For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NASB
Will not work – There is a South African colloquialism describing men who would rather sit than work. It’s called “chasing shadows.” These men sit against the side of a building during the day, moving only enough to stay in the shadows and out of the hot sun. Why should they work? The government gives them housing, electricity and water. If they complain to the right people, they will probably get food and medical care. Why bother to do anything else, especially in an African culture that lacks any form of Judeo-Christian work ethic? Chasing shadows is good enough as long as someone else pays my bills. The disparity between the immigrant generations of Afrikaners and the indigenous Black population couldn’t be more stark. One toils in the sun. The other sits in the shade.
You might be appalled by this lack of human motivation, this deterioration of humanity into nothing more than sleeping dogs. But before you complain that government corruption, government interference and government desire for voter dependence are the contributing factors, perhaps we need to take a step back and look at another historical influence – the theology of free grace. My observations and the observations of many people on the mission field and in third world countries is this: evangelical Christianity has contributed to an entitlement spirituality that equally contributes to human indolence. Around the world, converts wait with an open hand for the rich to send them what they need. Forgiveness is free so why shouldn’t all the other provisions of God come the same way? Just pray and expect someone else to provide. Just sit in the shadows. If the indigenous culture did not provide a strong incentive to work, Christianity will not suddenly change that. God gives freely. Why should I have to do anything?
On a very personal level, I have often been confronted with the complaint that Today’s Word should be free to everyone. Why? Because it is about spiritual things and all spiritual things are free. I have been called quite a few names by insisting that Today’s Word requires commitment. If computer savvy readers have this attitude, imagine how much more it resides in those who do not enjoy Western luxuries?
Apparently Paul wasn’t of the opinion that God was running a cosmic entitlement program. “If anyone (no qualifications) will not (makes the deliberate choice) work (be productive for the benefit of self and others),” then there are consequences. No one must be allowed to mooch off of the community. Everyone must contribute.
Is Paul’s instruction God’s word? If it is, then can you imagine what God’s assessment of our current political and religious give-away programs might be? What do you think God would say to the shadow-chasers? What would He say to those noble-minded mission organizations that demand nothing in return for their efforts in the field? If Paul speaks God’s mind, do you think YHWH approves of our good-news hand-out mentality? One thing is absolutely certain. Expect nothing and men will live up to that standard.
My friend Jason runs a charitable organization that builds houses in the slums in Mexico. His isn’t the only mission doing this work, but it is the only one that demands that the family receiving the house perform 200 hours of community service before they get the house. When he started with this novel concept, other missions organizations told him it would never work. Besides, they were giving away houses for free. Many years later, the houses Jason and the owners built are painted, they have flowers in the yard, they have the same families living there and they are actively engaged in helping others get homes. The houses given away for free are run-down shacks. Multiple groups have come and gone through their doorways. The yards are still full of trash. Expect nothing and you will always get it.
Paul was right. It is God’s word. Man was made to work. Take work away from him and he becomes a dog seeking shade. God’s grace isn’t free. It cost a price so enormous that no one could pay it. The resulting blessings are also not free. “Work out your salvation” needs to replace “God has a wonderful plan.” When we stop giving it away, we might actually see lives changed. The few who are chosen will avail themselves of the opportunity and all will see the difference. Keep up the good work, Jason (click here to see what Jason is doing).
Topical Index: work, eat, free, 2 Thessalonians 3:10