2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Here, an elder, and we can presume this elder is a bishop, or what we would today call a pastor, is commanded to feed the people under his spiritual care. This is not about a physical meal but about feeding them the word of God, about feeding them spiritual things. The words of God are often symbolized as food. In the Old Testament;
Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
And in the New by Jesus Christ Himself;
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Job, in the book written further back in antiquity than when Moses penned the first five books of the Bible, it is said;
Job 12:11 Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?
Job 34:3 For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.
Notice how Jeremiah refers to the word spoken to Him by God.
Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
This is a common thread in the Bible. Prophets, at times, are literally told to eat literal scrolls of words. Here is Ezekiel;
Ezekiel 2:8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. 9 And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; 10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.
3:1 ¶ Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
And John of the Revelation;
Revelation 10:9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
The elder is to take the oversight of feeding the word of God to the flock, not being forced but willingly, with constraint also carrying with it a certain restriction, not just being forced to do something. No pastor should feel restricted by what he is to preach, as long as what he is saying is from the Scripture and faithful to it. They are called to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God.
1Corinthians 4:1 ¶ Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
In this, Peter emphasizes that an elder’s desire of the ministry must not be for financial gain, making merchandise of the gospel. It is not wrong, certainly, for a pastor to be paid a salary even though early Baptists in America, which churches were controlled by the congregations rather than a single pastor acting as master of ceremonies and authority over all church business, did not usually pay their pastors a salary and they had to have secular employment like farming to maintain themselves.
1Timothy 5:17 ¶ Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
But Paul also emphasizes this fact, that the man who wishes to pursue the office of a bishop or a deacon must not be greedy for financial gain.
1Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;…8 ¶ Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
So, a young man who is primarily interested in money should direct his attention to the business world, not the ministry over a church, in order to shear the sheep, so to speak, and a congregation had better beware of men seeking the spiritual oversight who appear to have a love of fine things, clothing, cars, and houses. Be warned of that and be warned of the strutting peacock in an expensive suit driving the pricey car who is trying to win your favor.
A ready mind indicates a willingness as did not by constraint. So, this elder willingly assumes the oversight of the flock and not for the purpose of fleecing them financially but to feed them spiritually.
Regarding filthy lucre, there is a culture among certain Independent Baptist churches, where the pastor is completely in charge, not to consider themselves as needing to be accountable for financial matters to the congregation. When a pastor is an honest and humble man this doesn’t usually lead to excess but if the pastor is weak in that regard many abuses can occur. Transparency in financial dealings is one essential in the need to abstain from all appearance of evil and creating situations that make even their good works on behalf of the church to appear otherwise.
Honesty requires that you make yourself accountable and your dealings on behalf of Christ transparent even when you feel it’s not necessary. This builds trust and takes the edge off of lesser problems that have more to do with personality as secretiveness and withholding information produce mistrust when there is none warranted. Problems in other aspects of the ministry can be blown way out of proportion easily when there is a lack of transparency in financial matters. Transparency can be as simple as being open and forthcoming when questioned, not necessarily passing out balance sheets quarterly.
Peter goes on to reveal that the leadership model of an elder, and in this case my assumption is as a reference to an elder that rules, a pastor today, is one of setting an example or model to follow, not of being a dictator or tyrant over the congregation. I have heard that in some fundamentalist congregations that submissive persons will even get approval from their pastor for when they can take vacation from work to go visit family or what kind of car they are permitted to buy. I’m not talking about just being considerate when you hold a position in the church organization. I’m talking about getting permission. Women raising children alone might be treated like secondary wives to the pastor and he assumes the right to dictate their behavior and activities and that of their children because the woman has no husband which is not the same as helping or giving guidance to someone who is overwhelmed and asks for help, or even mentoring a young person. These kinds of things go way beyond taking spiritual oversight of the flock and are the foundation of many abuses and, in some cases, moral and legal crimes.
When you quit your job because your pastor doesn’t like your work schedule then something is very, very wrong with your spiritual walk with Christ. When you abandon your spouse, children, and grandchildren because the pastor demands all of your free time there is a sickness there that is not of Christ.
Cults can be avoided by following a Biblical model. A pastor assumes a role of spiritual leadership and for that he is responsible to Christ. To assume the role of a tyrant or an abuser is not what Christ wants. When a Christian abandons family and employment to follow a pastor who has moved across the country to a more financially lucrative pastoral position and encouraged him to follow he has disconnected himself from devotion to Christ and has chosen the cult of a mere egotistical man.
Leadership in the pastorate is not control. It is leadership by example. Nicolaitanism, victory over the laity, which we have come to understand is a separate class of priest-like bishops who are dictators and beyond accountability is something Jesus said he hates in Revelation 2:6, 15.
That being said, of course the pastor must call out sin and hold the congregation accountable for doctrine, moral behavior, and the example they set. He must teach God’s word faithfully. He must be a faithful steward of God’s mysteries. This cannot be with any compromise. But, he must be humble and, inasmuch as he is able, be willing to sacrifice and show mercy like Christ. He should be an example to his congregation, unwavering in his devotion, and solid in his Biblical knowledge. This can only be gained by reading the Bible prayerfully over and over again. A man who has read the Bible many times and studied it carefully, cross-referencing is more fit to be a pastor, all other things being equal, than a man who has several seminary degrees but has not let God speak to him through the entire Bible daily.
Again, the words of Paul regarding a bishop and a deacon;
1Timothy 3:1 ¶ This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 ¶ Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Titus 1:5 ¶ For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
6 ¶ If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
But, remember, the pastor of the first century was involved in a small church body that met in a house and the organizational problems of today’s church that meets in a separate building set apart for that purpose such as insurance, incorporation, tax-exempt status, meeting building codes for public usages, and unbelievers working into the congregation based on a false conversion experience would not likely have been important issues for them.