Published: 3 April 2023

Elders Who Are Good Leaders

Good Leaders
Oxen treading out grain. Photo:

“The elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17 CSB).

There is a lot of information contained in this verse. For example, it necessarily implies that not all elders are good leaders. If the ones who are good leaders are worthy of double honor, this means there are some who are not worthy because they aren’t good leaders. In addition, double honor, as v. 18 reveals, means that the elders who are good leaders deserve financial compensation for their work. Further, there are some elders who teach and preach. This suggests that there are some elders who do not preach.

What is meant by elder? As I have pointed out elsewhere, elder is a term the New Testament uses interchangeably with the descriptions overseer, shepherd, pastor, and steward. In short, an elder is a pastor. 

Good leaders are worthy of double honor

To honor someone is to show them great respect which is due for their commitment to honesty, integrity, and exemplary character. The Greek word translated honor is time (τιμή) and is defined: “1. to set a price on, estimate, value, 2. to show high regard for, honor, revere.”1 The context shows there was a monetary component involved. Double honor refers to people’s respect and to being paid for their labors in preaching and teaching. Just as we must honor true widows by supporting them financially (1 Tim 5:3), good elders (overseers) are worthy of such honor as well.

Some have tried to make this out to be two different groups of elders: those who lead and those who teach. This cannot be true since it is a requirement that all elders are able to teach (1 Tim 3:2). There is no such thing as a non-teaching overseer. The Scriptures use the words pastor, elder, overseer, etc. interchangeably so only one group of men are under consideration.

The difference between the two groups may be that while all pastors teach, not all pastors preach. Biblically, teaching is for Christians, but preaching is always directed to the lost. The elders who evangelize the lost and teach the saints are doing double duty. This is why the word “especially” is applied to the latter group.

Good leaders are worthy of compensation

For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, “The worker is worthy of his wages.” (1 Tim. 5:18 CSB)

As he did in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul invoked Deuteronomy 25:4 to show that one who devotes himself full time to ministry should receive payment. Paul says that proper treatment of oxen wasn’t the main point God was trying to make in Deuteronomy 25:4!  Paul saw a deeper meaning. The intended lesson is that just as the ox ate as he labored, so should those who labor in the Word. 

Does he not speak certainly for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. (1 Cor. 9:10 ESV)

A good leader is worthy of his wages

In addition to quoting the Old Testament, Paul also draws upon the teachings of Jesus.

And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. (Luke 10:7 ESV)

As we will see when we get to 1 Timothy 6, some of the problems in the Ephesian church concerned the love of money. Nevertheless, “While much of the problem in Ephesus has to do with the love of money, that does not negate the right of Christian workers to be paid.” 2

Good leaders are hard to find

There is no shortage of corrupt and fake pastors, and they fleece the sheep. They steal by deception from those who mistake them for men of God. Meanwhile, many men who are true shepherds struggle to get by financially. There are even churches who intentionally try to keep the pastor poor because they want to keep him humble. 

The New Testament is clear that a man who dedicates himself full time to the work of an elder has a right to fair compensation. May God raise up an army of men who put Him first and meet the biblical requirements of an overseer. May the church recognize when they have such men and support them financially.


  1. Danker, Frederick W., et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed, University of Chicago Press, 2000. BDAG, s.v. “τιμή,” 1005.
  2. Mounce, William D. Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, Vol 46, Nelson, 2000, 627.