A Call to Responsibility
Open Your Bible
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 2 Corinthians 11:5-9, Hebrews 13:20-21
Oftentimes, Scripture abounds with rich nuance. It reflects forward and backward, teasing out references to the Old Testament or the New. It can be read in layer after layer, each one peeled to reveal a deeper truth about our relationship to God and His to us. Sometimes, a passage is the opposite: it gives us truth, straight to the point. It tells us how to live, how to love, how to spend our money, how to be saved.
“Clarity is kindness,” is a phrase I live by, learned from my dearest mentor. In today’s passage from 2 Thessalonians, Paul is delivering the same kindness. There’s nothing nuanced, tucked between flowery phrases, hinting at something only the most educated will understand. Paul serves it straight up: work. Work hard. Don’t be lazy, or idle. And don’t grow weary in doing this good work (2Thessalonians 3:13).
Work was a creation mandate, established even before the fall. God worked (He created). Adam worked (he named the animals and had dominion over them). And for the rest of time since, the people made in God’s image work and will work. Was Paul talking about a 9-to-5 career, a desk job and an expense account? No, he wasn’t. In fact, the historical Protestant work ethic mixed in with the rags-to-riches American dream has undoubtedly distorted our view of work as a chiefly economic practice. But work is innate to our life and our calling as Christians, whether that work is at a Fortune 500 company, a grocery store, a school, caring for a sick parent, or taking care of a home and children. Paul doesn’t distinguish or categorize work: one type is not better or more righteous than the other. But he is clear on one thing: work matters.
Work is, in fact, critical to our flourishing as humans. Our witness to the gospel is bound up in our work, in the way we care for others and work for the good of those around us. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes about work being a “channel of God’s love for his world.” So, if work—be it at home, at a hospital, in a church, or at a restaurant—is a way to carry God’s love outward, it makes sense that Paul would be aghast at idleness.
Work will bring weariness, pain, suffering, frustration. It will break us, mold us, and tempt us to create idols in our hearts. Work is broken by sin and ungodly motivations, but it still belongs to God. He made us to work, and Paul exhorts us to not grow weary in this good, good work of image-bearing, creating, and serving the God who loves us. He has commissioned us to be His ambassadors in this busy, working world.