Tuesday, December 10, 2013

He Who Doesn't Work, Should Not Eat

Sadly, I hear a great many Christians cite Paul's rule to the Thessalonian Church (“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”) as proper justification to not help the poor.

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
There is grave danger in quoting only one verse of the Bible as our philosophy for _____. At minimum, we should look at the verse in context. For example, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is in the subheading of chapter 3 of verses 6-14. Looking at the rest of the paragraph will help me better understand Paul's message.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 verse by verse:
6. Paul (and Silas and Timothy) commanded believers to keep away from idle and disruptive believers who don't live out Paul & company's teachings.
7. They should follow Paul & company's example of non-idleness/laziness.
8. Paul & company did not eat food without paying for it. They worked hard so they wouldn't be a burden to the church.
9. They worked so hard (even though they were entitled to help from the church) so that the church would imitate them.
10. Paul & company gave the church this rule during their stay with the church: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
11. Paul & company heard about the idle, disruptive, un-busy yet busybody believers.
12. Paul & company urges these people (in verse 11) to settle down & earn their food.  
13. The church is urged to not be weary of doing good.
14. The church should pay attention to those who don't obey Paul & company and not associate with them. 

This passage appears to be instructions written to the church (to believers). Lazy people in the church were the ones told "those unwilling to work won't eat". Maybe Paul was thinking of the common meals shared by the early church? He also said "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies."

What about Jesus' perspective? Did He have something to say on this topic? 
Yes, He did have some thoughts.
In the Sermon on the Mount and in Luke 6, Jesus said to 1) not resist an evil person. 2) turn the other cheek. 3) give extra things to the one suing you. 4) travel further with one forcing you to travel with them. 5) "
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

I can imagine objections to these instructions & have preemptively formed responses: 
Objection 1: But we'll be taken advantage of!! 
Response 1: Mostly likely. In the internet, there's a collection of memes of "Things Jesus Never Said." Jesus didn't say to determine which people asking you for help were deserving of your help. He said give to the one that asks you. If I get scammed and suckered into giving away stuff when I obey God's word, I don't think that I will be foolish in God's eyes (in the eyes of the world & maybe even the church, I probably will look foolish). But maybe God will use that encounter to reach out to the scammer.

Objection 2: But I don't have extra food to give!!
Response 2: Is there some part of your budget that you can trim down? Entertainment? Eating out? What about food purchases? Are there unhealthy things you can cut out? Maybe you can cut back on the meats?

Objection 3: But I don't have extra stuff to give to anyone who asks!!
Response 3: The early church had a solution for this crisis: sell your stuff to give to those in need. 

Objection 4: But that's uncomfortable!!
Response 4: I really wanted to just ask "So??" but that might be a little rude. However, if I place my comforts above the needs of those around me, I don't feel like I'm representing Christ well.

If you read through your Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments describe God's great heart for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, and the foreigner. Written into the Old Testament laws are provisions for these peoples, the marginals, the least of these. God cares about these why doesn't His church? Why don't His people care for those God cares for? 

If one of these verse from 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 is to be your motto, may I humbly recommend verse 13 "And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good."

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