By David Faust
• “They told me at the blood bank this might happen.”
• “I was meditating on the company’s mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm.”
• “Ah, the unique and unpredictable circadian rhythms of the workaholic.”
• And the best thing to say if you get caught sleeping at your desk: “Amen.”
The Avoidance of Hard Work
The Lord doesn’t require us to be workaholics. There’s plenty of room in the Christian life for quiet rest and playful recreation—but there’s no excuse for laziness.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul addressed the sin of idleness. Some members of the church evidently misapplied Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians about the return of Christ. “If the Lord is returning soon,” they reasoned, “why work so hard—or why work at all?” They weren’t do-it-yourselfers; they were don’t-it-yourselfers. They tried to get by with as little work as possible.
Concerned about the negative influence of these “idle and disruptive” Christians (2 Thessalonians 3:6), Paul explained the benefits of a solid work ethic.
The Value of Hard Work
A diligent worker is a role model for others. Paul said, “You ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you. . . . On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (vv. 7, 8).
Today, as in the first century, critics of the church cynically assume that preachers mainly serve God for the money—another reason Christian leaders should avoid laziness and handle even small financial matters with the utmost integrity. Paul said, “Nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it” (v. 8). If you went to a restaurant with Paul, he routinely picked up the tab! “We did this,” Paul declared, “not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate” (v. 9).
Industriousness builds dignity and self-respect. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (v. 10). Whenever possible, God holds us responsible to support ourselves and the loved ones who rely on us. Elsewhere Paul observed, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Some legitimately cannot work because of age, disability, or lack of opportunity; but it weakens families and damages society when those who are able to work are unwilling to do so.
Conscientious workers are too busy to engage in negative behaviors. “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” (2 Thessalonians 3:11, 12). The old proverb is right: Idle minds and idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
Hardworking employees don’t have time to be busybodies, verbally crucifying their coworkers in the coffee shop or frittering away the hours with gossip on Facebook. Football star Tim Tebow puts it well: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
At church on Sunday and at work on Monday, we should “never tire of doing what is good” (v. 13).
1. Are you tempted to work too hard or work too little?
2. How could you represent the Lord better in your daily work?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for July 27, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Thessalonians 1:1–7
2 Chronicles 17—19
2 Thessalonians 1:8–12
2 Chronicles 20, 21
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12
2 Chronicles 22—24
2 Thessalonians 2:13–17
2 Chronicles 25—27
2 Thessalonians 3:1–5
2 Chronicles 28, 29
2 Thessalonians 3:6–13
2 Chronicles 30—33