The Laborer

“For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward” (I Timothy 5:18).

This seemingly rather inconspicuous verse in Paul’s personal letter to his young follower Timothy is actually quite significant on several counts. It is fitting for Labor Day, of course, because it confirms that any one who “labors” deserves respect and appropriate pay.

The previous verse (v.17) shows that this principle applies to all those “elders,” whether laboring in “ruling” or “in the word and doctrine” as deserving of “double honor” if they “rule well.” The word translated “honor” is often translated “price,” so could refer here either to respect or monetary remuneration or both. It also confirms, parenthetically, as it were, that God cares about His animal creation (note also Proverbs 12:10; Numbers 22:21–34; Job 39).

Perhaps most significantly of all, it quotes two seemingly inconspicuous verses (one in Deuteronomy 25:4, the other in Luke 10:7), calling both of them “scripture” and citing them as justifying adequate financial support for those who devote their time and abilities to the Lord’s work.

The quote from Luke 10:7 is as follows: “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire.” These were among the instructions given by Christ as He sent out the seventy to witness to the people of Israel.

Paul clearly considered that Christ’s words, as written by Luke, were Scripture on the same basis as the words written by Moses in Deuteronomy. And Paul’s words were themselves later called “Scriptures” like those of the Old Testament by Peter. We can confidently assume, therefore, that both the Old and New Testament writings were accepted by the apostles as the authoritative word of God. HMM

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