The Value of Work – June 3, 2018

Bumper stickers on work. 

  • Work fascinates me, I can sit and watch it for hours.
  • The worst day of fishing – is still better than the best day of working.
  • Hard work may not kill me – but why take a chance?
  • I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.

Homer, the famous Greek writer, said that ‘the gods hated humans so much’ that they invented work as a way to punish people. Work sounds like punishment to some folks. Retirement is the blessed goal.

Paul wrote, “We gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'” this passage is entirely concerned with those who should and can work but refuse and instead direct their energies to causing chaos in the community. It is entirely possible and disturbingly common today, to work full time ‘or more than full time’ — and ‘still not earn’ a living wage.

We Christians need to be profoundly careful with our rhetoric ‘about those who depend on welfare for survival’. Instead, we should be fighting for justice and getting help for those in need. And Paul wasn’t talking about cutting people off who can’t earn a living because of sickness, mental instability, age, or infirmity. He wasn’t talking about cutting off widows who have no support, or orphans whose parents have died. WE should never use this verse to hammer the poor or the unemployed because ‘we often don’t know the whole story’.

You see the Church at Thessalonica was struggled with several problems, including, persecution, lax morals, idleness and a misunderstanding of Christ’s coming. Their thinking fell along these lines:

  • Slaves work – ‘not upstanding people’,
  • Pleasure is the highest goal in life. 
  • Life should be easy.
  • If Jesus is coming back soon, why worry or work?

Then because they had nothing else to do, they began spreading panic, rumors, lies and gossip. Their behavior became chronic and destructive. Paul refers to them as busybodies.

These issues were not new for the church in Thessalonica, Paul had been dealing with them from the beginning. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 reads, “Make it your ambition to lead a quite life to mind your business – and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”

The work idle or lazy is translated as ‘someone who does not walk or conduct themselves in the proper way or manner’. Originally, it referred to soldiers marching out of step or going AWOL (absent without official leave).

The picture Paul is painting is one of ‘people who are troublemakers disruptive meddlers and slackers’. They are lazy when it comes to work – but they work at making others miserable.

The truth s, the Bible is filled with passages about not being lazy, especially in the book of Proverbs. For example; Proverbs 21:25 reads, “Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin because their hands refuse to work.”

And Proverbs 18:9 reads, “One who is slack in his work, is brother to the one who destroys.”

These are harsh words – but we must understand the mindset of God’s people back then.

To think of one’s self above others – was a sin. People did what was best for the community not themselves. Each person had an obligation to work – and to share with everyone. Work was seen as your unique way of serving others, benefiting the community and glorifying God. Idleness was seen as selfish, an act of stealing and arrogant.

Work, they believed, was not a curse – but a gift from God. The worker who never shows effort, energy, or enthusiasm, they believed, was not living the godly life.

As a gift to Adam, “God gave man work to do” long before the fall. Genesis 2:15 reads, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 reads, “Then I realized, that it is ‘good and proper’ for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun – during the few days of life God has given him for this is his lot. Furthermore, as for every man ‘to whom God has given riches and wealth’, he has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and to ‘rejoice in his labor’ this is the gift of God.”

“Work is ‘the honorable way to live’ and to serve others. That is what Jesus did throughout his entire life.

Remember David’s failure with Bathsheba? What was the problem? He was idle. He was not doing his job as the leader. He should have been out leading the armies of Israel. Instead he let others do his job while he lounged around in the palace. He was not about his Father’s business so he got into the devil’s business.

Some say that, “idleness is the devil’s workshop”. The idea of work ‘is that it is ultimately good for us’. It keeps us out of trouble, keeps us strong mentally, physically and spiritually and most importantly ; our work is also our witness.

Colossians 3:23 reads “Whatever you do, ‘work at it’ with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” And Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

There’s a story told about three men who were digging a foundation for a new church. When asked what he was doing, the first man replied ‘that he was earning money to feed his family’. The second man said he was working ‘so he could go out and party over the weekend’. Only the third man captured the architect’s plan for the structure, when he said, “I’ building a cathedral ‘to the glory of God’.”

One day, Francis of Assisi was hoeing in his garden and was asked ‘what he would do if he knew Jesus was coming back that very day’. This was his answer: “i’d keep hoeing.”

Finally, Dr. Ben Carson wrote this reflection on work in his book “Gifted Hands”, “It’s not WHAT you do – but the kind of job you do, that makes the difference.

Our work, what we do for the Lord, speaks volumes about us. And it speaks about who we love – and it speaks to those who come after us.1

Another problem that Paul was dealing with in the churches related to caring for the needy and the elderly. Some men refused to care for the widows, their mother-in-laws and relative’s children – after their parents had died.

Paul made his feelings very clear to Timothy when he wrote, “If anyone does not provie for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

Those men forgot how blessed they were. They forgot that they had received God’s grace and mercy – and they had no mercy for others. How sad. Scripture reminds us, “Don’t eer get tired of doing what is good and right”. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

A woman went with her husband to the doctor’s office. When the checkup was over, the doctor asked the man to wait outside so he would talk to the wife. “Your husband is suffering from ‘a very sever stress disorder’. If you don’t do what I ask, he is not going to make it. “Here’s what I want you to do… “Get up early each morning and fix him a healthy breakfast. Make him ‘a nutritious lunch’ and prepare it really special dinner every night. Be pleasant at all times. Don’t burden him with chores or discuss your problems with him. You will need to do almost ‘all the work around the house’. And, you can’t nag him about anything. If you can do this ‘for a year’, your husband will completely regain his health.” As they were driving home, the husband turned to his wife and asked, “What did the doctor say?” To which she replied, “I’m sorry, he said you’re not going to live out the year!”

Don’t be like her! Take the high road, focus on Jesus and do your work, as if it were for God himself, because it is. Then, allow what you do ‘to be your witness to others’. 

Your assignment is to look up some passages in the Bible on work. It is a sign of our love for God and others.

Amen