Wednesday, November 9, 2016

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Work is a Blessing, not a Curse

KEY TEXT: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-8 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.

KEY THOT: Being hard-working is a Christian virtue. Idleness is a negative testimony. Thankfully, Singapore is not a welfare state where we are rewarded for not working. Over here, we receive no government subsidy or support for idleness. Instead, Singapore is a workfare state—it’s only as we work that we get the subsidy and support from the state. And that’s consistent with Scripture: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." Work is not a curse—God is working, Jesus is working and so we ought to be working too. Work was there in the Garden of Eden—it was part of God’s creation mandate for Adam and Eve to work by tending the garden. Work is a blessing as it allows us to fully employed our gifts and talents to imitate God in creative endeavors. 

Work became a curse only after the Fall: "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:17-19). Sin turns every blessing of God into a curse and work is one of sin's casualties.

But God has redeemed us in Christ from the curse of work (law) to turn work into a blessing (gospel): "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). So, as Christians, the thought of work should make us jump out of bed with excitement every morning instead of covering our head with our sheets with dread at the thought of having to go the office to start another day of work. We ought to enjoy what we are doing. If we don't, then it's either we are in the wrong job or we are having the wrong attitude. Jesus did not come to deliver us from work but he came to deliver us into work—to turn the curse of work into a blessing of work.

So, there is no excuse for idleness—not even with such profound theological rationalization as the Second Coming of Christ. That is, since Christ is coming soon, why do we need to work so hard--or work at all? Paul’s command is clear: if we don’t work, we should not eat. And he has set an example for us to follow: "For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate" (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).

So believers must have the reputation in our workplaces as the most hard-working staff, not the ones that are always taking cover or engaging in the tai-chi of passing the bucks. When we work hard, we are testifying to the fact that we have been delivered from the curse of work into the blessing of work. That in Christ, we have been set free to enjoy our work, not just enduring it.

Father, thank You for work. For in it we have opportunities to grow and express our gifts and talents for Your glory. Amen.

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