2 Thessalonians 3; Isaiah 29-30; Psalm 119:1-32
There seems to be a myth that Christians should not take a hard stance on issues. According to that myth, we are to be soft, fuzzy, and loving to all people. We are to accept their differences. We are to support them in their lifestyles. We are to give and give and give out of our resources to rescue people who appear to have a need. One example of this is the idea that no one should ever go hungry.
Paul didn’t believe that. He dealt with that issue as it rose in the Thessalonian Church. Apparently some members of the church had become dependent on the rest of the Body and rather than supporting themselves, they were draining the resources of their fellow Christians. Paul’s words seem harsh: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11) There are a couple of things to note here.
Paul was speaking specifically to people who had the ability to work, but chose not to. Perhaps they had gone through a time of need when they couldn’t work and the church had supported them. Now that they were out of that time of need, rather than going back to work, they continued to depend on their brothers and sisters. Not having any work to do, and perhaps going from house to house to get their meals, they learned all kinds of information about the families that were helping them. They became busybodies, and I would guess gossips as they got in people’s business. Paul recognized that this would hurt the church internally and put a blot on the church in the community.
There is also a dignity in work. In the Old Testament, God commanded specific ways to harvest so that not everything was harvested. Those who were poor were then able to go out and gather their own food. God has always recognized that caring for people who wanted care, but didn’t need it, destroyed their dignity. As we look at the problems we have in our country in caring for the needs of people in poverty, we need to find ways to help people restore their dignity and not allow people who can work to be idle. They may be harsh words to some, but this is the message from God.
Lord, when people are in need, lead me to do whatever I can to help them. When they are able to take care of themselves, help me to do what I can to restore their dignity and get them back to work.