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 3:11-12
As a physician, I’ve been paid a couple of different ways. First, I’ve been paid according to how many patients I’ve seen. With this model, I’ve found myself motivated to work hard and see more patients. I’ve also been paid by a set salary though. With this model, I just had to show up for a certain number of hours. I’d like to think that I always work hard, but with a set salary, there’s a part of me that just wants to put the bare minimum in, meet my requirements, and go home. If working harder doesn’t pay any more, then why work harder?
This isn’t necessarily true for everyone, but for most of us, if we’re paid whether we work hard or not, then we’re not very motivated to work hard. If we can be lazy and get paid the same, then usually we’ll pick lazy. It’s just our nature.
This is apparently what happened in Thessalonica in today’s passage. Because the church was supposed to be generous, sharing with those in need, some individuals took advantage of the church. These folks were able to work, but chose not to, living off charity. In the absence of hard work, they became busybodies, using their free time to involve themselves in the business of others. To these people, Paul said, Mind your own affairs and get to work. Paul taught that laziness is a sin and therefore, corrosive to our faith.
I’d say it’s corrosive to recovery as well. While working in jail and chemical dependency treatment centers, I frequently meet those who’ve been in and out of institutions for most of their adult lives. Often, they’ve never held a real job and have learned to live off of others. Though it’s sometimes necessary (one can’t work while in treatment), continual welfare hasn’t been good for them. Why work when they don’t have to do so? In the absence of work though, they get themselves into trouble. I’ve occasionally had to refuse to fill out disability forms, which usually provokes an angry response.
The truth though, is that hard work is good for us. I must work hard, and I must abandon my lazy nature. When it’s appropriate to do so, I must encourage others to work hard, and I must not enable laziness in them. Hard, honest work is good for our souls and so, if we desire to follow Christ’s commands, we must daily work hard.