Muzzling The Ox, Biblically Nourishing Elders

Lets look at a popular translation of the passage that advises believers not to muzzle the ox, giving elders their deserved rewards.   

NLT 1 Tim 5;17 Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” 

Unfortunately this translation (and the  NIV) contradict  may other scriptures.  I suspect that thiese translations are flawed. Let’s look at the literal translation of this same passage.

 YLT 1 Tim 5;17 The well-leading elders of double honour let them be counted worthy, especially those labouring in word and teaching, 18 for the Writing saith, `An ox treading out thou shalt not muzzle,’ and `Worthy [is] the workman of his reward.’

 The Elder is clearly deserving of his double reward, but we need to look to scripture to spell out what these rewards are.  The following passage tells us that elders are not to look for money.

 NLT 1 Peter 5:1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder , I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.

 The passage above tells us that the reward for an elder is not money, but rather their ability to serve God, and his flock. We need to dig a little deeper. This passages spells out the double reward that elders should receive.

NLT 1 Thess 5;12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work . They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. 13 Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. 14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

An elder’s double reward is great respect and wholehearted love from his sheep.   Many translations have tried to interpret this double reward to include pay, but lets look at 1 Peter passage again in the YLT.

 1 Peter 5:1-2 Elders who [are] among you, I exhort, who [am] a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, and of the glory about to be revealed a partaker, 2 feed the flock of God that [is] among you, overseeing not constrainedly, but willingly, neither for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind,

Isn’t it clear that elders are not to accept money as part of this double reward?  Take a close look at the following passage. It declares that all those using godliness to make money are false teachers!

NLT 1 Tim 2;2-8

False Teaching and True Riches

Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. 3 Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. 4 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. 6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.


Dear God,

Help us to give our elders the double honor that they deserve, both the great respect and the wholehearted love. Turn us from the our presumptions that rewards are always tied in with money and things. Help us to understand the spiritual things, to truly seek and honor you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.



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