1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (ESV)
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. 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.
Paul was pleased with the church’s love for one another. He must have seen a big change in them, as he attributed the results directly to God. He urged them to continue, but also to ensure that they worked–not becoming, or relying on–the state or others to care for them.
It is not right for people to not work for what they want and/or need. As those who live under grace, we are not obligated to work for our salvation, but we work–spiritually–to show God our gratitude.
But this is not what Paul is saying here. Today, we have many people who seem content to be wards of the state. This, however, is not the Christian lifestyle. In Paul’s second letter to the same church, he states: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 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.” (2 Thess 3:10-12).
I believe this is important to keep in mind. We need to do what we can to be productive members of society. There are people who cannot for one reason or another work as much as others do, but each of us should do what we can. We share our resources to help those who are not able, but not for those not willing to work. I do not believe it is right to make a life out of being a beggar or panhandler.
As Christians we serve as an example to the rest of the world. If we do not set a good example, then how can we expect to attract people to Christ and His message? We will be held responsible for our actions that attract people, or drive them away. So do your best. Demonstrate personal responsibility. We need to accept the consequences (good or bad) of our actions.
We should not be dependent upon others for our livelihood, but we are, as the Body of Christ, interdependent, not truly independent. We all need each other. We all have struggles, need counsel, and can support one another.
by Virgil Stripes
photo: Mosaic mural in Jerusalem showing ancient marketplace