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Be An Example Of Sacrificial Living

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.

The Thessalonian church had a problem. False teachers had confused them about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Some believers thought He might have already come and missed them out – in which case they probably were not in His kingdom … so why persevere through persecution. Others thought Christ's return was imminent – in which case there was no point in working hard because God would sort out everything for them.

Paul's response to the first issue was in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-16. The second issue is addressed in today's verses. Using himself and his team as an example, Paul asked them to remember his lifestyle when he was in Thessalonica. Did he expect the believers to give him food and money? No. He worked as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), often far into the night to earn the money to buy food for the team. Even though he expected the Lord to come at any moment (1 Thessalonians 5:2), Paul was hard-working every day, not claiming his right to be looked after as God's servant. He knew how important it was to model the kind of behaviour he expected from the church.

Paul fully accepted the Lord's teaching that it was right for God's servants to find hospitality given to them wherever they went (Luke 10:7). Paul himself taught the same principle to Timothy who was on his team in Thessalonica (1 Timothy 5:18) from Deuteronomy 25:4. But the church had some people who wanted to claim some spiritual privilege to justify their wrong theology and lazy temperament – it was the same in Crete (Titus 1:10-13). He could not give them any excuse to be parasites, expecting believers who were hard working to supply their needs (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

This continues to be a problem today. Some Christians, even leaders, think that their position in the church, or as missionaries, gives them the right to demand what they want from people. It is a problem of attitude. Everything we have, through our own efforts or the kindness of others, is a gift of God's grace. But demanding the support of others when we can support ourselves smells of arrogance and greed rather than grace and thanksgiving. It is good when churches want to be generous towards their ministers, but bad when lazy or proud leaders demand it. Working hard is not unspiritual. It is a grateful consequence of understanding how much the Lord has done for us.

Gracious Lord. Thank You for all You have done for me in Christ, and for so much You have given to me that I have not deserved. Forgive me when I have not thanked You for what I have received, or demanded support which I could have earned. Please help me to understand that privileges have responsibilities attached to them. I also pray for leaders I know; please keep them humble and grateful as hard-working servants of Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams