Committee on Pensions of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church

An Outline of the Biblical Philosophy of Mutual Protection, Care, and Dependence as the Principle Underlying the Program of The Committee on Pensions



Under the Old Covenant, provision is made for the present and future welfare of those unable to provide for themselves. This provision applied to those beyond the years of regular service, including covenant servants who could not make adequate provision for the future during their ministry.

1. Present Needs

a. The fatherless and the widow

See Deuteronomy 14:29; 16:11,14; 24:17,19-21; 26:12,13; I Kings 17:9-16; Job 24:3,9; 29:12,13,21; 31:16,17,21; Psalms 10:14; 146:9; Proverbs 23:10; Isaiah 1:17,23; 10:2.

b. The poor of the Covenant

See Exodus 23:11; Deuteronomy 15:7; Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 19:17, 21:13; Zephaniah 3:12.

2. Future Needs

a. Abraham's purchase of a burial place at Machpelah from the sons of Heth

(1) Abraham states, "That I may bury my dead out of my sight" [Genesis 23:4]. Future burying place for his dead suggests more than immediate needs.

(2) Sarah is buried at Machpelah [Genesis 23:17-20].

(3) Isaac and Ishmael bury Abraham at Machpelah [Genesis 25:9].

(4) His sons bury Jacob at Machpelah [Genesis 50:13].

b. Isaac's and Jacob's deathbed blessing

(1) Isaac's blessing, in addition to having covenantal significance, involves an earthly blessing which is futuristic and comprehends physical, temporal blessing [Genesis 27].

(2) The blessing of Jacob also involves an earthly blessing [Genesis 48, 49].

c. Joseph's saving of God's people

The whole episode of Joseph's exile in Egypt shows the saving of the covenant people unable to care for themselves because of famine, the saving of Egypt seeming almost incidental by comparison. Joseph's instrumentality in the care of the covenant people bears on the whole idea of storing up for future supply. For the famine years of retired ministers, the granaries must be stocked [Genesis 41:17,28,29; 45:7; 50:19,20].

d. Elisha and the widow

The deceased preacher's wife and children are provided for with sufficient stores for the future [II Kings 4:1-7].

e. The inheritance concept

Inheritance usually points in a twofold direction--toward the physical or actual and toward the symbolic inheritance.

(1) The inheritance to the daughters of Zelophehad instituted by Moses when there was no son to whom the inheritance could go involves physical future provisions [Numbers 27:1-11].

(2) The poor are always with us and we should be openhanded to them [Deuteronomy 15:7-14; John 12:8]. A number of the ministers of the covenant will always be among the poor, and certainly we should be openhanded to them.

(3) The inheritance of the priests and Levites in the land [Numbers 18:20-32; 35:1-8; Deuteronomy 14:27-29; 18:1-8].


The general principle of laying up for the future from Proverbs applies to providing continuing support for retired servants of the church.

1. The ant is an illustration of industrious gathering in, laying up in store [Proverbs 6:6-8].

2. Thoughtful ingathering for the future [Proverbs 10:5].

3. Ensuring a future food supply before building the house so he will have food for that house [Proverbs 24:27].


The scope of this commandment is the performance of those duties that we mutually owe in our several relationships [Larger Catechism Q 126].

1. According to our standards, "By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts, and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth" [Larger Catechism Q 124].

2. Jesus obeys this commandment in the future provision for His mother [John 19:26].

Not to provide for the future needs of our fathers in the faith is to fail in this commandment and to overlook the example of Christ.


1. The Needs of the Priests and Levites

a. Places of permanent abode

The inheritance of the Levites included 48 cities; their future was provided for in these cities [Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21:1-42].

b. Other needs

The needs of the Levites are met for the span of their life as these ordinances are perpetual [Numbers 18:20-32; 35:1-8; Deuteronomy 14:27-29; 18:1-8].

2. Other Servants of God Cared For

a. David shows mercy to Jonathan's son in restoring to Mephisbosheth all that was Saul's [II Samuel 9].

b. Although Nehemiah, like Paul, forwent wages, he provides for the needs of fellow servants [Nehemiah 5:17-19].


These data lead to the conclusion that under the Old Covenant the needy of the covenant were provided for not only as those needs occurred but also in anticipation of future want, from the least to the greatest. It follows also that a minister and his widow have a right to the church's support for their lifetime.



As we come to the New Covenant, we must keep in mind that our responsibility in this economy is not less but greater, what with the revelation unfolding in its fullness and especially with the outpouring of the Spirit of God forming the body of Christ into a unity not duplicated in the Old Covenant.


1. Present Needs

a. By precept [I Timothy 5:1-16; I John 3:17; James 2:14-16].

b. By example [Acts 2:44,45; 4:34-37; 11:28-30; Romans 15:25-27].

2. Future Needs

a. Prediction of the famine excites preparation to meet the needs of the churches in Judea [Acts 11:28-30 - We should be reminded that among the needs were at least a few apostles plus perhaps scores of elders].

b. It is likely that, with the problem of widows in the first century and from the implications of this passage about the enrollment of widows, provision was made both for present and for future needs of widows {I Timothy 5:1-16].


1. Establishment of Diaconate

The church at this point established a separate group within itself to carry out the practical arrangements of distribution to the needs [Acts 6:1-7]. Even though thereafter no specific diaconal functions of this nature are cited in the divine record, we know that this office continued [I Timothy 3:8-13], and we must assume that these compassionate functions also continued so long as there were needy in the church [John 12:8].

2. New Covenant Church and Old Covenant Church

We must be ever aware that the New Covenant church lived close to and was acutely conscious of the Old Covenant with its plethora of precepts and examples concerning the very ministry for which the diaconate was established. This fact itself may account for the new economy's paucity of specific examples and explicit instruction regarding diaconate duties.


1. As a Steward

The demands of stewardship are as much for the undershepherd of God as for the sheep in general [Luke 12:41-48; 19:12-18; Matthew 25:14-30].

a. All family heads must provide for their family [I Timothy 5:8].

b. All Christians are wisely to use their time [Ephesians 5:6].

Much time and effort would be needed by most ministers to become knowledgeable about the complexities of an investment program, not to mention the need for constant vigilance and adjustment of investments. Furthermore, to establish and maintain their own hospitalization and life insurance programs, if indeed individual programs were available at reasonable cost, ministers would be required to spend additional time and effort, thereby hindering them from making the best use of their time.

2. As Indeed Needy

a. Inspite of the demands for stewardship and the demands of I Timothy 5:8, the Bible informs us that many of God's ministers in His providence will be needy [II Corinthians 11:27; Philippians 4:10-12,16; Hebrews 11:37, 8].

b. The Scriptures promise persecution, not only to faithful ministers but to all who would live godly in Christ Jesus [John 15:20,21; II Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11:33-36].

c. Many of our ministers, under existing circumstances, such as those in the home and foreign mission fields and those with small- and medium-sized churches, will have needs in later years, perhaps even dire privation. Surely if the needs of the Grecian widows are of concern to the church, how much more the needs of those who are to receive double honor [I Timothy 5:17], especially if those needs emerge in their later, inactive years.

3. As Having a Right to Wages

I Corinthians 9:4-14; I Timothy 5:18; Matthew 10:9-10.

Ministers laboring in the sphere of the church have the right to wages from the church.

4. As Part of the Body of Christ

The condition of one member affects the whole body, for we are horizontally members of one another [I Corinthians 12:25-26].


1. To Provide Wisely for Needs Immediate and Remote

Stewardship requires us to use what God has entrusted to us to meet the needs that exist. Since ministers will have needs after retirement, the church must provide for those needs.

2. Wise Provision Includes Wise Investment and Preparation - Genesis 41:33-39; Luke 12:41-48; 19:12-28; Matthew 25:14-30.

3. Wise Investment Should be Made in the Thing That is Good - Ephesians 4:28.




To postpone preparing for a crisis when it is virtually certain that the crisis will arise is contrary to Scripture (the priestly and Levitical provisions, the ant-sluggard analogy, the story of Joseph, Christ's parables, the Jerusalem famine) as well as violating the lessons of experience.


The principle of pooling resources ahead of time to meet a future need comports with wisdom and practice sanctioned by Holy Writ--Acts 4:35-36; 6:3; and Romans 12:4-8. Preparation is an integral part of life, and it is just as proper for the church to prepare for the future needs of its ministers as it is the members of the church and/or their employers to prepare for their retirement needs.



A. Scripture clearly bids the church provide for the support of its ministers and their families, including their widows.

B. The wisdom of Scripture indicates that the church should, as part of its support of its ministers during their active ministries, prepare for their continuing support after retirement.

C. Preparation for this continuing support, including the collecting of funds during the ministers' active ministries and planned support payments (pensions) upon retirement, should be done carefully and according to an orderly retirement or pension plan.

D. It is proper also for the church to make prudent preparations for the care of its ministers and their families during illness by means of a health insurance plan, and for their widows by means of a life insurance plan.

E. Provision for the health, retirement, and life insurance needs does not fall within the competence of the average minister. Nor should the church draw its ministers away from their stewardship of the mysteries of God and of their ministerial gifts by placing on them the obligation to make such provisions individually; they should not, as it were, be required to "leave the Word of God, and serve tables." It is incumbent on the church, in the best interests of both the minister and the church, to place responsibility for health and retirement needs upon those who have gifts and competence for such service, to serve as a committee to help the church provide for them.

F. Scripture also clearly teaches that the church, as the body of Christ, has responsibility, through the diaconate, for all the needy in the body who are not provided for by their families or otherwise; this may include ministers and their widows whose pensions are inadequate. Therefore, a pension committee and the diaconate should work co-operatively in these matters.

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