Question: In 1 Timothy 5:18, does it “honor” an elder if someone gives him money in appreciation for performing a funeral or a marriage? Would a there be a difference if the elder is “hired” ahead of time, or given the money as an appreciation gift after the fact.
When it comes to preaching I never ask whether I will be paid, how much, or when. Since the vast majority of my preaching was done at my home church, that was never a huge issue.
For me, the financial issue came more with weddings and funerals. I know some of the traditions about payment for conducting these services, but I have chosen to differ. I have always viewed conducting a marriage ceremony as a ministry of our church (even when performed for folks who are not members — I have chosen not to marry unbelievers). I make this clear at the beginning of the pre-marriage counseling process. (I also make it clear that the pre-marriage program will be extensive, and that I will not marry those who do not complete the program.) There have been those who have “insisted” on showing their gratitude. I either tell them to give it to the church, or I turn it in to the church, and make sure that the secretary sends them a receipt. That way they know I am not a preacher for hire.
Actually, I love to do funerals. There is no hope other than the gospel and I make it my mission to make that clear (well aware that all too many preachers seem to say or imply that we’re all going to heaven). My funeral process is more extensive, but I once again make it clear at the outset that I don’t accept payment for funerals (sometimes I have to make this clear to the funeral directors, who may add the preacher’s fee to their tab and then pass it along to him.). In this way I am well aware that I am working for God, and not for man. I also make it clear that my ministry is an extension of the ministry of our church.
Dealing with weddings and funerals in this way gives me great freedom. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9 are important to me. Not taking payment may very well enhance the gospel. People can’t fathom how or why someone would serve sacrificially, with no monetary incentive. How can you talk about grace and God’s free gift of salvation when you are looking for payment?