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1 Timothy 5:18

ESV For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
NIV For Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.'
NASB For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE IT IS THRESHING,' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.'
CSB For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, "The worker is worthy of his wages."
NLT 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!'
KJV For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

What does 1 Timothy 5:18 mean?

In Paul's writings, reference to "Scripture" almost always means the Old Testament. The first quote regarding an ox and grain is from Deuteronomy 25:4, the final book of the Torah. This verse has both a specific and general application. Putting a muzzle on the ox would prevent it from eating grain while it was working. This might save a small amount of grain, but it means the ox can't replenish its strength while it works.

It is more sensible—and fair—to let the animal eat while it works. The net benefit is considerable. In the more general sense, as Paul is using it here, this also means it's both beneficial and fair for those who labor in teaching and preaching in the church to be paid for their work. This is primarily so they can devote their time and energy fully to service of the congregation.

Interestingly, the second quote is from Jesus. These words appear in Luke 10:7 and are similar to Matthew 10:10. Note that Paul is referring to both quotations as "Scripture," meaning Paul is placing Luke's writing in the same category as the Old Testament: inspired Scripture. This strongly supports the notion that the apostles knew they were writing divinely-inspired words.

Also, this quotation shows the Gospel of Luke had almost certainly been written by this time. This would date the Gospel of Luke after AD 62, which was the end of Paul's house arrest in Rome,. It would also date the Gospel of Luke prior to the time 1 Timothy was written, which was approximately AD 64.

The actual quote, "The laborer deserves his wages" reinforces Paul's teaching that elders who work hard are to be paid for their efforts (1 Timothy 5:17).
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