Is it biblical for pastors, Bible teachers, and Christian authors to earn money from their materials?
The Bible teaches two principles concerning receiving financial gain from teaching the word of God. First, the Bible says that it is wrong for a teacher or pastor to “peddle" the word of God:
2Cor. 2:17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Paul says he taught or delivered the word of God to the Church from a heart of sincerity "as from God." In other words, Paul’s motivation in bringing the word of God was out of sincere desire to serve God’s people as a representative sent by God. Paul was obeying God’s command to preach and teach the Gospel, as he says:
1Cor. 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
In 2Cor 2:17, Paul contrasts his motive with the motives of those who “peddle" the word of God. Peddling means selling something as a business venture. If a person’s motive for delivering God’s word is merely for personal financial gain, then they are peddling the word of God. They have turned their teaching ministry from a service to God and His people and into a business venture.
No ministry or pastor may operate under this motive, for when they do so, they run the risk of piercing themselves with many griefs, as Paul wrote:
1Tim. 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1Tim. 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
So, a pastor or teacher who views his teaching ministry as a for-profit business should leave the pulpit and be removed from teaching. They are no longer serving God; they are only serving themselves. Remember Peter’s warning concerning men who use ministry for financial gain:
2Pet. 2:14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;
2Pet. 2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
The second principle of scripture we must remember is that those who serve the body of Christ in teaching have a right to receive their living from that work, as Paul says:
1Tim. 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
1Tim. 5:18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
1Cor. 9:7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?
1Cor. 9:8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things?
1Cor. 9:9 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?
1Cor. 9:10 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.
1Cor. 9:11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
1Cor. 9:12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
1Cor. 9:13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?
1Cor. 9:14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
So according to scripture, we cannot fault a man for earning a reasonable living from preaching or teaching God’s word. The Bible says such a person is worthy of our support (even double honor!). We must support those who teach us as a reflection of our thankfulness to the Lord for providing their instruction.
Each person will be judged by the Lord. We will be judged by whether we honored our teachers appropriately, while pastors and teachers who teach us will be judged according to their motives and how they handled the word of God.