Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WORK . . . A JOB”

Second Thessalonians 3.10-14

 

God wonderfully blessed our Friends Day last week with many guests. I like to think of such people as potential new friends for life. My prayer is that each of you here at Calvary Road Baptist Church will roll up your sleeves and work hard to persuade each and every one who came to come again, and that you will work hard to compel others to come to the house of God.

I mention work as it relates to our Friends Day because not only did God bless us wonderfully last week, but also He blessed us using means. To put it another way, God blessed us through prayer and hard work. Not everyone did, but many of us prayed diligently and worked hard to get people to church.

We could have worked without praying, and we would no doubt have had a Friends Day that was not so much blessed by God. Alternatively, we could have prayed without working, and we would no doubt have had a Friends Day that was not nearly so much blessed by God. It is that feature of work combined with prayer that is so characteristically Christian.

It is too often the case with people that familiarity with the terms of the gospel (salvation by grace through faith apart from works of righteousness) creates in them a fatal misconception concerning this idea of work. It is the misconception that work plays no part in the Christian’s evangelism, which work plays no part in the gospel ministry, and that work is only an incidental part of the Christian life.

Tragically, this misconception about work bleeds over into other areas of life. Therefore, to establish something of a Christian theology of work, I will be preaching four sermons on the subject of work over these next few Sunday mornings. My goal is to contrast in your mind the clear distinctions that exist between what the ungodly world thinks about work, including the world of evangelical Christianity, and the relationship of the Christian faith to this subject called work.

Turn in your Bible to Second Thessalonians 3.10-14, our text for today, where you will see that these issues about the Christian and this topic of work have been around for a long time:

 

10     For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11     For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12     Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

13     But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

14     And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

 

It is very clear from this passage that very shortly after their conversion, Paul dealt with the Thessalonian believers about the kind of attitude and posture toward work they should adopt as Christians. It is also obvious that the apostle was in no mood to quibble about this matter of work, since he left the Thessalonian congregation very little wiggle room when he ordered their actions and attitudes toward the topic of work.

This evening I will bring a message that I have preached several times before, titled “Gomer Pyle Christians.” In that message, I will deal more thoroughly not only with the passage before us now, but also with those who profess to be Christians but who do not work.

This morning’s message has more to do with laying a groundwork, or perhaps erecting a backdrop, against which the subject of working as in working for a living, laboring to support yourself and your family, can be better understood.

Before I treat the topic of work and employment, let me quickly review the salient points of our text:

Verse 10: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” This verse shows that Paul had a very strong position toward those who refused to work. Read Proverbs to make the connection between a refusal to work and laziness and you will see exactly why Paul says what he says. No Christian should subsidize another’s sins, even if it means he goes hungry. This is because hunger is sometimes the only thing that motivates a lazy person to get to work.

Verse 11: “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” As you will see this evening, “disorderly” refers to being out of formation. Evidently, when able-bodied Christians do not work it reflects so badly on their testimonies that it becomes common knowledge. Paul writes, “For we hear.” No capable Christian should have the reputation of being someone who avoids work. Why not? Because word gets around, that is why not.

Verse 12: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” Paul is issuing a command based upon his apostolic authority. Christians are to work and live off their own earnings. Though this sometimes creates a conflict with some who actually make more money from the government by not working than by working for themselves, the Biblical requirement is clear. The Christian should not work only when it is financially advantageous. The Christian should always work, because God’s Word commands it.

Verse 13: “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” Let me suggest that this comment was directed to Christians who were becoming discouraged by those who were not working. My friends, it is terrible for a congregation’s morale to realize that some, because they are not working and earning a decent living, are not only not carrying their fair share of the burden, but are actually living off the hard labor of others.

Verse 14: “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” So you see, there are consequences, sometimes embarrassing consequences, that can be suffered by the person who does not work to support himself.

Those things said, my sermon is built around four broad points about work:

 

First, SOME BIBLE FACTS ABOUT WORK

 

The most compelling reason why every one of us should work is because we are created in the image and likeness of God.[1] As God worked for six days to create this universe and all that herein is, so we who are made in His image and after His likeness should behave in a manner that shows us to be His image bearers.

In similar fashion, just as we are to work because the One whose image we bear worked, so are we to rest, because God rested. I read Genesis 2.1-2:

 

2      And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

3      And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

 

Let me immediately put to rest any notion of sabbatarianism. Scripture is very clear in showing that Christians have no obligation to rest on the seventh day of the week. But the principle of resting from six days of work each week is undeniably taught in God’s Word, and each one of us would be all the healthier to observe it.

But just as surely as each one of us is supposed to work (and work hard, I might add[2]), we must be careful not to idolize work. I will not take the time to establish what is so obvious as to need no proof, that a career can become just as much a person’s idol as a statue of a false god. When does a career, when does work, become an idol? Whenever it rates higher on your list of priorities than worship and service to God, whenever work precludes worship and service to God, and whenever your love for your work or your career is greater than your love for God.

So, there should be a balance. Just as it is forbidden to refuse work, so it is also forbidden to place too great an emphasis on work. Judgment is required. Work is not unimportant, but neither is it all important. Work is what you do to finance your life. Work is what you do to support your church and take care of your family. And work will have its proper place in your life when you work as hard as you can in six days to support your ministry and life, while being careful to take care of yourself, your family, and your ministry in proper fashion.

 

Next, SOME HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT WORK

 

Let me only lightly touch on two matters related to the topic of work in the light of history:

First, work and leisure. Is it not a fact that for most of human history survival has been dependent upon hard work? To be sure, in almost every environment there have been times when rest and leisure have been possible. But even when leisure is possible it is not always beneficial. Proverbs contains a number of verses that warn of the danger that is faced by the fellow who relaxes when he should be preparing to work.[3] For example: Though it is not possible for the farmer to farm in the winter, he is a lazy fool who does not use the winter time to prepare himself and his tools for that time of the year when he can till the ground and plant his crops. Only within the last century has the technological revolution produced such abundant supplies of goods and materials that it has been possible for people to do absolutely nothing without the fear of starvation. Such laziness is possible only because of the humanist do-gooders in the west, since communist countries have always imprisoned those who refused to work for parasitism. A related feature is the notion that it is desirable for a hard working fellow to make enough money to retire while he is young, or young enough to enjoy his retirement. This, of course, flies in the face of the distinctively Biblical view that labor is beneficial in and of itself, and that a man should work so long as he is physically able to work.[4]

The second historical matter related to the topic of work is the gospel’s influence upon society. It is safe to say that the Protestant Reformation unleashed the gospel on Europe and England. As the gospel spread and affected the west there also came a repudiation of the long held division of work and toil into the sacred versus secular categories.[5] No longer did so-called laymen look upon their toil as essentially different from so-called ministry vocations. Every job and task was now done “as unto the Lord.” Where the Bible was accessible to all the value of work was elevated in status and seen to be a legitimate arena of endeavor in which God could be obeyed and glorified. Reaching its peak with the Puritans, the goal was to integrate their daily work with their daily devotion to God. “The Puritans revolutionized attitudes toward daily work when they raised the possibility that ‘every step and stroke in your trade is sanctified.’”[6] This compares favorably with the ideal of First Corinthians 10.31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” and Ephesians 6.5-8:

 

5      Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6      Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7      With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8      Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

 

Sadly, in our time many of the effects of the Protestant Reformation and the First Great Awakening are noticeably wearing off. The impact of those great movements of God in the lives of so many people has dramatically diminished. The result is that we now have church people and professed Bible believers who live for luxury, who plan for leisure, who scheme and connive for ways to get out of work, just like in the Apostle Paul’s day when the Word of God was initially being spread among the Gentiles.

You can see that a Christian’s attitude about work ought to be diametrically opposed to that of others. The child of God should be moderate, rather than extreme, reaching a balance midway between laziness at one extreme and being a workaholic at the other extreme. As well, the Christian’s focus should be upon ministry, seizing upon the opportunities afforded by work to compliment and support your church ministry, and not detract from it.

 

Third, SOME PRACTICAL FACTS ABOUT WORK

 

Before we draw some conclusions about work, let me state two facts related to work that need to be said:

First, work is good for you. Work is so good for you that you should work even if you don’t have to work. Suppose you are independently wealthy, that you have inherited a vast fortune. You should still work, and work hard, for no other reason than because it is good for you to work hard. Work is good for your state of mind. Work is good for your physical health. Work is good for your social well-being. And work is good for your spiritually. If you have children, part of raising your children is setting a healthy example of work for them. As well, you should create work opportunities for your children around the house, inside the house, doing volunteer work in and around the church, or wherever they can be put to work. The primary reason work is good for you is because, as I mentioned earlier, it is a reflection of the very nature of God that you as an image-bearer of God should never fail to display. But work is also good for you because it brings untold physical, emotional, social, and spiritual benefits into your life.

On the other hand, laziness is bad for you. When a person is lazy he is resisting God’s will for his life, because there can be no doubt that God wants each and every one of us to work, to work hard, and to work steadily. Not that vacations are not necessary. Not that some time off once and a while is not very beneficial. Not that one day each week to rest the body and the mind, and to concentrate more fully upon the things of God, is not appropriate. It is just that good, hard work benefits a person in ways that we do not always appreciate. Good, hard work develops character in ways that nothing else will. In addition, good, hard work gets you through when intelligence, when cleverness, and when convenience lets you down.

 

Let Me End With SOME CONCLUSIONS ABOUT WORK

 

It is clear in the Bible that God’s plan for mankind involves work. As God worked in the six days of creation, so He has blessed men with the ability and the opportunities to work that should not be neglected.

Some people think there is no solid connection between a person’s relationship with Jesus Christ and his work habits, but the Bible clearly shows there is such a connection. The benefits that Jesus Christ secured on the cruel cross of Calvary are truly life-changing and affect every aspect of life, including his approach to work.

This is because not only does the sinner who comes to the risen Savior enjoy the forgiveness of his sins and a new standing before God as the result of being justified by faith in Christ, but he also discovers that his personality is being altered as a consequence of his conversion.

To be sure, there will always be unconverted people who will work harder and more compulsively than Christians do, but no one should be able to achieve a life that achieves the proper balance of hard work on one hand, coupled with the determination to observe the Biblical principle of resting appropriately and serving God effectively that a Christian can. As well, a real Christian will not be numbered among those who are lazy and allergic to good, hard work.

 

Work is hard. It is supposed to be hard. But legitimate work is good for you, and when you are doing legitimate work, you are reflecting one aspect of the very image of the God who made you. However, the great tragedy that everyone must someday confront has to do with other aspects of the image of the God who made you.

Early on in this sermon I made mention of God’s creative work. To be more specific, let me say that the work of creating this universe and everything in it, including the human race, was Jesus Christ’s work. This is born out by the apostle John in John 1.3, where we read this about Jesus Christ: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” As well, this is born out by the apostle Paul in Colossians 1.16, where we read this about Jesus Christ: “all things were created by him.”

Therefore, when the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” in Genesis 1.1, the apostles John and Paul, add clarity by pointing out that Jesus Christ created all things.

I say that to pose this question: We know that Jesus Christ’s creative work resulted in the existence of this universe and everything in it, including you and me.

However, have you ever wondered about Jesus Christ, after the work of creating the entire physical universe in six literal days, then doing the work of sacrificing Himself on the cross of Calvary? Though I have preached a mainly informative message about our proper attitude toward work, it would also be profitable for you to give some thought to the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross.



[1] Genesis 1.26; 5.1

[2] Ecclesiastes 9.10

[3] Proverbs 6.6, 9; 10.26; 13.4; 18.9; 19.24; 20.4; 21.25; 22.13; 26.13-15

[4] Proverbs 14.23

[5] Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House, 1986),  pages 24-25.

[6] Ibid., page 25.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org