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“Double Honor”

The Christian farmer on his tractor is no less a minister of the Word than the pastor in the pulpit. The only difference is that the Gospel labor of tilling the earth is a little less obvious than preaching and teaching.
Before a mixed crowd of souls from all sorts of occupations, our Lord declared, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
After His resurrection, Jesus breathed on His disciples, bestowing the ministry of the keys upon all believers. (John 20:22-23)
Because you are justified in Christ, the grace of God transforms your most mundane labor into holy kingdom service, your personal way to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” that the unbeliever might “by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:9,12)
No work carried out in faith happens outside the Gospel ministry.
Yet, the Apostle Paul does highlight one vocation in particular: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” (I Timothy 5:17)
The Lutheran church uses the phrase “public minister” to describe those roles, both in Scripture and among us today, which preach and teach “on behalf of” the church. But the German theological term “public” (öffentlich) also encompasses the “recognizable” nature of such work.
There is a hidden aspect to the royal priesthood. God ceaselessly uses every Christian to further His glory, but the life-giving power of our good works often goes unnoticed by the human eye. Thus, God calls some believers to exercise the ministry of the keys “out in the open,” so that someone can point to the teaching of God’s Word and say with confidence, “There it is!”
There is no greater honor than the call to faith in Christ. The Savior, Who took all your sins as His own, gives you in exchange everything that is His. There is nothing greater to be had than the eternal life which is yours through Jesus’ blood and merit. The “double honor,” then, which Paul describes, is not something more a pastor or teacher receives from God, but rather the recognition a public minister receives from man.
The visible, audible nature of teaching “out in the open” brings about a joyous response from God’s people, which the public minister receives with ear and eye.
This “double honor” can be as gentle as hugs from little ones who flock about their teacher, or as firm as a handshake at the close of a service thanking the pastor for his faithful, solid Gospel proclamation. It also finds expression in the desire of the church to provide for its called workers’ daily bread as they cheerfully take part in eternal rewards.
Watch out! Receiving “double honor” begins long before a formal call into the public ministry. Perhaps after the Christmas program you’ve been told, “I could hear every word you said.” Maybe you’ve wondered why you were asked to help with VBS as soon as you were too old to participate as a pupil. Has anyone remarked how insightful your questions in Bible class are? Or, even completely outside of church, how good you are at explaining things?
Yes, it’s wise not to think too highly of yourself. But if it’s a fellow Christian who is pointing out what God has given you, don’t ignore it! Such double honor is from God.
Pursue it. Learn more. He promises to direct your steps.
Timothy Daub is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Hecla, South Dakota.