Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Again and again, the Bible calls us to share with people in need: in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, in Jesus’ teaching, and here in the letters of Paul.
The command to work hard, “doing something useful with [our] own hands,” earning enough that something might be left over, goes hand in hand with being compassionate.
What’s more, Paul presents working and sharing as a way to climb out of a dishonest way of life. There’s something clean and good about doing something useful—and then giving the surplus away. It reverses the old way of life in which a person would steal from unsuspecting, innocent passers-by, often by lurking in dark places and waiting to prey on them.
Paul calls us back from the abyss of a corrupt life to the truth that our first ancestors had God-given work to do. How good to plant seeds, water them, and see them send up shoots; how good to tend and prune and sweep, taking care of the garden of creation we were given (Genesis 2:15).
Paul shows us a way of life that is characterized by growth in Christ, in a loving community of believers who do something good and useful—not sitting around idly gossiping, sniping at each other, fueling conflict and bitterness. How wonderful is the fellowship of loving, kind, compassionate people redeemed by Christ!
Lord, we long to grow into a loving community in Christ, useful and compassionate to people in need. Guide us, we pray. Amen.
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