1 & 2 Thessalonians

by Sim Kay Tee

Day 14

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Paul has been urging the Thessalonians believers to lead holy lives, particularly in the aspect of sexual purity (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8), and to love others as Jesus has loved us (see vv. 9-10). Today, Paul considers a third way to please God: ″to lead a quiet life″-that is, to live harmoniously and honourably (v. 11).

Work is man's original vocation. It is a blessing from the Lord, and there is therefore dignity in working hard for a living

Most of the Thessalonian believers did love one another (v. 9). But there was a group of believers who were not showing such love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of them abused the generosity of the community-instead of working for their own living, they lived off the kindness of others. Not only were these idlers and freeloaders lazy and unwilling to work, they also became busybodies and gossipers, always trying to intrude into the private lives of their brethren (see 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:11).

Paul now instructs these people ″to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands″, so that they would ″not need to depend on others″. Only then, he notes, ″people who are not believers will respect the way you live″ (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT). Evidently, their laziness and gossiping had diminished their Christian witness.

Paul accords dignity to hard work. Work is man's original vocation. It is a blessing from the Lord, and there is therefore dignity in working hard for a living (see Genesis 2:15; Ecclesiastes 2:24, 5:19). Some people are unable to work and need help from others, and we should support them. But those who are able to work, yet do not, are not acting in brotherly love. Working to sustain ourselves and our family is the right and loving thing to do.

Moreover, a self-supporting person would be able to contribute to the community's support for the genuinely needy. In Ephesians 4:28, for example, Paul specifically encourages hard work so that we would ″have something to share with those in need″. Demonstrating love in this way can win the respect of believers and unbelievers alike.

And, as he always did, Paul was leading by example. Earlier, he had referred to his own work ethic, reminding the Thessalonian believers ″how hard we worked among you . . . to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God's Good News to you″ (1 Thessalonians 2:9, NLT).

While Paul was entitled to seek support from those whom he ministered to, he chose not to. Instead, he worked hard as a tentmaker to support himself (see Acts 18:3; 20:34). Preaching the gospel ″free of charge″, he explained in 1 Corinthians 9:11-18, helped him to avoid being accused of financially profiting from the gospel, ensuring that money would not get in the way of the message. Paul didn't want to burden the people or hinder God's work.

Thus, Paul was able to instruct the troublemakers to be socially responsible-to stop gossiping and meddling in others' personal lives, and to be financially responsible-to work hard for a living and not depend on others. This problem, unfortunately, could not be resolved, and Paul would have to deal with the freeloaders again in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (see Days 29 and 30).

Think through:

Why was Paul so concerned about idlers and believers who refused to work?

Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 4:12. What does your attitude towards work and the way you work say about your faith? How might your work ethic affect your Christian witness?

What did Paul teach concerning the church's support for those who do God's work? Read 1 Corinthians 9:4-14, Galatians 6:6-7, and 1 Timothy 5:17-18.




About Author

Sim Kay Tee is a Bible teacher and writer of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Based in Singapore, K.T. writes for the Discovery Series Bible Study guides, the Journey Through Series devotional, and is a regular contributor to the Insights for Our Daily Bread. K.T. has taught the Bible in various countries. He has three daughters and one granddaughter.

Author of Journey Through Series:

Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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