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Hard Work Is God-Honouring

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.' We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 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 work-shy attitude of some of the Thessalonian believers corrupted the fellowship and dishonoured the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Although persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:4), and false teaching about the second coming (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2), may have helped them to justify a passive approach to life, they must have been inclined to laziness already. It is more difficult to make hard-workers lazy, than for lazy people to develop a habit of hard work. This must have been an obvious problem right from the start of the church, and Paul was only there a short time. He needed to provide instruction and the motivation to get these idle people back into productive employment.

Instinctively, Christians should want to supply food to hungry people who have no resources (1 Peter 4:9). That is right. But when people are able to earn their own living, gifts from the church remove any incentive for them to stop being beggars. Those gifts then become a hindrance to their personal and spiritual growth. So, Paul wanted the whole church to understand that, while they should continue to do good to people, they should not support idle individuals who could provide for themselves and their families, if they wanted to. In that circumstance, it was right not to give to lazy people who were able to find work.

The other problem was that because these people had time on their hands, they did not just sit by themselves all day; they went around finding other people to talk to, interfering with their lives. They could be preventing other believers in doing their work, or by being gossips (1 Timothy 5:13). They had become busybodies who disrupted the fellowship and distorted the gospel. Paul's instruction is direct – if they refused to work they should not be given food to eat. Instead, they should settle down and earn their living.

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company said, "… the devil finds work for idle hands to do …" He saw a spiritual and social value in providing employment. Paul would have agreed. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." We are designed to be workers together with Christ (2 Corinthians 6:1). He expects us to be actively engaged in working with him: even our so called secular employment should be done for His glory (Colossians 3:23-24). The Lord honours those who work hard for His sake (1 Corinthians 4:12).

Father God. Thank You for creating me to work with You in this world. Forgive me for the times I have been lazy, or have encouraged the idleness of others. Please help me to be busy about what You have given me to do and not be a busybody in other people's lives. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams