Unmuzzled Oxen


October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Pastoral work is difficult and often calls for great sacrifice. An average week for a pastor may include meetings, counseling, hospital calls, emergencies, weddings and funerals. That list does not include hours and hours of study preparing to preach one, two, or three sermons. He may also be called to minister to others out of town, or attend association, convention, or other clerical meetings. Additionally, your pastor may have a spouse, children or grandchildren who require his attention and attendance at family events. And, everywhere he goes, he is a man of God, responsible to have a godly disposition and a Christ-like temperament, 24 hours a day—even when he drives his car.

Most pastors are hard working, conscientious servants of God. Thom Rainer, CEO of Lifeway, shared some revealing statistics of a poll taken in 2013. Only 3% of pastors worked less than 40 hours per week. While 47% worked 40-49 hours per week, 40% worked between 50 and 59 hours per week. That means 87%, almost 9 out of 10 pastors, work more than the average 40-hour week. Altogether, the median workweek for pastors was 50 hours. Furthermore, because of the nature of a pastor’s job, he is also on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

So, what does the Bible say about honoring pastors?

Paul wrote Timothy: “The elders (Pastors) who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

In Bible times oxen were used to pull plows and carts, as well as threshing sledges, over freshly harvested grain. As the ox walked in a circle over the grain, his feet and the pressure of the sledge would cause the larger grain to separate from the sheath or hull. Then the grain would be winnowed or tossed into the air, allowing the grain to fall on the threshing floor and the chaff to be blown aside.

Paul quoted Deuteronomy 25:4, saying: “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” The ox was to eat of the grain while it worked. This command showed kindness and fairness to the animal that helped a person earn his daily bread. Paul reached back to this passage and applied the principle to serving ministers, showing that the laborer is worthy of his wages. God-called pastors, who love Him and serve churches, are worthy of honor and support. They are like the oxen threshing the grain, which earns the right to eat while they worked. The pastor is not to be muzzled. He is to be fed from his work.

The same verse in Deuteronomy was used in Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, regarding the wages of pastors. “For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.’ God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops” (1 Corinthians 9:9, 10). If God cares about the welfare of oxen, how much more does He care about human servants—especially those laboring for His kingdom? Paul is commanding: “Pay your pastor!” A few verses later he writes, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (verse 14).

Your pastor feeds you spiritual food. You, in turn, should care for his material needs. “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” It is always right for the minister, who blesses his people, to be blessed by his people. That is a natural right and a scriptural principle.

Pastors are also to be appreciated and esteemed by their churches. Paul wrote, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).

When Paul encouraged churches to “appreciate” those who labored among them, he meant that pastors should be recognized for the work they do. Showing appreciation for someone is inexpensive to give, but invaluable to receive. It is like a priceless treasure when someone appreciates you for who you are and for what you do. Nothing is as encouraging as appreciation.

Then Paul exhorted churches to “esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” To esteem someone is to hold them high and to value what they do. When pastors are esteemed “very highly” it means exceeding abundantly. We should go over the top in appreciating our pastors, because of all they do.

So, how can you honor your pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month?

  • You can send a hand-written note or card expressing your appreciation.
  • You could give a special love offering.
  • You may want to cook a meal and deliver it to his house—or bake his favorite pie—or take the pastor and his family out to eat—or give them a restaurant gift card.
  • You can pray for him every day.
  • You can be faithful in your church attendance.
  • You can be regular in your giving.
  • And you can speak encouraging words about him to others.

Let’s honor our pastors this month. Let’s give “honor to whom honor is due.”

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

2 thoughts on “Unmuzzled Oxen”

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