2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (NRSV)
Verse 6Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. Verse 7For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, Verse 8and 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. Verse 9This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. Verse 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. Verse 11For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Verse 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Verse 13Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
When I was growing up as a young kid on a farm, I was always encouraged to work. Sayings like “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” were often utilized to encourage me to “make myself useful.” So I approach what Paul has to say today through the lens of the so-called Puritan work ethic. Perhaps the Thessalonians’ idleness was because they were waiting for Jesus to come again. But as Luther once said, if he knew the world was coming to an end today, he would plant a tree. No matter what the circumstance may be, we need to be actively pursuing ways to make the world a better place. As Paul writes elsewhere, “The only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6) We are to stay focused on our faith in God, a faith which is made active through love and works. We do this not to save ourselves, but in response to God’s prior mercy to us.
Gracious God, guide us to exemplify what we believe in our lives. May our faith always be working through love. Amen.