The Good Shepherd vs. the Hireling

Posted by on Jul 9, 2022

The term “hireling”, as used by the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John, suggests “one who speaks the Word of Elohim for pay”, or the so-called “professional priesthood” of today, as they call themselves. These hirelings (bishops, pastors, reverends, and TV evangelists) teach that they are entitled to receive the money of the laymen, but are they?

The apostles taught and practiced exactly what the Good Shepherd, Yeshua the Messiah, had taught them about the hireling, namely, that no monetary gain was to be asked for teaching the Gospel. Shaul went even further to say that the teachers are to work voluntarily, for this is their reward, without charge, so as not to abuse their authority in the Good News (see 1Co 9:17-18). Shaul’s point is the commission not to take any money for bringing the Good News to the people.

Contrary to what the Good Shepherd teaches in Mat 10:8-10 is to do what a hireling does: make money out of the Gospel. And this will be the subject of our study, as we will explain it in due course.

How the religious titles entered the Church

The matter will become clear once we understand how have the religious titles of the hirelings, such as “pastor”, “bishop”, “Pope”, etc., entered the Church in the first place?

Before the word “pastor” (a title in the Protestant Church) became a Christian word, it was originally the Latin pastorem, which simply means “shepherd” and relates to the Latin verb pascere: “to lead to pasture”.

Likewise, the term bishop (a clergyperson ranking above a priest in the Anglican or Roman Catholic Church) was not used originally to denote a religious title but was used for those appointed by the Roman emperors to oversee the newly conquered territories. Bishop comes from old English word bisceop, which in turn comes from the Greek episkopos (a term used in the Eastern Orthodox Church to denote the same thing); the term episkopos, literally means “overseer”.

The bishops originally functioned as administrators of the emperor and no religious duties were ascribed to them, not until the Church was established by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. But the first known use of “bishop” (as a Christian term) is dated back before the 12th century.

The term “Pope” denotes a senior clergyman and dignitary who as a “bishop of Rome” is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The equivalent position in the Eastern Orthodox Church is Patriarch (Greek for “father”). “Pope” comes from the Latin papa and from the Greek pappas. Hence, “Pope” means “father” in Latin, or as he is very often called in the Catholic Church: “the Holy Father”, always capitalized.

The common thing between all these clergymen is that they work for money; they are hirelings.

Note: For another title used in the religion refer to the article Do not be called ‘Rabbi’! – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

A hireling is not a good shepherd

A hireling is not a good shepherd because he does not own the sheep; at the first danger they abandon the flock or leave for another [bigger] flock with a “greener” pasture.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. But the hireling, and not being a shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees. And the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. Now the hireling flees because he is a hireling and is not concerned about the sheep. (Joh 10:11-13)

David was not the only great leader of the children of Israel who was a shepherd. For example, Mosheh was also a shepherd, and so was the prophet Amos, and before them the fathers Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov. Good shepherds bear great responsibility for the flock as a whole and also for each individual sheep. But the hireling, not being a good shepherd, is not concerned about the flock, for the only thing he cares is the money: the “greener” pastures.

What do we see today? We see “shepherds” on payroll and TV “prophets”, who teach for hire and for a price, as the bad priests and prophets of Israel did long before them. We read thus in Micah concerning those who teach for money,

Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for a price. Yet they lean on Yehovah and say, “Is not Yehovah in our midst? Evil does not come upon us”. Therefore, because of you, Tsiyon is ploughed like a field, and Yerushalayim becomes heaps, and the mountain of the House like a wooded height. (Mic 3:11-12)

The prophet Micah exposes here the sins of the leaders of Israel that stemmed from the same root: love for money. The sin of the priests and prophets for pay (Hebrew, שַׁחַד shachad, donation, reward, bride) refers to the fact that they did not teach the Torah of YHVH gratuitously but for a price.

But that was not the worst of it. The worst thing was that, while collecting money from the people, at the same time, they were justifying themselves by placing their trust upon YHVH using Him as an assurance in their deeds without even reflecting that He demands justice. Thus, they had turned the House of YHVH into a pile of wood, i.e., worthless.

To such is the next warning concerning the shepherds of Israel, who graze themselves, not the flock,

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, “Thus said the Master Yehovah to the shepherds, ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have fed themselves!’ Should not the shepherds feed the flock?” (Eze 34:2)

The bad shepherds of Israel enjoyed themselves with the money of their sheep who were under them.

The reason for the woe pronounced here is given in what is following: “who have fed themselves”, as opposed to “they should have fed the flock”.

The disgracefulness of their self-indulgence is brought out by the question, “Should not the shepherds feed the flock?” The following verse of “The woe to the shepherds” show how they fed themselves and neglected the flock: they care nothing for the wellbeing of the flock.

And if this had been said concerning the leaders of Israel, what makes the present “shepherds” sure that this woe passes over them. For such “hirelings” the woe says that the task of keeping the sheep will be taken from them, so that they will feed themselves no more in the green pastures,

Look, I am against the shepherds, and shall require My flock at their hand and shall make them cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more. And I shall deliver My flock from their mouths, and they shall no longer be food for them. (Eze 34:10)

The Good Shepherd

In opposition of the Woe, YHVH declares that it will be He who will rule over the people, not those shepherds, when He will gather them and bring them to Jerusalem (Jer 3:14),

And I shall give you shepherds according to My heart, and they shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jer 3:15)

A good shepherd cares much for his sheep. If a sheep goes astray, it endangers itself and the flock. To save the sheep the shepherd has to snap its leg and fasten it with a band. Since the sheep cannot walk, the good shepherd has to carry it on his shoulders until the leg heals.

A good shepherd cares much for his sheep. If a sheep goes astray, it endangers itself and the flock. To save the sheep the shepherd has to snap its leg and fasten it with a band. Since the sheep cannot walk, the good shepherd has to carry it on his shoulders until the leg heals.

Clearly this declaration refers to the latter days as the immediate context requires such an interpretation. We read,

And it shall be, when you have increased, and shall be fruitful in the land in those days, declares Yehovah, that they no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of Yehovah”. Neither would it come to heart, nor would they remember it, nor would they visit it, nor would it be made again. At that time Yerushalayim shall be called the throne of Yehovah, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the Name of Yehovah, to Yerushalayim, and no longer walk after the stubbornness of their evil heart. (Jer 3:16-17)

In the latter days, YHVH will give Israel good shepherds, shepherds according to His heart, like David (Eze 34:23-24 and Hos 3:5), who did wisely in all his ways, and who will be reinstalled in his position of ruler of the united nation.

But here in Jeremiah, the knowledge and understanding the shepherds will feed the people are to be understood in the keeping and doing of the Torah of YHVH, according to the words of Mosheh in Deu 4:6.

Then the Davidic dynasty will culminate in the King Messiah, who was indeed prophesied to come by the words of Mosheh in Deu 18:15, as we explained in the article Is Yeshua the Prophet in Deu 18:15? – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

According to this prophecy, YHVH will cause to come and come again one single shepherd over His flock, a shepherd unique in his kind, a shepherd whose kingdom will be in contrast with the former division of Israel into two kingdoms into the House of Israel (the northern kingdom) and the House of Judah (the southern kingdom).

The time indeed came when this Shepherd simply said, “I am the good shepherd”.

I am the good shepherd. And I know mine, and mine know me, even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold – I have to bring them as well, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock, one shepherd. (Joh 10:14-16)

The Good Shepherd came to take away his flock from the hands of the hireling and bring to the Father the “other sheep” so that they all be one flock under one shepherd.

But who are the “other sheep” that is not of this flock? Kayapha, the high priest of the first century Judea, said thus about them,

You know nothing, neither do you consider that it is better for us that one man should die for the people than that the entire nation should perish. But he did not say this from himself but being high priest that year he prophesied that Yeshua was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather together into one the children of Elohim who were scattered abroad. (Joh 11:49-52)

Kayapha, being as corrupted as he was, not only knew who Yeshua was and what his mission was but prophesied to self-fulfill the ancient prophecy that one man must die for the entire nation in order to bring those who were scattered back into the flock: the lost tribes of Israel.

And from that day on the corrupted elite plotted to kill the good shepherd in order to self-fulfill the prophecy of the ingathering of all Israel. 

The Good Shepherd gathers the lost sheep

Unlike the hireling who allows the sheep to be scattered, the good shepherd gathers the flock around him.

Yeshua sent the twelve out, saying, “Do not go into the way of the nations, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the [lost tribes of] House of Israel” (Mat 10:5-6). And in other place, he said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Mat 15:24). And sending them way he gave them this instruction:

Preach to them that Kingdom of Heaven will be fulfilled. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received without paying, give without being paid. Do not heap up silver and gold; nor wealth in your purse, nor changes of clothes, not shoes, nor staff in your hand. The workman is worthy to receive enough for his food. (Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew 10:7-10)

Note: The KJV translation reads, “freely ye have received, freely give” implying that the disciples have received “abundantly” and abundantly they should give. This translation is used by the pastors to convince the laymen that they have received abundantly (free) teachings, and now they are to pay back abundantly (with their money). But the Hebrew word in the ancient Hebrew manuscript of Matthew, aka Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew, is the same word in Num 11:5 chinam, which means “without cost”, or “free of charge”.

In other words, Yeshua commanded his disciples not to make fortune out of his words but rather whatever they would be given to eat as a gesture of good hospitality they should receive it but not to acquire anything for their own benefits. The disciples knowing his teaching about the good shepherd and the hireling headed for the search of the ten lost tribes of Israel.

This instruction of Yeshua not to take money at all for preaching the Good News was understood correctly by the apostle who further said,

Shepherd the flock of Elohim, which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but voluntarily, not out of greed for filthy gain, but eagerly, neither as being masters over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1Pe 5:2-3)

Hireling works only for money

Some light on the teaching of the good shepherd and the hireling may be acquired by examining a statement in a first century work “The Didache” aka “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, or “The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles” that the present author believes is compiled either by Shaul and the other apostles or by the disciples of the apostles. The reason being is that in The Didache the directions given to those who would bring the Good News closely follow Shaul’s teaching in 2Th 3:8-10. We read,

nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but worked with labor and toil night and day, in order not to burden any of you, not because we do not have authority but to make ourselves an example for you to imitate us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: “If anyone does not wish to work, neither let him eat”. (2Th 3:8-10)

What is more important for us to know is how the apostles taught and practiced Yeshua’s words about the good shepherd and the hireling. The Didache is considered an example of the first Messianic Community Orders.

Let every apostle, when he comes to you, be received as the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he abides three days, he is a false prophet. And when he departs let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he finds shelter; but if he asks money, he is a false prophet. (Didache 11:4-6) (1st Century CE) See also Didache 12:1-5 and Didache 13:1-2.

What the Rabbis say about teaching for money

Below are some quotes from the Rabbinic sources on the matter of teaching for money.

Teach Torah gratuitously and accept no pay for it, because the Omnipresent gave it gratuitously and one may not take a fee for the [teaching of] words of Torah. If you should accept pay for the [teaching of] words of Torah, you will consequently destroy [the moral constitution of] the entire world. Derekh Eretz Zuta 4:3

Do not be like servants who serve the master in the expectation of receiving a reward but be like servants who serve the master without the expectation of receiving a reward and let the fear of Heaven be upon you. Pirkei Avot 1:3

He who learns in order to teach, it is granted to him to study and to teach; But he who learns in order to practice, it is granted to him to learn and to teach and to practice. Rabbi Zadok said: “do not make them a crown for self-exaltation, nor a spade with which to dig”. So too Hillel used to say, “And he that puts the crown to his own use shall perish”. Thus, you have learned, anyone who derives worldly benefit from the words of the Torah, removes his life from the world. Pirkei Avot 4:5

This is understood to mean never to use Torah knowledge for earning money. And it is thus derived that it is forbidden to receive payment for teaching Torah: just as Mosheh taught the Torah free of charge, so too must today’s teachers teach it for free.

Knowing what we have learned so far, it should not come as a surprise Yeshua’s words: “You have received without paying, give without being paid”.

However, if some however were to argue that as the Levites received the tithes, so must the pastors, for they are the “new Levites”, there is no merit to such an argument. In response, we should consult the Torah. Lev 27:30 tells that the tithe belongs to YHVH, and Num 18:21 tells us that the Levites were to be paid out of the tithe, for their service in the Tabernacle (later Temple).

When the Levites received the tithe from the children of Israel, they were to give a tenth of the tithe to the High Priest which was to be distributed to the Aharonic priests, as we read in Num 18:26-28.

Therefore, we see, that while the ordinary Levites were to receive a tenth, the High Priest and the other priests were to receive a tenth of the tenth, or one hundredth of the entire contribution.

Therefore, it is apparent that the tithe was not directly paid to the Levites, rather it was paid to YHVH and from it the Levites were paid. This was so that the Levites could devote themselves to serve full time to YHVH (Deu 14:22-23; 2Ch 31:4-5) and teach Torah to the people in accordance with what we have explained in Is there any place for “professional priesthood” today?, namely, that the Levites worked for living (besides their service in the Temple).

If that explanation is accepted, then we can close with the most logical statement that nowhere in the Scripture (the Apostolic Writings included) are we told to pay the tithes in money to anyone, much less to pay tithes to people who reject the Torah in the first place. As a matter of fact, at the absence of Temple and Levitical priesthood today, Torah does not allow us to tithe.

And when we reflect on what we have written above, we will conclude that we have explained this controversy of gaining money from teaching the Scripture in accordance with what we have written in other articles such as, “Do not muzzle an ox!” Did Paul Claim the Tithes?, and Do not sell Wisdom, Instruction, and Understanding!

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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!