Do Your Work
Read 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 (ESV)
For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
How can idleness become a serious problem for the church and for society?
A common theme I hear from managers and business owners is that they often have trouble filling their open positions with reliable staff. They say, “No one wants to work anymore.” This has the potential to become seriously problematic for society. But this type of laziness can also become problematic among the church. Let’s go back to the Bible to see what it has to say about working and earning your own keep.
The apostle Paul addressed this problem in today’s verses. He warned the Thessalonians that some people who are not busy working have become busybodies. Basically, they couldn’t mind their own business because they didn’t have any business of their own to mind! So they filled their empty days meddling in the affairs of others. Paul explicitly commanded them to get back to work and support themselves financially.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10, Paul said: “You yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
Paul’s point was this—as a missionary and minister to the church, he and his fellow missionaries had every right to be financially supported by the church. But Paul said that even though they had a God-given right to be dependent on the church for their living, they didn’t rely on that. Instead, they worked a “day job” of manual labor so that they could be role models for the rest of the church and not become financial burdens on others. Paul was a tent-maker in addition to his dedication to ministry. He flat out said that if you aren’t willing to work, the church has no obligation to meet your needs. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
Paul had already addressed this in his first letter the Thessalonians: “But we urge you, brothers to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12).
Throughout Scripture, the model for mankind is that we are to work. In just the second chapter of the Bible, we see that God placed man in the Garden of Eden to work it and maintain it (Genesis 2:15). God ordained work. The Bible also has clear commands to care for the poor, needy, widows, orphans, and disabled. Those who cannot work should be compassionately cared for! But there is no allowance in Scripture for the lazy to exploit that compassion.
Friend, if you are finding that you have too much time on your hands, if you are able to work but are instead depending on the hard work of others to meet your needs, I encourage you to study the example of the apostle Paul. He worked hard and earned his own keep. We should, too.
Lord, thank You for Your Word concerning work. I want to live a quiet life that serves others and honors You with the work that I do. Keep my hands from idleness. Amen.