireling applies to that which is (esp.) servilely sold, venal, to that which is (esp.) basely purchasable, for a dishonorable consideration...."

"Servile" means one becomes slave for a price — allows himself to be a "tool" for a price. The preacher who ceases to act upon his own conviction, has made the source of "pay" his master instead of Christ. The scriptural example (JOH.10:12-13) has the hireling leaving the sheep to the wolf, "because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep". Some hirelings of today do not flee -- they stay and join with the wolf in feeding on the flock.

Personally, although I do not have strong objections to the word "wages" "salary" or "hire", I know I am preaching the gospel because I believe the Lord wants me to use this talent. I want to preach, and will continue to preach regardless of support. I consider my arrangement with a supporting church a mutual affair: I want to be busy preaching the word, and they want to support and uphold the preaching of the word, so we get together. I make an honest effort to take only that which is necessary for reasonable needs, and preach what and how I believe I can best serve the Lord. I have in the past, and will in the future, part company with my supporters when this mutual aspect of our arrangement no longer obtains.