“Work to please God. Not people.”
This is one of those sayings that I hear all the time in the church. And it’s one of those sayings that is pretty clearly from Scripture. Colossians 3:23 NASB
As a church filled with both collegians and post collegians, I think we’re all familiar with the concept. The principle is that there is no job too small, too insignificant that you cannot do as worship to God. If you’re a student, study for the glory of God. Where you are is exactly where God intended for you to be. That’s your ministry. So do it excellently and enthusiastically for the Lord.
And this is true no matter your vocation! If you have a desk job, or if you’re a stay at home mom. If you love what you do, or if you really aren’t that passionate about it. You are working for God, not man.
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:6-18 NASB
Last weekend, I was really challenged by this passage. I was challenged because of the principles about work that we can see here. The things I mentioned at the very beginning about working excellently and working enthusiastically for God are no doubt true.
But in this passage Paul looks at work from a slightly different angle.
First, he talks about working for others. This isn’t a contradiction to what he says in Colossians 3:23 NASB. Even as you work for others in the manner that he is talking about, you are to work to please God. But here he points to his and Silvanus’ and Timothy’s example of work. In order that they be a model to follow.
Paul would often take a second job to fund his own way. Yet, there were definitely times in his ministry in which he was funded by others. From 2 Corinthians 11:9-11 NASB it is clear. But the verses leading up to this in 2 Corinthians 11:7-8 NASB are also clear that he refused to do so with the Corinthians.
Why? Because of all of the problems the church in Corinth had. Because of their immaturity. This is contrasted with the maturity of churches like the one in Macedonia from whom he did ask money. They were a church that gave not just generously, but beyond their means. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NASB
So the first thing we see is that we are to work sacrificially. Work unselfishly.
Second, work responsibly. 2 Thessalonians 3:8 NASB shows that we work to provide for basic needs. Not what society tells you is a necessity. Or what the culture tells you you need. But since the very beginning we were created to work. And work we shall.
Mankind was not meant to be idle. But to be productive. Not only is it an active worship to the Lord, but Paul is very clear here that we are not to be a nuisance to society. When we don’t work, aren’t being productive, we open ourselves up to a host of other sins. So work that you may not sin.
Third, work accountably. Having grown up in the church, many of us have probably encountered the passage that mentions church discipline: Matthew 18:15-20 NASB. After confronting your brother in private, and then bringing along some others, what is the final step? It is to separate yourself from him.
Churches are given the rod of separation. And though it is hard, it’s necessary. The purpose of church discipline is redemptive not vindictive. After that very first step, if things go well and your brother listens than you have gained him back. That’s the purpose. But going back to Paul’s point, having a good work ethic is so crucial, so important, that he says to keep away from those who aren’t practicing it! That sounds suspiciously like the final step of church discipline to me.
I hope all of this challenges you as much as it challenged me. Having a good theology of work is important; it’s important because to the world we represent Christ. The world is watching, so do your work!