1 Tim 5:18
18Thou shalt not muzzle the ox This is a political precept which recommends to us equity and humanity in general; as we have said in expounding the First Epistle to the Corinthians; for, if he forbids us to be unkind to brute animals, how much greater humanity does he demand towards men! The meaning of this statement, therefore, is the same as if it had been said in general terns, that they must not make a wrong use of the labor of others. At the present day, the custom of treading out the corn is unknown in many parts of France, where they thresh the corn with flails. None but the inhabitants of Provence know what is meant by “treading it out.” But this has nothing to do with the meaning; for the same thing may be said about ploughing.
The laborer is worthy of his hire He does not quote this as a passage of Scripture, but as a proverbial saying, which common sense teaches to all. In like manner, when Christ said the same thing to the Apostles, (Mat_10:10,) he brought forward nothing else than a statement approved by universal consent. It follows that they are cruel, and have forgotten the claims of equity, who permit cattle to suffer hunger; and incomparably worse are they that act the same part towards men, whose sweat they suck out for their own accommodation. And how intolerable is the ingratitude of those who refuse support to their pastors, to whom they cannot pay an adequate salary!
This verse maketh it evident that maintenance is part of the double honour that is due to such as labour in the word and doctrine in the first place: and not to them alone, but to any such as are employed in the rule and government of the church. The apostle had made use of Deu_25:4 to the same purpose, 1Co_9:9: neither of these texts conclude the duty of elders to take maintenance, but the duty of those who are members of churches to give it them, which they may refuse, as Paul himself did, if either the people’s or minister’s circumstances call for or will allow such a thing.
The Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox – This is a manifest proof that by τιμη, honor, in the preceding verse, the apostle means salary or wages: “Let the elders that rule well be accounted worthy of double honor,” a larger salary than any of the official widows mentioned before, for “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” The maintenance of every man in the Church should be in proportion to his own labor, and the necessities of his family. He that does no work should have no wages. In the Church of Christ there never can be a sinecure. They who minister at the altar should live by the altar; the ox that treadeth out the corn should not be muzzled; the laborer is worthy of his hire: but the altar should not support him who does not minister at it; if the ox won’t tread out the corn, let him go to the common or be muzzled; if the man will not labor, let him have no hire.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
the scripture — (Deu_25:4; quoted before in 1Co_9:9).
the ox that treadeth out — Greek, An ox while treading.
The labourer is worthy of his reward — or “hire”; quoted from Luk_10:7, whereas Mat_10:10 has “his meat,” or “food.” If Paul extends the phrase, “Scripture saith,” to this second clause, as well as to the first, he will be hereby recognizing the Gospel of Luke, his own helper (whence appears the undesigned appositeness of the quotation), as inspired Scripture. This I think the correct view. The Gospel according to Luke was probably in circulation then about eight or nine years. However, it is possible “Scripture saith” applies only to the passage quoted from Deu_25:4; and then his quotation will be that of a common proverb, quoted also by the Lord, which commends itself to the approval of all, and is approved by the Lord and His apostle.
For the Scripture saith – This is adduced as a reason why a church should show all due respect and care for its ministers. The reason is, that as God took care to make provision for the laboring ox, much more should due attention be paid to those who labor for the welfare of the church.
Thou shalt not muzzle the ox – see this passage explained, and its bearing on such an argument shown, in the notes on 1Co_9:8-10.
And, The labourer is worthy of his reward – This expression is found substantially in Mat_10:10, and Luk_10:7. It does not occur in so many words in the Old Testament, and yet the apostle adduces it evidently as a quotation from the Scriptures, and as authority in the case. It would seem probable, therefore, that he had seen the Gospel by Matthew or by Luke, and that he quoted this as a part of Scripture, and regarded the Book from which he made the quotation as of the same authority as the Old Testament. If so, then this may be regarded as an attestation of the apostle to the inspiration of the “Gospel” in which it was found.
The laborer is worthy, etc.
A second scriptural quotation would seem to be indicated, but there is no corresponding passage in the O.T. The words are found Luk_10:7, and, with a slight variation, Mat_10:10. Some hold that the writer adds to the O.T. citation a popular proverb, and that Christ himself used the words in this way. But while different passages of Scripture are often connected in citation by καὶ, it is not according, to N.T. usage thus to connect Scripture and proverb. Moreover, in such series of citations it is customary to use καὶ πάλιν and again, or πάλιν simply. See Mat_4:7; Mat_5:33; Joh_12:39; Rom_15:9-12; 1Co_3:20; Heb_1:5; Heb_2:13. According to others, the writer here cites an utterance of Christ from oral tradition, coordinately with the O.T. citation, as Scripture. Paul, in 1Th_4:15; 1Co_7:10, appeals to a word of the Lord; and in Act_10:35 he is represented as quoting “it is more blessed to give than to receive” as the words of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 9, in the discussion of this passage from Deuteronomy, Paul adds (1Co_9:14) “even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” which resembles the combination here. This last is the more probable explanation.
Thou shalt not muzzle (ou phimoseis). Prohibition by ou and future (volitive) indicative of phimoo (from phimos, muzzle), old word, quoted also in 1Co_9:9 as here from Deu_25:4, and for the same purpose, to show the preacher’s right to pay for his work. See note on 1Co_9:9 for aloonta (when he treadeth out the corn).
The labourer is worthy of his hire (axios ho ergates tou misthou autou). These words occur in precisely this form in Luk_10:7. It appears also in Mat_10:10 with tes trophes (food) instead of tou misthou. In 1Co_9:14 Paul has the sense of it and says: “so also the Lord ordained,” clearly meaning that Jesus had so said. It only remains to tell whether Paul here is quoting an unwritten saying of Jesus as he did in Act_20:35 or even the Gospel of Luke or Q (the Logia of Jesus). There is no way to decide this question. If Luke wrote his Gospel before a.d. 62 as is quite possible and Acts by a.d. 63, he could refer to the Gospel. It is not clear whether Scripture is here meant to apply to this quotation from the Lord Jesus. For ergates (labourer) see note on Phi_3:2.
1 Corinthians 9:14
Cornelius Lapide Commentary:
The Apostle proves by six arguments that that he and other ministers of the Word of God and the Church may receive their expenses from their flocks: (a) By the examples of the other Apostles (ver. 5); (b) by comparisons drawn from the practice of soldiers, shepherds, and agriculturists (ver. 7); (c) from the law of Moses (ver. 9); (d) from the example of the priests and Levites of the Old Testament, who lived on the sacrifices offered on the altar that they served (ver. 13); (e) from the ordinance of God and of Christ (ver. 14); (f) from the very nature of the case, from the positive command of God, as well as from the law of mature, which declared that, as payment is due to a workman, so is support to a minister of the Word, not as the price of sacred things, which would be dishonouring to them and simoniacal, but as what is necessary for them to fitly discharge their sacred functions for the people’s sake. Hence this support is owing to them as a matter of justice. So Chrysostom.
God’s will is the same under the New Testament that it was under the Old; it is not as to the people a matter of liberty, so as men may choose whether they will maintain their ministers or not, there is an ordinance of God in the case: it is the will of God, that those who are taken off from worldly employments, and spend their time in the study and preaching of the gospel, should have a livelihood from their labour.
1Co 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained,…. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ, in Mat_10:10 it is an order and appointment of his that his ministering servants, who labour in preaching his Gospel, should be sufficiently taken care of, as to a comfortable livelihood; he has not indeed fixed it in the same way as the priests and Levites had theirs under the law; but as the one was just and right, that they should be maintained out of the things belonging to the temple and altar, and live on them, so it is his will and pleasure,
that they which preach the Gospel; that continue to do so, that labour, and not loiter in the word and doctrine, who do the work of the ministry fully and faithfully, and not bear the name only of Gospel preachers: should live of the Gospel; not the Gospel itself, which is spiritual, and not corporeal food; but the sense is, that in consideration and because of their preaching the Gospel, they should be supplied with the proper necessaries of life: the learned Mr. Mede has proved, by various instances, that the word ευαγγελιον, here rendered “Gospel”, and which signifies good news and glad tidings, is in other writers used for a reward, given to such that bring good tidings; and has rightly observed, that the Hebrew word בשרה, which signifies the same, is used in a like sense in 2Sa_4:10 and accordingly the sense here will be, that it is the ordination of Christ, that such who faithfully bring the news and glad tidings of salvation to sinners, should, as a reward for such good news, be provided for with a comfortable maintenance, on which they should live.
Even so hath the Lord ordained – This is evidently a reference to our Lord’s ordination, Mat_10:10 : The workman is worthy of his meat. And Luk_10:7 : For the laborer is worthy of his hire. And in both places it is the preacher of the Gospel of whom he is speaking. It was a maxim among the Jews, “that the inhabitants of a town where a wise man had made his abode should support him, because he had forsaken the world and its pleasures to study those things by which he might please God and be useful to men.” See an ordinance to this effect in the tract Shabbath, fol. 114.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Even so — The only inference to be drawn from this passage is, not that the Christian ministry is of a sacrificial character as the Jewish priesthood, but simply, that as the latter was supported by the contributions of the people, so should the former. The stipends of the clergy were at first from voluntary offerings at the Lord’s Supper. At the love-feast preceding it every believer, according to his ability, offered a gift; and when the expense of the table had been defrayed, the bishop laid aside a portion for himself, the presbyters, and deacons; and with the rest relieved widows, orphans, confessors, and the poor generally [Tertullian, Apology, 39]. The stipend was in proportion to the dignity and merits of the several bishops, presbyters, and deacons [Cyprian, c. 4, ep. 6].
preach … gospel — plainly marked as the duty of the Christian minister, in contrast to the ministering about sacrifices (Greek) and waiting at the altar of the Jewish priesthood and Levites (1Co_9:13). If the Lord’s Supper were a sacrifice (as the Mass is supposed to be), this fourteenth verse would certainly have been worded so, to answer to 1Co_9:13. Note the same Lord Christ “ordains” the ordinances in the Old and in the New Testaments (Mat_10:10; Luk_10:7).
Even so – In the same manner, and for the same reasons.
Hath the Lord ordained – Hath the Lord appointed, commanded, “arranged” that it should be so (διέταξε dietaxe). The word here means that he has made this a law, or has required it. The word “Lord” here doubtless refers to the Lord Jesus, who has sent forth his ministers to labor in the great harvest of the world.
That they which preach the gospel – They who are sent forth by him; who devote their lives to this work; who are called and employed by him in this service. This refers, therefore, not only to the apostles, but to all who are duly called to this work, and who are his ambassadors.
Should live of the gospel – Should be supported and maintained in this work. Paul here probably refers to the appointment of the Lord Jesus, when he sent forth his disciples to preach, Mat_10:10; Luk_10:8; compare Gal_6:6. The man may be said to “live in the gospel” who is supported while he preaches it, or wire derives his maintenance in that work. Here we may observe:
(1) That the command is that they shall “live” (ζην zen) of the gospel. It is not that they should grow rich, or lay up treasures, or speculate in it, or become merchants, farmers, teachers, or bookmakers for a living; but it is that they should have such a maintenance as to constitute a livelihood. They should be made comfortable; not rich. They should receive so much as to keep their minds from being harassed with cares, and their families from want not so much as to lead them to forget their dependence on God, or on the people. Probably the true rule is, that they should be able to live as the mass of the people among whom they labor live; that they should be able to receive and entertain the poor, and be willing to do it; and so that the rich also may not despise them, or turn away from their dwelling.
(2) this is a command of the Lord Jesus; and if it is a command, it should be obeyed as much as any other law of the Redeemer. And if this is a command, then the minister is entitled to a support; and then also a people are not at liberty to withhold it. Further, there are as strong reasons why they should support him, as there are why they should pay a schoolmaster, a lawyer, a physician, or a day-laborer. The minister usually toils as hard as others; expends as much in preparing for his work; and does as much good. And there is even a higher claim in this case. God has given an express command in this case; he has not in the others.
(3) the salary of a minister should not be regarded as a “gift” merely, any more than the pay of a congressman, a physician, or a lawyer. He has a claim to it; and God has commanded that it should be paid. It is, moreover, a matter of stipulation and of compact, by which a people agree to compensate him for his services. And yet, is there anything in the shape of “debt” where there is so much looseness as in regard to this subject? Are people usually as conscientious in this as they are in paying a physician or a merchant? Are not ministers often in distress for that which has been promised them, and which they have a right to expect? And is not their usefulness, and the happiness of the people, and the honor of religion intimately connected with obeying the rule of the Lord Jesus in this respect?
Having asserted his apostolical authority, he proceeds to claim the rights belonging to his office, especially that of being maintained by it.
I. These he states, 1Co_9:3-6. “My answer to those that do examine me (that is, enquire into my authority, or the reasons of my conduct, if I am an apostle) is this: Have we not power to eat and drink (1Co_9:4), or a right to maintenance? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas; and, not only to be maintained ourselves, but have them maintained also?” Though Paul was at that time single, he had a right to take a wife when he pleased, and to lead her about with him, and expect a maintenance for her, as well as himself, from the churches. Perhaps Barnabas had a wife, as the other apostles certainly had, and led them about with them. For that a wife is here to be understood by the sister – woman – adelphen gunaika, is plain from this, that it would have been utterly unfit for the apostles to have carried about women with them unless they were wives. The word implies that they had power over them, and could require their attendance on them, which none could have over any but wives or servants. Now the apostles, who worked for their bread, do not seem to have been in a capacity to buy or have servants to carry with them. Not to observe that it would have raised suspicion to have carried about even women-servants, and much more other women to whom they were not married, for which the apostles would never give any occasion. The apostle therefore plainly asserts he had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and claim a maintenance for his wife, nay, and his children too, if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to procure it. Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to for bear working? 1Co_9:6. In short, the apostle here claims a maintenance from the churches, both for him and his. This was due from them, and what he might claim.
II. He proceeds, by several arguments, to prove his claim.
1. From the common practice and expectations of mankind. Those who addict and give themselves up to any way of business in the world expect to live out of it. Soldiers expect to be paid for their service. Husbandmen and shepherds expect to get a livelihood out of their labours. If they plant vineyards, and dress and cultivate them, it is with expectation of fruit; if they feed a flock, it is with the expectation of being fed and clothed by it! Who goeth a warfare at any time at his own charge? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not the milk thereof? 1Co_9:7-9. Note, It is very natural, and very reasonable, for ministers to expect a livelihood out of their labours.
2. He argues it out of the Jewish law: Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? 1Co_9:8. Is this merely a dictate of common reason and according to common usage only? No, it is also consonant to the old law. God had therein ordered that the ox should not be muzzled while he was treading out the corn, nor hindered from eating while he was preparing the corn for man’s use, and treading it out of the ear. But this law was not chiefly given out of God’s regard to oxen, or concern for them, but to teach mankind that all due encouragement should be given to those who are employed by us, or labouring for our good – that the labourers should taste of the fruit of their labours. Those who plough should plough in hope; and those who thresh in hope should be partakers of their hope, 1Co_9:10. The law saith this about oxen for our sakes. Note, Those that lay themselves out to do our souls good should not have their mouths muzzled, but have food provided for them.
3. He argues from common equity: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? What they had sown was much better than they expected to reap. They had taught them the way to eternal life, and laboured heartily to put them in possession of it. It was no great matter, surely, while they were giving themselves up to this work, to expect a support of their own temporal life. They had been instruments of conveying to them the greater spiritual blessings; and had they no claim to as great a share in their carnal things as was necessary to subsist them? Note, Those who enjoy spiritual benefits by the ministry of the word should not grudge a maintenance to such as are employed in this work. If they have received a real benefit, one would think they could not grudge them this. What, get so much good by them, and yet grudge to do so little good to them! Is this grateful or equitable?
4. He argues from the maintenance they afforded others: “If others are partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? You allow others this maintenance, and confess their claim just; but who has so just a claim as I from the church of Corinth? Who has given greater evidence of the apostolic mission? Who had laboured so much for your good, or done like service among you?” Note, Ministers should be valued and provided for according to their worth. “Nevertheless,” says the apostle, “we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. We have not insisted on our right, but have rather been in straits to serve the interests of the gospel, and promote the salvation of souls.” He renounced his right, rather than by claiming it he would hinder his success. He denied himself, for fear of giving offence; but asserted his right lest his self-denial should prove prejudicial to the ministry. Note, He is likely to plead most effectually for the rights of others who shows a generous disregard to his own. It is plain, in this case, that justice, and not self-love, is the principle by which he is actuated.
5. He argues from the old Jewish establishment: “Do you not know that those who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple, and those who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 1Co_9:13. And, if the Jewish priesthood was maintained out of the holy things that were then offered, shall not Christ’s ministers have a maintenance out of their ministry? Is there not as much reason that we should be maintained as they?”
6. He asserts it to be the institution of Christ: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1Co_9:14), should have a right to a maintenance, though not bound to demand it, and insist upon it.” It is the people’s duty to maintain their minister, by Christ’s appointment, though it be not a duty bound on every minister to call for or accept it. He may waive his right, as Paul did, without being a sinner; but those transgress an appointment of Christ who deny or withhold it. Those who preach the gospel have a right to live by it; and those who attend on their ministry, and yet take no thought about their subsistence, fail very much in their duty to Christ, and respect owing to them.
Catena Aurea transl. John Henry Newman
GREG. For the peace which is offered by the mouth of the preacher shall either rest on the house, if there be any one in it predestined to life, who follows the heavenly word which he hears; or if no one be willing indeed to hear, the preacher himself shall not be without fruit, for the peace returns to him, while the Lord gives him the recompense of reward for the labor of his work. But if our peace is received, it is meet that we should obtain earthly supplies from those to whom we offer the rewards of a heavenly country.
Hence it follows: And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give. Mark, that He who forbade them to carry purse and scrip, allows them to be an expense to others, and to receive sustenance from preaching.
CHRYS. But lest any one should say, I am spending my own property in preparing a table for strangers, He first makes them offer the gift of peace, to which nothing is equal, that you may know that you receive greater things than you give.
THEOPHYL. See then how He taught His disciples to beg, and wished them to receive their nourishment as a reward. For it is added, For the laborer is worthy of his hire.
GREG. For now the very food which supports him is part of the wages of the laborer, as in this life the hire commences with the labor of preaching, which in the next is completed with the sight of truth. And here we must consider that two rewards are due to one work of ours, one on the Journey, which supports us in labor, the other in our country, which recompenses us at the resurrection. Therefore the reward which we receive now ought so to work in us, that we the more vigorously strive to gain the succeeding reward. Every true preacher then ought not so to preach, that he may receive a reward at the present time, but so to receive a reward that he may have strength to preach. For whoever so preaches that here he may receive the reward of praise, or riches, deprives himself of an eternal reward.
7.Eating and drinking those things which they shall give you This is another circumstance expressly mentioned by Luke. By these words Christ not only enjoins them to be satisfied with ordinary and plain food, but allows them to eat at another man’s table. Their plain and natural meaning is: “you will be at liberty to live at the expense of others, so long as you shall be on this journey; for it is proper that those for whose benefit you labor should supply you with food.” Some think that they were intended to remove scruples of conscience, that the disciples might not find fault with any kind of food. But nothing of this kind was intended, and it was not even his object to enjoin frugality, but merely to permit them to accept of a reward, by living, during this commission, at the expense of those by whom they were entertained.
5. They must receive the kindnesses of those that should entertain them and bid them welcome, Luk_10:7, Luk_10:8. “Those that receive the gospel will receive you that preach it, and give you entertainment; you must not think to raise estates, but you may depend upon a subsistence; and,” (1.) “Be not shy; do not suspect our welcome, nor be afraid of being troublesome, but eat and drink heartily such things as they give; for, whatever kindness they show you, it is but a small return for the kindness you do them in bringing the glad tidings of peace. You will deserve it, for the labourer is worthy of his hire, the labourer in the work of the ministry is so, if he be indeed a labourer; and it is not an act of charity, but of justice, in those who are taught in the word to communicate to those that teach them” (2.) “Be not nice and curious in your diet: Eat and drink such things as they give (Luk_10:7), such things as are set before you, Luk_10:8. Be thankful for plain food, and do not find fault, though it be not dressed according to art.” It ill becomes Christ’s disciples to be desirous of dainties. As he has not tied them up to the Pharisees’ superstitious fasts, so he has not allowed the luxurious feasts of the Epicureans. Probably, Christ here refers to the traditions of the elders about their meat which were so many that those who observed them were extremely critical, you could hardly set a dish of meat before them, but there was some scruple or other concerning it; but Christ would not have them to regard those things, but eat what was given them, asking no question for conscience’ sake.
Luk 10:7 And in the same house remain,…. Where the sons of peace are, and the peace rests, and into which you are invited, and kindly received and used:
eating and drinking such things as they give; or rather, “such things as are with them”, as the Vulgate Latin renders it; or “of that which is theirs”, as the Syriac version; all one, and with as much freedom, as if they were your own; the reason follows,
for the labourer is worthy of his hire; what you eat and drink is your due; what you ought to have; your diet is a debt, and not a gratuity; See Gill on Mat_10:10.
go not from house to house; as if fickle and inconstant, as if not satisfied with your lodging and entertainment, and as seeking out for other and better, or as if burdensome where they were; See Gill on Mat_10:11. The Jews have a proverb, expressing the inconvenience and expensiveness, and the danger of moving from place to place:
“he that goes, מבית לבית, “from house to house”, (loses his) shirt, (i.e. comes to distress and poverty,) from place to place (his) life (e);”
or he is in great danger of losing his life.
(e) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 39. fol. 34. 3.
In that same house (en autei tei oikiai). Literally, in the house itself, not “in the same house” (en tei autei oikiai), a different construction. A free rendering of the common Lukan idiom is, “in that very house.”
Eating (esthontes). An old poetic verb estho for esthio that survives in late Greek.
Such things as they give (ta par’ auton). “The things from them.”
For the labourer is worthy of his hire (axios gar ho ergates tou misthou autou). In Mat_10:10 we have tes trophes autou (his food). 1Ti_5:18 has this saying quoted as scripture. That is not impossible if Luke wrote by a.d. 62. Paul there however may quote only Deu_25:4 as scripture and get this quotation either from Luk_10:7 or from a proverbial saying of Jesus. It is certainly not a real objection against the Pauline authorship of First Timothy.
Go not from house to house (me metabainete ex oikias eis oikian). As a habit, me and the present imperative, and so avoid waste of time with such rounds of invitations as would come.
Catena Aurea transl. by John Henry Newman
Jerome: As He had sent the Apostles forth unprovided and unencumbered on their mission, and the condition of the teachers seemed a hard one, He tempered the severity of the rules by this maxim, “The labourer is worthy of his hire,” i.e. Receive what you need for your food and clothing. Whence the Apostle says, “Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.” [1Ti_6:8] And again, “Let him that is catechized communicate unto him that catechizeth in all good things;” that they whose disciples reap spiritual things, should make them partakers of their carnal things, not for the gratification of covetousness, but for the supply of wants.
Chrys.: It behoved the Apostles to be supported by their disciples, that neither they should be haughty towards those whom they taught, as though they gave all, and received nothing; and that the others, on their part, should not fall away, as overlooked by them. Also that the Apostles might not cry, He bids us lead the life of beggars, and should be ashamed thereat, He shews that this is their due, calling them “labourers,” and that which is given their “hire.” For they were not to suppose that because what they gave was only words, therefore they were to esteem it but a small benefit that they conferred; therefore He says, “The labourer is worthy of his meat.” This He said not to signify that the labours of the Apostles were only worth so much, but laying down a rule for the Apostles, and persuading those that gave, that what they gave was only what was due.
Aug., Serm., 46: The Gospel therefore is not for sale, that it should be preached for reward. For if they so sell it, they sell a great thing for a small price. Let preachers then receive their necessary support from the people, and from God the reward of their employment. For the people do not give pay to those that minister to them in the love of the Gospel, but as it were a stipend that may support them to enable them to work.
Aug., De Cons. Evan., ii, 30: Otherwise; When the Lord said to the Apostles, “Possess not gold,” He added immediately, “The labourer is worthy of his hire,” to shew why He would not have them possess and carry about these things; not that these things were not needed for the support of this life, but that He sent them in such a way as to shew that these things were due to them from those to whom they preached the Gospel, as pay to soldiers. It is clear that this precept of the Lord does not at all imply that they ought not according to the Gospel to live by any other means, than by the contributions of those to whom they preached; otherwise Paul transgressed this precept when he lived by the labour of his own hands. But He gave the Apostles authority that these things were due to them from the house in which they abode. But when the Lord has issued a command, if it be not performed, it is the sin of disobedience; when He bestows a privilege, it is in any one’s power not to use it, and as it were to refrain from claiming his right.
10. For the laborer is worthy of his food.Christ anticipates an objection that might be made: for it might appear to be a harsh condition to travel through the whole of Judea without any provisions. Accordingly, Christ tells them, that they have no reason to dread that they will suffer hunger; because, wherever they come, they will at least be worthy of their food He calls them laborers, not that they resembled ordinary ministers, who labor in the Lord’s vineyard, and who, by planting and watering, bring it into a state of cultivation; but merely because they were the heralds of a richer and more complete doctrine. They did not at that time receive the office of preaching any farther than to render the Jews attentive to the preaching of the Gospel.
2. They might expect that those to whom they were sent would provide for them what was necessary, Mat_10:10. The workman is worthy of his meat. They must not expect to be fed by miracles, as Elijah was: but they might depend upon God to incline the hearts of those they went among, to be kind to them, and provide for them. Though they who serve at the altar may not expect to grow rich by the altar, yet they may expect to live, and to live comfortably upon it, 1Co_9:13, 1Co_9:14. It is fit they should have their maintenance from their work. Ministers are, and must be, workmen, labourers, and they that are so are worthy of their meat, so as not to be forced to any other labour for the earning of it. Christ would have his disciples, as not to distrust their God, so not to distrust their countrymen, so far as to doubt of a comfortable subsistence among them. If you preach to them, and endeavour to do good among them, surely they will give you meat and drink enough for your necessities: and if they do, never desire dainties; God will pay you your wages hereafter, and it will be running on in the mean time.
for the workman is worthy of his meat; which seems to be a proverbial expression, and by which Christ intimates, that they were workmen, or labourers in his vineyard, and they, discharging their duty aright, were entitled to food and raiment, and all the necessaries of life: this to have, was their due; and it was but a piece of justice to give it to them, and on which they might depend. So that this whole context is so far from militating against a minister’s maintenance by the people, that it most strongly establishes it; for if the apostles were not to take any money or provisions with them, to support themselves with, it clearly follows, that it was the will of Christ, that they should live by the Gospel, upon those to whom they preached, as the following words show: and though they were not to make gain of the Gospel, or preach it for filthy lucre’s sake; yet they might expect a comfortable subsistence, at the charge of the people, to whom they ministered, and which was their duty to provide for them.
The workman is worthy of his meat – Της τροφης αυτου, of his maintenance. It is a maintenance, and that only, which a minister of God is to expect, and that he has a Divine right to; but not to make a fortune, or lay up wealth: besides, it is the workman, he that labors in the word and doctrine, that is to get even this. How contrary to Christ is it for a man to have vast revenues, as a minister of the Gospel, who ministers no Gospel, and who spends the revenues of the Church to its disgrace and ruin!
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
for the workman is worthy of his meat — his “food” or “maintenance”; a principle which, being universally recognized in secular affairs, is here authoritatively applied to the services of the Lord’s workmen, and by Paul repeatedly and touchingly employed in his appeals to the churches (Rom_15:27; 1Co_9:11; Gal_6:6), and once as “scripture” (1Ti_5:18).
The workman is worthy of his meat – This implies that they were to expect a proper supply for their needs from those who were benefited. They were not to make “bargain and sale” of the power of working miracles, but they were to expect competent support from preaching the gospel, and that not merely as a gift, but because they were “worthy” of it, and had a right to it.
The workman is worthy, etc. Mat_10:11, There abide, etc.
“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” a tract discovered in 1873 in the library of the monastery of the Most Holy Sepulchre at Constantinople, by Bryennios, Metropolitan of Nicomedia, is assigned to the date of 120 a.d., and by some scholars is placed as early as 100 a.d. It is addressed to Gentile Christians, and is designed to give them practical instruction in the Christian life, according to the teachings of the twelve apostles and of the Lord himself. In the eleventh chapter we read as follows: “And every apostle who cometh to you, let him be received as the Lord; but he shall not remain except for one day; if, however, there be need, then the next day; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. But when the apostle departeth, let him take nothing except bread enough till he lodge again, but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.” And again (ch. 13): “Likewise a true teacher, he also is worthy like the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, then, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets, for they are your high-priests….If thou makest a baking of bread, take the first of it and give according to the commandment. In like manner, when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, take the first of it and give to the prophets; and of money and clothing, and every possession, take the first, as may seem right to thee, and give according to the commandment.”
For the labourer is worthy of his food (axios gar ho ergates tes trophes autou). The sermon is worth the dinner, in other words. Luke in the charge to the seventy (Luk_10:7) has the same words with misthou (reward) instead of trophes (food). In 1Ti_5:18 Paul quotes Luke’s form as scripture (he graphe) or as a well-known saying if confined to the first quotation. The word for workman here (ergates) is that used by Jesus in the prayer for labourers (Mat_9:38). The well-known Didache or Teaching of the Twelve (xiii) shows that in the second century there was still a felt need for care on the subject of receiving pay for preaching. The travelling sophists added also to the embarrassment of the situation. The wisdom of these restrictions was justified in Galilee at this time. Mark (Mar_6:6-13) and Luke (Luk_9:1-6) vary slightly from Matthew in some of the details of the instructions of Jesus.