Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – God’s People Provide for their Priests/Pastors (Leviticus 7)

Just as pastors stand in the long line of the Levitical priesthood in making atonement for them in the Word and Sacraments, so the church stands in the long history of Israel in making provision for their pastors. Leviticus 7 is dedicated to detailing the leftovers of the various offerings that were to be given to the priests for them to eat. Thus, in this way, the Lord provided their daily bread, which was especially important since the tribe of Levi was not allotted any land.

Of course, in the context of Leviticus 7, it is more than just about providing for their priests; the leftovers needed to be eaten because they were “most holy” (v. 6). (Similarly, this is why the pastor will eat a wafer that is dropped on the floor during the distribution of Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper, for it is His holy body.) Still, though, in explaining the peace offerings, the Lord says certain parts of it are to be given to Aaron and his sons “as a perpetual due from the people of Israel” (v. 34). “In the same way,” writes St. Paul, “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). After all, if the people do not ensure their pastor is well provided for, how can they expect him to ably minister to them? If their pastor cannot pay his bills, taxes, and buy food and drink, how can he feed his flock the Word of God?

Ever wonder why we give offerings at church? This is why, at least partially. (If the church has a school and organists, the same reason applies, since they are auxiliary ministries to the pastoral office.) The other reason is to maintain the building and such so that we may have a place to locally gather, especially because the church, by law in the secular realm, is considered by the IRS to be a non-profit institution that depends on generous donations. Many people, especially outsiders, think we give offerings “for God,” as if He is in need of them. It is not necessarily “for God” because Christians know He doesn’t need our money but because we acknowledge everything we have comes from Him and we “give it to Him,” trusting His Spirit will guide His church to use it wisely to care for her pastors and staff, as well as trusting that He will continue to provide our daily bread in our individual lives despite our giving up of this 10% or however much it is.

Moreover, as I said, the offerings are not necessarily for God, even though we present it to Him during the Divine Service. (Again, we present it to Him because we trust Him to guide His church with His Spirit to use it wisely.) Rather, it is for our neighbour, in this case our pastors and staff, as well as the maintenance of our building. Paul made it quite clear that whoever proclaims the Gospel (e.g., pastors) ought to live by the Gospel. Like Israel, it is the church’s responsibility to provide for her pastors. In the secular realm, the church is legally a non-profit institution, so pastors, staff, and the maintenance of the church depend entirely on donations. From a biblical perspective, it is the church’s vocation to care for her pastors.

So far in my pastoral ministry, I have been blessed with people who show me the love of Christ in incredibly hospitable ways. My only desire, however, is that they show the same love of Christ to one another as much as they show it to me. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God… Beloved, if God so loved us, we ourselves also owe one another love” (1 John 4:7, 11; my translation).

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