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  • Writer's pictureDwight Smith

Created to Work

What do we do with people who can work but chose not to?

Popular ideas about compassion tell us that we should all be glad to support people even if they take no effort in supporting themselves. Of course, there are cases where a true need exists and we must help.

Widows and orphans for example have been left unprotected and deserve, no demand, our concern and action. I am confident that there are other categories of people’s who fall into the “widow and orphan” category. We should call them unprotected. These people have no one to champion their lives and bring assistance to helping them to live, indeed thrive.

The church historically has been just such a champion. From representing the needs of these unprotected to making personal sacrifice to meet their needs, no matter what the cost.

But, what do we do with people who can work but don’t? They may have made bad choices, and are now encumbered with the needs of others dependent upon them, but they fail to meet the need by working. Situations abound that demonstrate these kinds of people. Government programs exist and are expanding every year that declare that these people “deserve” to be taken care of by all of the rest of us.

The answer to this question and others just as difficult related to it are easier to answer if we look to God, and what He says in the beginning. Paul also is quite explicit in 2 Thessalonians 3 about how to handle confessing Christians who could work but chose not to. They are idle, focusing upon less than important matters, and end up busybodies.

“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 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 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. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12)

In the beginning God creates men and women, answering at the same time the most important questions about human existence. “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Am I alone?” (You can find more on this in my book, Divine Design”)

Who am I? I am His. As such I am intended to have intimate relationship with Him. I can have this relationship because I have been created in His image and likeness and hold potential distinct from everything else that God has created. Those distinctions are the basis for the relational dialogue that God invites me into daily.

Why am I here? My life is His, and to that life He assigns a stewardship of all of the things that actually belong to Him. I bear the distinctions of His image and likeness, so I am capable of managing His creation, of creating new things out of the things that He has already created. And, equally, important because I bear His likeness and image, I am to show His image and likeness into all of the life experiences He orchestrates for me to walk in.

Of course, the Fall, the disobedience of Adam and Eve to believe Him and obey Him, corrupts this design. Sin mars God’s creation But it does not destroy it. This is the essence of the salvation that God offers us, the children of Adam and Eve, in His Son, the last Adam the Bible calls him. We can be restored to the fullness of the original Divine Design, until, with Jesus, we inherit a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness dwells. Just exactly the kind of righteousness

God has now given to us in His Son.

So, the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians are founded upon a triple meaning. First, in the beginning we were created to steward God’s creation: to work. Second, in Christ we are redeemed to that same design, to work as to Christ our Lord. Third, someday we will be restored to what God envisioned in the beginning.

We will not float around in clouds, playing harps for eternity. We were created to steward that which belongs to God, to work. And we will work in the new heaven and the new earth when God restores all things in Jesus. We will “really” work, unencumbered by the curse of sin on us and on our present world.

Put into context, the words of Paul make great sense. We ought not be surprised. God has provided for the care of the truly unprotected through the care, provisions and assets of His children who work.

A Christian who is able to work but does not work, (1) robs God of His divine design, (2)further mars the dignity of human labor and stewardship and (3) robs the unprotected of the provision that God has provided through His children.

Of course, people who are not followers of Jesus, can and do mostly get this all wrong. For whatever reasons, good or evil, they reward people who do not work. In so doing they rob human beings of the dignity of living the divine design that God has provided. They rob people of the only true and fulfilling answer to the question; why am I here?

At the very least, we ought to be able to come up with an environment where people who can work, have a place to work. If that does not provide all that is needed to survive in their particular context, then a compassionate system can supply the needed missing pieces.

But, we live in a marred world. People who have sufficient assets and could do something can be stingy, arrogant, hypocritical, seditious, evil. Just as people who do not have assets can also be the same. In such a context everyone will look to protect themselves. and sin will reign in choices. And, the choices we all make will frame our future: politically, economically, socially, educationally, and even and especially in our families.

While Paul’s words hold out a different vision for the world that can be seen and could be embraced, they are command for true Jesus followers. There should never occur:

  1. Christian people who can work but chose not to work!

  2. Unprotected people who do not find champions and protectors in the followers of Jesus. And I would hope, the organized church.

  3. People who rob God of the fruits that come from their stewardship and the way in which this will provide for the care of others.

The result of this rebellion to design, calls for swift action on the part of the church.

  1. Church leaders need to correct the disobedient from the deceitful ideas of the world around them, and set them on the course of a healthy and meaningful life. There should be no doubt that true love steps in to correct Christian brothers and sisters who can work but chose not to. They were designed and gifted by God to work.

  2. We should also provide an environment where people who cannot truly work, unprotected people, are provided for. See my thoughts on this in my book: Church as God Designed It: Is It Time to Reform the Western Church Model?

  3. We should provide for those who can and do work but find that their earnings are not sufficient to cover the full cost of living. Over a number of years Patti and I provided “protection” for just such people. They had come to know and follow Christ after years of bad choices. Now, ready to walk fully with Him, jobs for them were scarce. Eventually low paying jobs were found and they dedicated themselves to redeeming the years. But, for most, in the beginning their earnings were not sufficient to sustain life, at any level. What are we to do? Pray for them and bless them, or act as God Himself acts on our behalf? The apostle James condemns such weak action. And so, we acted. Sharing our home, cars, food, etc until such time that God provided for them in a different way. This is the joyful task that Jesus requires of His people.

  4. Churches need to do more to restrain their spending upon buildings, staff and program in order to have more people and finances available to protect and assist the unprotected. To be the church as God designed it!

  5. We all need to realize that a primary instrument in this ministry of the Spirit are Christian families who take it upon themselves to open up their lives and assets. We are created and gifted by God to serve others. As Jesus so clearly says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

I can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon on 2 Thessalonians. Surely I have and have just forgotten. But even this difficulty to recollect emphasizes the point. These are not easy words to hear much less for church leaders to apply. In this day of mobile Christians intent on finding the perfect church for their “needs,” many will leave if church leaders actually act on what Paul is commanding.

Surely, there is another softer application? Surely, Paul simply meant these words for his day alone? Surely, God expects us to adjust our message and applications to the needs of our present culture?

All of these wrong questions fail to miss the point! The very genius of the creation of God in imaging Himself upon us, releases a joy of meaning beyond normal comprehension. More than just work is discovered. We find meaning. We find sharing. We find the joy of being able to provide, for family and for others. We find the satisfaction of acting to the benefit of the unprotected. We find ourselves acting like our Heavenly Father!


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