Deuteronomy 25:4 reads “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” There is an obvious “literal interpretation” for this verse, but there is also a beautiful “spiritual application” that can be made. God loves and takes care of all His creatures and here He is commanding His people to make sure they provide for their beasts of burden. An ox serves his master well by treading out the corn and he is entitled to be paid for his services. What does one pay an ox? Why, with food of course. So, God charges His people NOT to “muzzle the ox,” for this would prevent them from eating the corn that they are threshing. It would be cruel indeed to muzzle their ox and to deny them the food they deserve and that they need to sustain them.

The “spiritual application” is found in 1 Corinthians 9:9-11. It says, “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things.” In verses 1-8 of this chapter Paul was teaching that he and other apostles had the right to be financially supported for their labors in the gospel. In verse 7 he used other illustrations to make this point, for it reads “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” The lesson was clear and simple, for just as a soldier, vinedresser and shepherd are paid for the work they do, so one who labors in the Word has the right to be supported by those that they serve. Then he turns to the law of Moses to show that this principle was also taught in the Old Testament in the example of the ox treading out corn, for just as the ox has earned the right to be paid for his services, so the servant of God who sows the Word of God in the hearts of men and women has the right to be supported financially by those who are being blessed by the Word. I should add that Paul also quoted this verse in 1 Timothy 5:18 when speaking of the labors of elders. Let’s read verses 17-18, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.”

I would only add that Scripture is NOT teaching us in these passages that one should be paid a stipulated salary for serving the Lord in the gospel. A servant is “worthy of his reward,” to be sure, but the servant must walk by faith, counting on God to provide his needs. Paul could say in Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He knew God would supply their needs BECAUSE God was faithfully supplying his needs! A servant must look to the Lord alone to supply his needs, and he can surely count on Him to move the hearts of His people to support him.  (175.9)  (DO)