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, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-8 (NIV)
Read: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
Consider: Today we consider the sin of sloth. This word is rarely used today, except as relating to the rather slow animal. The Biblical use refers to a reluctance to work or make an effort, together with general laziness.
There is a passage in Proverbs 24:30-34 that deals with slothfulness and its consequences. It reads: I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians he reminds the church that he and his fellow workers were not idle when they visited them, nor did they depend upon their support for their everyday needs. He concludes with these words (2 Thessalonians 3:10) – For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’. We must, of course, be careful how we interpret this. The operative word here is ‘unwilling’. Some people are prevented from working because of disability, while others are prevented by lack of work. Paul wants those who can work to do so.
The positive virtue that is commended in a Christlike life is ‘diligence’. This means encouraging hard work and conscientiousness. There is a wonderful passage in Colossians 3:22-25 where we are told: Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Working hard when we are being observed is one thing, but working hard when the boss is away is another thing. Did you notice how verse 25 ends? It reads: ‘It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Although we may work for earthly companies and bosses, ultimately we are serving Christ.
Hopefully you will have seen that as Christians we are encouraged to work hard, bearing in mind that we are serving Christ through our work. I’ll leave you with the words of Philippians 2:14-16 where Paul encourages his readers to:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.
So don’t follow the world’s example by grumbling about your work and let how you work be an example that ‘shines like stars’ among your work colleagues.
Pray: Father, teach us that ultimately we serve Christ through whatever work we do. Help us to work hard and to work without complaining. May we be an example in the workplace of how our faith affects our attitude to our work. Amen