Fear the Lord, my son, and honor His priest (Sir. 7:31).
Priests are servants of Christ, successors of the Apostolic ministry. The Lord told the Apostles about the pastors of the Church: He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me (Lk. 10:16); He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me (Jn. 13:20).
Thus, if you serve a priest, you serve Christ; if you receive a priest, you receive Christ. Don’t neglect the priest, even though he be poor and simple. Don’t belittle a priest for not appearing important. After all, the Apostles were poor, simple, and unimportant by their appearance. Priests are servants of Christ, like earthen vessels or clay pots—plain, fragile, always about to break. But they bear within themselves the treasure of Divine grace. Is this not why it pleased the Lord to grant His grace to infirm priests, to place it into clay vessels as it were—so that none of them could become proud, distributing this treasure of grace to others and at the same time understanding themselves to be as weak and of little value in appearance as an earthen vessel? But together with this grace, the pastors of the Church are given such power as no earthly authorities possess. Indeed, is any authority on earth given the right to bind a sinner in hell or lead him out from there? To close the doors of Paradise and open them, as is given to pastors? How do we know this?
From the words of Christ to the Apostles: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven [and the bound shall not be admitted into Paradise]: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven (Mt. 18:18), and that means those who are loosed will be given free entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. In honoring priests, provide them with everything necessary for this life: food, clothing, arrange a home for them, give them their appointed pay. Do this that they might be able to carry out their ministry with joy, without lamenting their needs, and without cares for their family. For it will be of no benefit to you if a priest serves you with sorrow and lamentation. Give them their due willingly as to Christ Himself; for the Lord said about His servants, the Apostles: For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward (Mk. 9:41).
Don’t think that in giving a priest some money or anything else you’re giving him charity. No, you’re giving what you ought for his service to you. He is worthy of it, as the Lord Himself said about the Apostles: The workman is worthy of his meat (Mt. 10:10). Moreover, you give a priest much more than you receive from him, for you give him earthly things, but through him you receive Heavenly things; you give what’s perishable but receive what’s imperishable, eternal; you give what’s needed for the body and receive what’s needed for the soul. The soul is much more important than the body. When you give something to a priest, do so willingly, with a cheerful face, without reproaches, so you don’t turn out like the folk saying: “He feeds with the spoon and stabs with the handle.”
Thus, Fear the Lord, my son, and honor His priest (Sir. 7:31). Obey the priest; give him his due; do so willingly, for you as if give to Christ and will also receive a reward from Christ.