We did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:8
The apostle Paul did not tolerate idleness in himself or others. He believed in the value of work and in the ability of people to provide for themselves. This is an interesting twist, because Paul also believed in a person’s need to be totally dependent on God. So, Paul’s work ethic must have been grounded in a belief that God helps those who help themselves. Whatever you make of such a belief, Paul’s emphasis on labor, and the value he put on work, can be instructive. Work is essential. Work adds value to one’s life and one’s community. Work is a holy act that is required of all people. Work is not something you retire from, but something you should engage in as if it were an act of faith. Productivity, for Paul, was a powerful witness of the need for all people to participate in the building and strengthening of community. Paul could have chosen to be a preacher who was provided for by the people he served, but he believed that there was great value in labor and didn’t want to divorce himself from the treasures of toil. Paul encourages us to do the same.
Do you think of your work as a sacred task?
Lord, I often grouse about the work before me. I often can’t wait to be done with my work so that I can get on with my living. That means I perceive a divide between my work life and the activities I more fully enjoy. But what if work is holy? What if work is good for me? What if You desire productive people who not only witness to Your presence in the world but also work to support and sustain the world You love? Lord, I don’t want to spend my life waiting to retire from an activity You might be calling me to. Help me to value the work set before me as if it is a central part of the holy vocation to which You have called me. Allow me to work as if every task I engage in can somehow witness to Your glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN.