Published: 8 January 2024

The Worker Is Worthy of His Wages


Susan writes Bible studies for women and does speaking tours around the USA. She is the founder of Living Water Ministries, and reaches millions of women with her events and books.

Her latest Bible study of Philippians is called The Surpassing Worth of Knowing Jesus, and you can buy the digital workbook for $20. Conference tickets to her Philippians study tour are $85 for adults. Live streaming tickets are also available, but if you live within a 150 mile radius of where the conference will be held, you are not allowed to stream the event. The streaming cost for a small group of up to twelve people is $125. If you have more than twelve, you must pay $20/additional attendee. Once you purchase the streaming access, the video recordings will be available to you for only 30 days after the event. You can own the digital download of the entire five-session study of Philippians for $50. The ministry website also has the option to give a donation.

Susan has never thought about an alternative way to do what she does. She grew up around the selling of ministry, and in her circles no one has ever questioned it.” –Adapted from

“The worker is worthy of his wages”

The Bible is clear that those who devote themselves full time to the work of ministry are worthy of support. Jesus plainly said, “the worker is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7 BEREAN). Yet, Jesus instructed His followers to freely give the message of the kingdom. How do we reconcile this? How should those who serve the kingdom full time receive support?

This question is the focus of the book “The Dorean Principle” by Conley Owens. The book’s title comes from the Greek word Jesus used when He said to His disciples, “You received without paying; give without pay” (Matt. 10:8 ESV). The word dorean pertains “to being freely given, as a gift, without payment, gratis.”1 In relation to this word, BDAG references one source which gave an example “of an emissary who paid his own traveling expenses.” Therefore, the “primary concern of Matthew 10:8–10 is not what is received or how it is received but from whom it is received. The disciples are not to receive from those to whom they minister.”2

How are ministers to be supported?

If Jesus’s principle of ministry fundraising forbids accepting support from those being ministered to, who is a minister supposed to get his wages from? In the immediate context of the limited commission Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2 BEREAN). It makes perfect sense that the one who sends workers should be the one who pays the workers. Who does the sending? It is none other than God! It is therefore God’s responsibility to provide for those He sends out to harvest. Indeed, as we shall see, this is pattern we see in Scripture. 

Ministerial reciprocity and co-labor

Owens has identified two means through which a minister of the gospel can receive payment. Jesus forbids one, and commands the other. Owens names these methods “ministerial reciprocity” and “ministerial co-labor.” Figure 1 illustrates these.

Figure 1

Owens defines these two concepts:

Ministerial reciprocity

Support (material or otherwise) given to a minister out of a sense of direct obligation for his ministry of the gospel. 

The term reciprocity describes a contribution offered out of a direct obligation—i.e., one that is not mediated by God. One who gives out of direct obligation considers himself primarily beholden to the one who receives. For example, reciprocity occurs when one gives money to a preacher in exchange for the gospel that was preached. This notion includes asymmetric exchanges and voluntary exchanges. For example, ministerial reciprocity occurs even when only a pittance is offered and even when no fee is requested, so long as the giver gives from a sense of indebtedness to the minister. 

Ministerial colabor 

Support (material or otherwise) given by man to a minister out of a sense of obligation to God, to honor or aid in the proclamation of the gospel. 

Unlike the direct sense of obligation involved in reciprocity, colabor acknowledges a mediated obligation, the giver considering himself indebted directly to the Lord, and through that obligation finding himself duty-bound to give to a minister. I call this colabor because it is the product of fellow servants working toward a common goal of a common Employer.”3

Wages as co-labor

Owens continues:

“Jesus forbids ministerial reciprocity in Matthew 10:8 when he commands his disciples to ‘give without pay.’ On the other hand, he permits and even promotes ministerial colabor in Matthew 10:9–10 when he instructs the disciples not to bring their own provisions because ‘the laborer deserves his food.’”4

Putting all this together, we can illustrate reciprocity and co-labor as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Thus, a corollary of the dorean principle is that “In the context of gospel proclamation, accepting support as anything other than an act of colabor compromises the sincerity of ministry.”5 With this I wholeheartedly agree. However, before we go further, we have some bases to cover.

Does the Dorean principle apply today?

In the previous article I acknowledged that there is a legitimate question concerning how we can know if Jesus’s commands in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 apply to His followers today. After all, He specifically directed His remarks to those whom He sent on the limited commission. Can we be certain they apply to anyone else? 

We can be certain because, as we’ll see, Jesus’s directive to practice co-labor and shun reciprocity was not a new idea. There are numerous Old Testament principles showing that co-labor was always God’s method. The New Testament also commands co-labor and condemns reciprocity. In the next article, we’ll begin looking at Old Testament examples of reciprocity and co-labor.


  1. Bauer, W., F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, eds. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d, Accordance electronic ed., version 2.8. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. BDAG, s.v. “δωρεάν,” 266.
  2. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 21). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.
  3. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (pp. 22-23). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.
  4. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 23). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.
  5. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 23). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.