Summary: Serving the Lord is a lifelong mission, although the nature of the work may change. God only holds us responsible for what we can do. Yet, if we pay attention, he will provide an opportunity to serve him every day in some way. (Great for Labor Day)
The Value of Hard Work
Today we will focus on the cure for idleness, and here are my favorite thoughts on the subject:
“Yesterday I did nothing and today I'm finishing what I did yesterday.”
“If I won the award for laziness, I would send somebody to pick it up for me.”
Phyllis Diller: “I should have suspected my husband was lazy; on our wedding day, his mother told me: ‘I'm not losing a son; I'm gaining a couch.’”
The truth is, when we work hard, we glorify God. We’ve heard the saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” but today’s passage suggests that hard work is also next to godliness. After all, one of the first things God did after creating Adam and Eve is he gave them a job: to till the garden of Eden. And this came before the Fall, before their sinful rebellion that led to a broken world and added unproductive toil to their work. God evidently saw work as valuable for his new humans.
The Bible says God even has jobs in store for us in heaven. We’ll certainly be worshiping God but we’ll also be serving, co-reigning with Christ, taking care of people or things. Jesus talked in parables about how our faithfulness in serving the Lord here will lead to even greater assignments in heaven.
And in today’s passage, Paul told the church in Thessalonica that they could look to him as their example for hard work. Even though he could have been funded by the church as an apostle, he always worked hard to pay his own way, probably because he knew some in the church suffered from laziness.
His first letter to this church also addressed this subject. Listen to his words, recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. And then chapter 5, verse 14: “We urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Paul understood the value of hard work and productivity.
Even our Lord learned a trade as a carpenter’s son and worked that trade until, at age 30, he became a traveling rabbi and carried out his purpose as our Messiah, the long-awaited Christ. Jesus himself understood the value of hard work.
I know what some of you are thinking: You’re thinking, “Pastor, those days are over for me. I’m done with work. I’m retired!” And I say, “Congratulations! Well done! But the word ‘retirement’ is not in the Bible.” Perhaps it is simply the nature of our work that changes with retirement and growing older.
I get this idea from verse 13 where Paul says: “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” Paul says we are called to do good works for the rest of our lives. Retirement brings a certain freedom to choose what kind of work and how much work we pursue. Yet the absence of a paycheck doesn’t devalue the work.
“Never tire of doing what is good.” When it comes to life in the Blue Skies community, what might that include? Is there a certain committee you could serve on, to help maintain or improve the quality of life here? Are there neighbors to encourage, friends to make, people to assist while on sightseeing or grocery shopping trips, residents or staff who could use a kind word, an encouraging smile, a warm hug? Perhaps some of these things might be your “work” on any given day.
And what about giving to our Food Bank collection? Did not Jesus say, “When you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for me?” Is this not holy work we are doing, as we seek to help those in need?
And what about in our church family? Are there ways we can serve the Lord by serving one another? Perhaps you could reach out to someone who has lost a loved one, or perhaps you could welcome a newcomer to our church or invite a neighbor to service. Maybe you could offer to usher or help in the office from time to time. Never tire of doing good! Make it your life mission to look every day for a way to serve your master, King Jesus!
Paul shows us the alternative: Stay busy or become a busybody! In verse 11 he makes a joke, a wordplay in the Greek. Instead of the busyness of productive work (ergazomai), some have become busybodies (periergazomai). The problem with idle time is it leads to temptation. Too much idle time for King David—who should have been at war with his army—led to his fall into sin with Bathsheba. Too much idle time for us today leads to gossip and meddling in the affairs of others. This is probably why Paul chose those words in his first letter, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).