the weblog of Alan Knox

Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits in 1 Peter 5:2

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in discipleship, elders, scripture | 8 comments

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In many sectors of the church, elders/pastors and financial benefits seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, until a few years ago, I had never heard of a church that did not fall into one of the following categories: 1) already employed one or more people as elders/pastors, 2) actively looking for one or more people to employ as elders/pastors, or 3) could not afford to hire someone as elder/pastor but was working toward that goal.

In this series, I am examining three passages (in four posts) in which elders/pastors and financial benefits are explicitly connected. Those three passages are Acts 20:33-35, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and 1 Peter 5:2. I think it is important to analyze each passage to determine what it can or cannot mean before synthesizing the information together to help us understand what Scripture says about the connection between elders/pastors and financial benefits.

In this post, I’m going to examine what Peter wrote to elders in 1 Peter 5:2 regarding elders/pastors and financial benefits. (By the way, of these three passages, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 is not written to elders. Only Acts 20:33-35 and 1 Peter 5:1-4 are written directly to elders.)

Here is the passage that Peter wrote directly to elders:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4 ESV)

Peter uses three pair of contrasting descriptors to explain how he expects elders to shepherd by exercising oversight: 1) not under compulsion but willingly, 2) not for shameful gain but eagerly, and 3) not domineering but being examples. The pair of descriptors that may indicate some type of financial benefits for elders is the second pair: not for shameful gain but eagerly.

These two descriptors are composed of adjectives. The first has the following range of meanings: “eagerness for gain,” “greedily,” “fond of sordid gain,” etc. The primary idea is a desire for money. The second adjective as the following range of meanings: “willingly,” “eagerly,” “freely.”

If we recognize that Peter was using these descriptors to contrast one another, we see that he is pitting the idea of shepherding others with a purpose of financial gain versus shepherding others willingly or freely. Unfortunately, interpreters often focus on the “sordid gain” (or “filthy lucre”) range of meanings of the first adjective and miss the second contrasting adjective. Peter is not telling them to seek “good” financial gain instead of “bad” financial gain. He’s telling them to serve other free of charge.

Of course, once again, this does not mean that NO financial benefits may come their way. Instead, Peter is saying that they should not serve so that they can earn financial benefits. So, for Peter, the elders should shepherd others even if they receive no money or other financial benefits in return.


Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Acts 20:33-35
  3. 1 Timothy 5:17
  4. 1 Timothy 5:18
  5. 1 Peter 5:2
  6. Conclusion


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-2-2012

    Right fine. Thanks! It would be nice to have this series put together as a downloadable PDF resource from your site. You’ve stated things so clearly, succinctly and faithfully.

  2. 3-2-2012

    The voice may be small, yet it is strong, the point may be overlooked, yet it is not diminished, the Church is the bride of Christ. It is the passion, the focus of the Eternal God.

    What we are experiencing, or better yet uncovering is the foundation of the Church. This foundation when built upon will be vastly different from the western concept that is in vogue currently.

    I do believe that we are seeing the beginning of more than a reformation, it is a revolution. This revolution will transform our thinking, and unite the followers of Christ in a way that will shake the foundations of this present age.

    This revolution is in, and through, and for Jesus the Christ.

  3. 3-2-2012


    There is one more post in this series. I’ll consider putting the entire series together in PDF form. I haven’t done that before, but I’m not opposed to it.


    I have heard more and more people talking about and living these issues and others. So, you may be correct.


  4. 3-3-2012

    Having spent my early years of walking with the Lord Jesus in a community of believers with a very defined hierarchy, which evolved into a legalistic and controlling cult like group; I found release from the confusion and conflict when I read Pagan Christianity (Barna and Viola). Further when reading the Didache (the one I have is by Aaron Milavec) which confirms your theme here in no uncertain terms…11:12 But whoever (in this category (of apostle-prophet) should say in Spirit, “Give me silver or any other thing,” you will not listen to him/her; but if concerning others being in want, he should say to give, let no one judge him/her. The concept of equality amongst believers, all being priests and kings from the get go, for me goes a long way in restricting intimidating individuals from gaining power over young and new believers and leading them astray for their own benefit. Some of this is done in error and without intent, but human nature seems to drift in that direction very easily. It is wonderful to be finding this vein of believers who have this perspective (your post theme) and can articulate it for others. A marvel of God’s grace for sure in my life. He is faithful like no other. Thank you for your efforts and diligence in communicating, sharing, serving, feeding. I certainly appreciate it.

  5. 3-3-2012

    “This foundation when built upon will be vastly different from the western concept that is in vogue currently.”

    Yes, let every man take heed how he builds upon it (1 Cor. 3:10).

    “This revolution is in, and through, and for Jesus the Christ.”

    Rebels for Jesus! Rom. 12:2

  6. 3-3-2012


    Most pastors/elders that I know have the best of intentions. I do not question their intent or motives at all.


    Of course, for many, the foundation includes the idea and presence of a professional / vocational pastorate.


  7. 3-4-2012

    Operative word here perhaps is “most” and while there is an abundance of worthy intentions, I trust you have never, nor ever have to, experience leadership from those in gross error. Innocence is vulnerable, as well as youth. However, Jesus is the faithful one, the one worthy of complete trust and can be trusted to be with us and for us in spite of any and all error. Because of my experiences and that of others I know well, I do question intent and motives and I do not reverence titles or position. I hope that I give honor where honor is due and am respectful of those “in ministry”, but I do claim equality and reject hierarchy as regards to walking together with the Lord. Leadership is necessary I understand and I can “submit” myself in appropriate ways to appropriate leadership…but I have learned a few things from my experiences that, while being a wonderful and valuable education, make me careful and even questioning.

  8. 3-4-2012


    I like your comment. I also respect people; not titles. Unfortunately, some with titles see this as being disrespectful. I can’t do anything about that, though.