Buy the truth, and sell it not;
also wisdom, instruction and understanding.
This passage is often quoted to "prove" that Bibles and theological books, tapes, DVDs etc. should be given away for free and never sold.
In fact that is NOT what the passage says, nor what it means.
The passage does not speacify any given type of truth. If we interpret it to mean that we should not sell Bibles and theological books, it would also forbid selling books containing any other truth. Books on mathmatics, physicis and truthful history would also be covered. Yet those who wrongly interpret the passage do not say that Math teachers should work for free.
So what does the passage mean? The passage is saying that "truth" should be treated as a commodity that we are only in the market to buy (obtain) and never in the market to sell (let go of).
In fact Scripture tells us plainly that those who labor in the Word as "worthy of their hire". Teachers of Scripture truth are NOT slaves, they are as entitled to be paid for their time, effort, labor, service and productions as anyone else.
for nothing you have received,
for nothing you will give.
Sadly for years this passage has been quoted out of context and misused by many to "prove" that those in the ministry should not receive community support for our efforts.
In fact the verse in question is, in context, saying exactly the opposite of what these people represent it as saying.
Actually, Yeshua in the next few verses following this statement instructs his talmidim to request and subsist on community support:
Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor lesser coin in
your belts. Pack not for the journey, either two coats, or sandals, or a staff, for the laborer is worthy of his food. And into whatever city or town you will enter, enquire who in it is honorable, and there abide until you go out from there."
Some light on this text may be acquired by examining a statement by Josephus concerning the first century Essene
sect of Judaism:
...and if any of their sect come from other places,
what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their own;
and they go into such as they never knew before,
as if they had been ever so long acquainted with them.
For which reason they carry nothing with them
when they travel into remote parts,
though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves. Accordingly there is, in every city where they live,
one appointed particularly to take care of strangers,
and provide garments and other necessaries for them.
(Josephus; Wars 2:8:4)
Yeshua's talmidim had for the most part, come from an Essene back ground. It would appear that they were therefore able to travel within Essene circles from town to town without having to carry additional supplies. Yeshua felt that his twelve were entitled to be supported by the community.
Yeshua drives the point home saying "the laborer is worthy of his food." A saying which Paul later cites to prove that "those who labor in the word and its teaching" are worthy of "double honor" which in context seems to indicate that they have the right, like any other laborer, to expect to be paid for their work in the ministry. In fact he even quoted this statement by Yeshua (Mt. 10:10) to support the point:
Those elders who conduct themselves well
should be esteemed worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in the word and
in teaching, For the Scripture says that
`you should not muzzle the ox, while threshing,' (Deut. 25:4)
and `the laborer is worthy of his wage." (Mt. 10:10)
Paul also expands on this thought in 1Cor. 9:6-14:
Also, I only, and Bar Nabba, have we not the power not to work?
Who is this who labors in the service (ministry) by the expanse of his nefesh?
Or who is he who plants a vineyard and from its fruit does not eat?
Or who is he who tends the flock and from the milk of his flock does not eat?
Do I say these [things] as a son of man?
Behold, the Torah also said these [things]. For it is written in the Torah of Moshe,
`You shall not muzzle the ox that threshes.' (Deut. 25:4)
It is a concern to Eloah about oxen? But, it is known that because of us he
said [it] and because of us it was written, because it is a need [that] the plowman plow unto hope and he who threshes, unto the hope of the harvest. If we have sown spiritual [things] among you, is it a great [thing] if we reap [things] of the flesh from you? … those who labor [in] the Beit Kodesh [the Temple] are sustained from the Beit Kodesh and those who labor for the alter have a portion with the alter?
So also, our Adon commanded that those who are proclaiming his goodnews should live from his goodnews."
Certainly the context of Yeshua's statement "for nothing you have received, for nothing you will give." (Mt. 10:8) was that of a society in which all things were held in common and each person's needs were taken care of by that community (Mt. 10:9-11 and Acts 2:44 & 4:32) but we do not live in such a society, and so citing Mt. 10:8 to those in the ministry today, is akin to asking us to make bricks without straw.
To the contrary Paul quotes the verse shortly afterward (10:10) to reach a principle by which those who are proclaiming his goodnews should be supported for doing so, just as those who labor in the Temple and for the alter are supported for doing so. In other words, Paul draws a midrash from the fact that Levites and Priests received tithes and offerings to teach a principle that "those who labor in the word and teach" should be supported with tithes and offerings.
I often ask the question, is this work worthy of your support? Ask yourself, have you learned anything from this ministry? If so then chip in and do your part to help spread this truth.