2 Thessalonians 3 – Don't Be Idle

Read 2 Thessalonians 3

We could probably rename this chapter to be “Understanding Dutch Work-Ethic.”  Phrases like, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” remind me of some of the hard lessons I’ve learned about work and responsibility over the years.  Not that I’ve ever gone without food, but I have learned the necessity of working hard to have the things that I want.

That lesson, however, is not really what Paul is getting at here in his parting words to the church in Thessalonica.  There certainly is an element of that, but it goes much deeper in the community of faith than simply working hard.  Paul understands that a community that is not working together will ultimately fail.  Indeed, when churches are full of people that are only there to be fed, with a select (sometimes hired) few to do the feeding, they are bound for failure.

We need people to be active participants in the faith community, living out the call of unity and love toward each other.  For when times get tough, we lean on each other in this community for strength.

As the human body summons multiple muscle groups to assist when lifting a heavy object, so too does the body of Christ depend on all its members for the often heavy lifting of life and ministry.

Indeed, this is true in our personal walk with Christ as well.  Idleness in our relationship with Christ will lead to a plateau in our spiritual growth.  All of Scripture calls us to and active relationship with Christ in response to the grace and love that we have been shown by God through Him.

While there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation or increase our favor with God, there is a danger in removing “works” from our vocabulary completely.  There is a danger that the enemy exploits far too often, that because everything is taken care of through grace, we don’t need to do anything in our Christian walk.  This leads to idle Christians, lack of growth, and ultimately selfish tendencies that destroy disciples and churches.  We must be on our guard against that…

Luke 17 – Duty

Read Luke 17

Jesus talks here about our duty as His followers.  The most obvious one of these duties is that of service, something Jesus lays out in verses 7-10.  Another one is God’s call on our lives to forgive each other, and to be thankful to Him for the blessings He has given to us and for things such as healing.  All of these could fall under the label of “duty.”

But when we talk about duty we often liken it to a requirement.  When we go to work we have duties to perform.  This can feel similar to the Law, us setting up requirements for Christian living.  When we start to think about it that way, though, we move away from Jesus’ message of grace and dangerously close to what we call “works righteousness,” the notion that we can earn our own salvation.

Often, when we hear “works-righteousness we are quick to deny it.  Of course we aren’t trying to earn our salvation!  We want to live a life that honors God in response to His grace.

This is true; very true in fact and it is important for us to remember that God calls us to a life that reflects His love, living in “grateful obedience” to the grace that He has shown us.  However, all too often, this begins with good intentions but later on starts to become ridgid and unforgiving.  We find ourselves judging others for the way they are living and comparing them to our own “righteous” life.  When we do this, we fall into the trap of self-righteousness and works-righteousness all over again.

What’s so bad about that?  Works-righteousness takes salvation out of God’s hands and puts it back in ours… it minimizes the power of the Cross and the work of Jesus Christ.