Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Example To Imitate

"For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." II Thess. 3:7-10

This is one of those passages in the bible that is extremely clear. There is no need for a lot of explanation. We can plainly read what Paul is saying and easily comprehend it.

Paul expects the Thessalonians to work and work hard. While with them, Paul provided an example for them. We can surmise that he spent a good deal of his time making tents. Paul did not want to be a financial burden to the Christians in Thessalonica. Interestingly, he had the right to financial support (as a traveling apostolic worker), but freely gave up this right because it provided them with the example they needed. Paul goes so far that if someone is unwilling to work he better stop eating as well.

Work is a good thing. Anyone in the church who has a capacity to do so should do so. This can be inside or outside the home; regardless, God expects us to be industrious. He expects us to work in order to provide food for ourselves and our dependents. God does not want anyone who can work to be a financial drain upon the church.

Who, then, should the church support financially? Only those who need the help because they cannot work.


Marshall said...

work is a good thing, and essential to human health.
Did Paul actually spend "a good deal of his time making tents"? The only Bible report of him actually working by making tents is in Acts 18:3, and this lasting until Acts 18:5 where he began devoting himself completely to the word and to testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. No record or suggestion of Paul receiving even one denarius for a tent (following his conversion).
In the west, we're surrounded by each individual or single family unit supporting themselves. While in Paul's travels (and still in much of the world today), people think in terms of working together for their mutual support. When Paul shows up in the next town led by the Spirit, rather than thinking to set up his own business operation, he would look to work with those who are already needing willing hands & help. And we are all capable of doing much more than a single skill set. This is why in the ekklesia, we require "willing to work" rather than expecting people to create a cash stream or profit margin for themselves. We are Family -- though NOT to be in the western ideal of family where older children are usually expected to get out of the house on their own. (an ethic regarded as deplorable around the world, even today.)

Eric said...

Paul was a tent maker by trade. It makes sense that this is how he gave an example of work to those in Thessaolonica.

Interestingly, he later tells the elders of Ephesus, "And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:32-35