Plight of Christian Workers

Whether we like it or not, today many Christian workers are paid an unthinkably low salary – so low that a skilled labourer earns much more. They can hardly have ordinary meals with that salary, leaving nothing for medicine, children’s education, clothing and other expenses. They can hardly dream of wearing grand clothes. They are no better than the ordinary labour class people. Fortunately, this is not true everywhere in our society. In many big churches and institutions Christian workers are paid quite well. Besides, other facilities like free quarter, free education of their children, free medical treatment, and contributory provident fund are provided to them. But such opportunities are very rare in many places in our society. Payment of low salaries to the pastors and Christian workers is very much seen in many institutions, organizations and Churches.

Reasons for low pay:
There are several reasons for the low payment. Six of them are listed below:

1.    Some of the churches and organizations are so poor that they cannot afford to pay more, even if they want to.

2.    But there are some who can pay more, but do not. They take it for granted that, as God’s servants, the Christian workers should be paid low.

3.    Some people think that if the Christian workers are well-paid, they will tend to live a luxurious life and thereby forget their primary duties and responsibilities.

4.    Some people in the Church think that if the Christian workers are paid more than the average congregation members earn, he/she will develop a dominating character and establish dictatorship in the Church.

5.    There is also an argument that if they are paid equal to or more than others, their Christian service will become just a profession. How can they prove that they are called of God and committed to his service unless they go through economic hardships?

6.    Another argument is that low salary is enough for them since they get free accommodation, children’s free education and medical treatment (in some cases) a part from the free-well gifts from the members.

The Bible is crystal clear in saying that God does not like low payment. By low payment I mean that one gets less than the minimum required to maintain his/her family. God said, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (Deut. 25:4). In other words an ox who works must be allowed to eat enough. The implication of Jesus’ saying in Mathew 10:9-10 is that all the needs (not wants) of the workers must be taken care of by the institution/Church he/she serves. These include not only his/her present needs of food, shelter, clothing and protection, but also provision for his/her needs after retirement. Unfortunately, many of our institutions/Churches have miserably failed in providing these basic needs to their workers. The teaching of the Old Testament explained and confirmed by Jesus is further strengthened by Paul who says, “The worker deserves his/her wages” (I Tim. 5:18). He even goes to the extent of saying that a Christian worker should be given double honour (v 17). In fact, if we believe that Christian workers are God’s Ministers and Ambassadors in this world, we must treat them better than our worldly Ministers and Ambassadors. God wants His children engaged in His service should be well paid so that they can discharge their duties well. Paying less than what one deserves is certainly exploitation. Of course “what one deserves” has to be clearly defined. But whatever may be the definition, a worker must get sufficient to meet the minimum necessities of his/her family. When the payment is not proportionate to the work, it becomes exploitation. If we understand the Bible properly, we know that God never intended to create a big gap between the rich and the poor. God does not like economic inequality. Rather, He wants that everybody should have enough and give enough to those who do not have enough. Therefore, it is our primary duty and responsibility to pay our workers enough to meet atleast their minimum necessities of balanced food for the whole family, clothing, housing, education of the children and medical treatment. If we are not capable to do so, we must explore ways and means to make it possible. Otherwise, we will be accountable to God.

Tasoni Moon, Lecturer,
Trinity Theological College, Thahekhu, Dimapur