The Bible and Work

If we are able, God expects us to work so we can provide for our own needs and not unnecessarily burden others.

Some in the church at Thessalonica who were able to work apparently chose not to do so. Instead, they expected others to provide for their physical needs.

In addressing this issue, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in that city, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly . . ." (1 Thessalonians 5:14). The Greek word for unruly is ataktos. This word "was especially a military term, denoting 'not keeping rank, insubordinate'; it is used in 1 Thes. 5:14, describing certain church members who manifested an insubordinate spirit, whether by excitability or officiousness or idleness" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Disorderly").

Being idle or lazy is not in step with God's expectations of our behavior. In Paul's second letter to this same congregation, he again ad-dressed this situation: "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly [ataktos] and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly [another form of the same word] among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-9).

Paul, to show that his motives were pure and to avoid being accused of taking advantage of the members in Thessalonica, cited his own example of having worked to support himself when he was in the area earlier. Although he had the right to be supported by them in exchange for teaching and leading them in God's way (1 Corinthians 9:1-18), he chose not to.

Paul continued: "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread" (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Since other biblical instruction calls for helping the needy (Matthew 19:21; Galatians 2:10), Paul is obviously correcting those who were able to work but chose not to do so. If we are able, God expects us to work so we can provide for our own needs and not unnecessarily burden others.


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