May 27, 2024

Don’t Work, Don’t Eat

2 Thessalonians 3:1-13

When we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

—  2 Thessalonians 3:10

God makes clear in this passage and in other Scriptures that there are limits to caring for the needs of others. Paul taught the Thessalonians, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Our responsibility to people who are capable of working but who refuse may be to admonish them rather than to support their laziness. As Proverbs 10:4 teaches, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” People are not necessarily entitled to live off the generosity of others. It is important to note, though, that Paul is writing to a church concerning their own members.

When it comes to applying this teaching today, we face a number of challenges. The first is to find out whether a person who is seeking aid is truly able to work and has the opportunity to do so. In our economic systems today, it seems, there are nearly always people who are unemployed and unemployable. Though we may feel certain that an individual has the ability and the opportunity to work, we may be wrong. Mental illness can be a factor that is every bit as debilitating as a physical condition. And whatever the case, we are also responsible to establish relationships with people in the hope of having opportunities to lead them to know Christ, as the Spirit leads.

Lord, we know that you love a cheerful giver. Help us to discern when it may be inappropriate to give. And if we are not sure, help us to err on the side of mercy. Guide us in leading people to you, we pray. Amen.

About the author — George Koopmans

George Koopmans has served as an ecumenical chaplain at Medicine Hat College in Medicine Hat, Alberta, since November 2021. Prior to entering into chaplaincy, George served as a pastor to two congregations—one in Minnesota (Luverne), and the other in Medicine Hat. George and his wife, Emily, have four adult daughters and three grandchildren. Hiking, biking, and birdwatching are his favorite hobbies.

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