Summary: Christian parents need to model and teach a good work ethic.
The apostle Paul gives us a powerful word here about the value of industry. He says that the people of God should be known as an industrious people. Apparently, some of the folks at Thessalonica did not heed Paul’s instructions given here, because in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Paul wrote again about this matter.
"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right."
- 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (NIV)
We note that Paul’s solution to a person being a busy-body is to put them to work. F.F. Bruce points out that, "There is a great difference between the Christian duty of putting the interests of others first and the busybody’s compulsive itch to put other people right."
Paul is concerned that God’s people not become a bunch of busy-bodies, justifying their intrusion into the lives of others as being "in the name of the Lord." Instead, he encouraged God’s people to be industrious, so that they might be delivered from the temptation to be a busy-body, and instead, be in a position to truly bless others in Jesus name as a result of their work ethic.
Instead of being a busy-body, Paul says, make you body busy by working with you own hands. In other words, be productive through work. As you endeavor to be a productive member of society, you will also be a productive member of the kingdom of God.
We live in a society that has mixed views on work. On the one hand, we have a nation of workaholics. People working 60, 70, 80 hours a week out of a driving compulsion to "get ahead." People who arrive to work early, stay late, and bring their work home with them.
On the other hand, of course, we have a nation that worships pleasure and entertainment. We work our jobs only to get a paycheck. We live from the time we punch out till the time we punch back in again. Work is only an necessary evil that allows us to do the things we really want to do.
As Christians, we need to have a balanced view of work. The Bible tells us that Christian families should value industry and productivity. Why?
1. Through work, we can live self-sufficiently in this world.
Paul says that through self-sufficiency, the Christian will win the respect of an unbelieving world. Unfortunately, many professing Christians have brought a reproach to the name of Christ through their lack of industry and productivity.
Paul had strong words for the Christian who is too lazy to provide for himself and his family.
"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those
of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an
unbeliever." - 1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV)
Not being dependent on anybody is, of course, Paul’s emphasis here when he tells us to "work with our own hands." He isn’t saying that manual labor is more noble than other forms of work. What he is saying is that God wants His people to take responsibility for themselves.
"We each must carry our own load." - Galatians 6:5 (CEV)
Yes, the Bible does tell us to "Carry each other’s burdens," - Galatians 6:2 (NIV), but the emphasis there is on my assuming responsibility to assist others, not on my expecting others to assume responsibility to assist me! There is hardly anything more annoying than a lazy person!
"Lazy people are a pain to their employer. They are like smoke in the eyes or vinegar that sets the teeth on edge." - Proverbs 10:26 (NLT)
"Being lazy is no different from being a troublemaker."
- Proverbs 18:9 (CEV)
Writer Regina Barreca wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune in 1996 on this issue: "Sloth is insidious. It whispers that you might as well do it tomorrow, that nobody will know if you cut comers here and there to save yourself some trouble, that the world will be the same in a hundred years no matter what you do, so why do anything? Sloth says, ‘Don’t strain yourself,’ ‘What’s the big hurry?’ and ‘Just give me five more minutes.’ Sloth hits the snooze alarm, hits the remote control and hits the road when the going gets tough ... Sloth cheats on exams, drinks straight from the milk carton and leaves exactly two sheets on the toilet roll so that it will have to be replaced by the next poor soul who finds out too late that the remaining paper is nothing more than a mirage. Sloth does slightly less than the right thing. It doesn’t bother returning something to the lost-and found, but pockets it instead; it doesn’t tell the clerk he has undercharged. Sloth has never written a thank-you note, sent a birthday card on time or entertained angels. All this simply asks too much effort."