2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you (meaning the first time Paul visited this church), we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
This was my uncle’s favorite bible verse growing up – in fact, I think it’s the only one he knew and he lived by it. As soon as we got out of bed on his farm ‘If you don’t work – you don’t eat.’ And he was serious.
But even after Paul left that church, reports still came back that the people were taking it easy and so even in his first letter to the church he writes.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-11
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 as you can see, this is at least the third time he has had to tell these people – get off your buts, get back to work.
But why does he care? I mean really, he doesn’t live there – whether they work or not doesn’t really affect him – and the reality is sooner or later, the bank account will dry up, the food will be gone from the cupboard and they’ll learn their lesson on their own, right?
Why is Paul so worked up – over work? Well, as we look at our text today, it’s important to understand that the Thessalonians were influenced by a few outside sources. First, some Jews were raised believing that only those who studied the Scripture (like the scribes) were doing ‘good work.’ They encouraged the idea that there was a division between the sacred…. and the secular.
But, if you grew up in a Greek household then you believed that work was demeaning and belonged only to slaves. For Greeks, work had nothing to do with faith, but more to do with social status.
And so like we mentioned earlier, for some Thessalonians they believed work was no longer necessary because Jesus was going to return any moment; and so as a result, they withdrew from work and became busybodies.
So I wanted to take a look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians and his philosophy on the work ethic and see what he had to say.
2 Thessalonians3:10 says If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
So the first thing is we need to: Develop a healthy work ethic
Psalm 104:23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.
Now does Paul mean that if you lost your job, and you’ve been searching for work for months, then you should just go hungry? No, Paul is talking about people who have purposefully removed themselves from the workforce and who have decided to live off others. There is a organism like this in nature – the leach or the parasite. A life-form that literally exists by taking life from another.
In John 6 Jesus did this massive miracle of multiplying food and he fed 5,000 people and the next day the crowds found him again and sat down and listen to what Jesus says.
John 6:26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Jesus says, ‘you’re not interested in Holy things, or teaching, you’re just lazy and you want me to feed you.’
Next in v11 Paul says, ” For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” The American Plain English Bible says… “For we hear that there are some among you who walk wickedly and do not labor at all, but are worthless.”
There’s a story that says that a man approached St. Francis of Assisi as he was hoeing in a garden and they asked him, what he would do if he knew that he would die the next day. St. Francis said, “I’d keep hoeing the garden.” Because the reality is, work isn’t just the responsible thing to do, it’s actually a command from God.
We all remember the Sabbath rest is in the 10 Commandments, but there is another part to that verse.
Exodus 20:9 says Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.
So yes, we should preach the Sabbath and yes everyone needs some time off and some time away, but…. God also commands that we work; and we see the word command again in…
2 Thessalonians 3:12
Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
But the command to work doesn’t start there, it actually started in Genesis, its the whole reason humanity was made
The Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to (what?) work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Later in v15 (the Bile says that) The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
and after it was all said and done….
Gen 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Plus not only does God command us to work, but he actually models work for us, doesn’t he? God isn’t exempt from working, he isn’t the supervisor who only ‘supervises.’
Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them
Jesus said in John 5
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise…. “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
We worship a God who rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty.