Living Word Christian Magazine

Free Bible Study Magazine

If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thes 3:10)


Man was created for work. In the Garden of Eden we find man at work, and his employer was God. We read: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). At that time work was enjoyable, a divine occupation which developed and gladdened human life. When Adam sinned, his work became harder, but God’s purpose for man has not changed. It is still that he might work. Since man was made for work, suitable employment can only be good for him

Well, one thing, at least, is good: It is for a man to eat and drink well, accept his position in life, and enjoy his work whatever his job may be, for however long the Lord may let him live. Eccl 5:18 (Living)

Live joyfully with the wife you love through the fleeting days of life which God has given you; for that is your portion in life, in all the work you do. (My paraphrase of Eccl 9:9)

Some of the believers at Thessalonica had begun to neglect their daily work, thinking that being saved meant they were above this. Paul corrects them by relating Christianity to their work, for God’s purpose for man remains that he should work.

I. The Dignity of Work
“Brothers,” exhorts Paul, “be not weary in well doing” (2 Thes. 3:13). With these words the apostle lifts our daily work out of the mundane and puts it in the pure light of God’s purpose for us. The Word of God informs us that our daily work derives its dignity from:

1) Divine Initiation
God made man for work.. For even though man had fallen, God clearly stated: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground” (Genesis 3:19). Every responsible son of Adam since that point in history has continued to work for his own bread. When God gave His laws for man, through His servant Moses, He declared, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9). The work of God was divinely initiated.

“Work is good and necessary for our well-being. We are to accept it gratefully as a God-ordained part of life.” (Dennis J. De Haan, Our Daily Bread).

2) Divine Association
Jesus worked. As a youth, Jesus was not idle or unemployed. He could say, “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). He worked as a carpenter in Nazareth, and the servant Is not above his Lord. During His earthly ministry His attitude was always, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work” (John 9:4). At the last, when hanging on the cross, this same Jesus could shout victoriously: “It is finished” (John 19:30); His work was complete.
In his secular work as well as His ministry years, Jesus was always diligent, seeing his work through to the end.

3) Divine Intention
“We hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies” (2 Thes. 3:11). These words clearly show that undisciplined living is not what God intends for His people. God has a plan for every life, and we are not pleasing Him unless we find, follow and finish that plan. His plan involves among other things the work that we do.
Just as God’s word tells us that “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4), so also God’s intention for every life is that the Holy Spirit should guide and control men in the use of all their God given talents and vocational abilities.

“A man should be encouraged to do what the Maker has intended, according as the gifts have been bestowed on him for that purpose. His happiness, and that of others around him, [depends on] such a relation to the Maker’s will” (Thomas Carlyle).

II. The Desirability of Work
“If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10). In these blunt words Paul sums up the desirability of work. From the Scriptures, it is very clear that daily work is essential to:

1) Physical Life
“If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10). How do you expect to live if you do not work? God has ordained that in the sweat of his face (effort) man should eat bread (Genesis 3:19).

The link between work and survival has been demonstrated on a worldwide scale as we see millions of starving refugees in places like the Far East and Africa. Because there is no industry or employment there is no food, and because there is no food thousands die daily without help or hope. This stark fact of should teach everyone of us about the necessity of work

2) Social Life
“If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). God expects every responsible person to work for the support of his dependents. Paul puts it plainly in 2 Cor. 12:14: “The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” A married man isn’t only working for himself but his wife and children.

The domain of work is not limited to man. God has a purpose for women in the workplace. When God gave Eve as a wife for Adam is was that she might be his companion and a help to him. She helped him in the Garden. In the final chapter of proverbs we see the description of a virtuous wife, a wife who deserves praise. What is she doing to earn this praise? She gets up early, she works with her hands, making food for the family, making clothing for them to wear and selling the rest of what she has made. She is involved in commerce – making a profit from buying and selling land. She watches carefully to buy food at a good price. She plants a vineyard so that she may provide for her family. She works late into the night. She is never idle. She is energetic, a hard worker, and watches for bargains. She works far into the night! Prov 31:17-18 (Living)

In today’s society, it may be that such virtuous women may have to find other employment besides those listed above, but the principle remains the same. It is not just the man, but the woman also who is to provide for the family.
It has always been difficult for families to make ends meet. From the dawn of time it has been the case that men and women together share in differing ways the burden of responsibility for the family.
Sadly, marriage breakup in the UK today is largely due to financial difficulties. In Wales today house prices are unaffordable for locals. Personally I could never in my life, barring a miracle from heaven, afford to buy a house or even afford to rent, apart from housing benefit.

3) Moral Life
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good” (Eph. 4:28). Paul puts working over against stealing. There would be no more stealing, receiving or selling stolen goods if men were prepared instead to do an honest days work.

4) Commercial Life
“Repay no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17). All the immoral tricks of the trade would be abandoned, if men and women worked honestly before God.
The Christian businessman or woman should be completely above reproach in their business dealings.

Some caustic words are addressed to three types of people in 2 Thessalonians: idlers—those who will not work; “busybodies”—those who meddle in other people’s business, instead of minding their own; and grumblers—those who disturb others by their discontent and complaining. Are you an idler, meddler, grumbler, or a worker?

III. The Duty of Work
“We command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Paul, “that with quietness [you] work, and eat [your] own bread” (2 Thes. 3:12). “With quietness [you] Work”— is very significant. It implies that we can enjoy harmony and tranquility as we carry out our daily duties of work.

1) There Is a Duty to God
Paul commands and exhorts “by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they (the lazy) work” (2 Thes. 3:12). So we see that to work “in quiet fashion” is to fulfill part of God’s purpose for our lives. This is emphasized in Eph. 2:10 where the writer says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (2 Thes. 2:10). It isn’t so much what we do but how we do our work that determines whether we please God or disappoint Him. Even the kitchen chores can be acts of worship. We do not work to please the boss when his eye is on us, for we are God’s servants and we work to please him.

You slaves must always obey your earthly masters, not only trying to please them when they are watching you but all the time; obey them willingly because of your love for the Lord and because you want to please him. Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for. Col 3:22-24 (Living)

Because of this the Christian will be punctual. He will not steal from work but will earn a fair wage for a fair days work. It is an exchange. I give my work in return for pay. But I work with joy for I am working as unto the Lord. Of course I remain able to withdraw my work at any time, and resign if I choose. But while I work I am to work for the Lord with my whole heart: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might;

2) There Is a Duty to Man
Paul could write, “We ate no man’s bread for nothing; but worked hard night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an [example] for you to follow” (2 Thes. 3:8-9). In another place Paul reminds us that “by love [we are to] serve one another” (Gal 5:13). By work we earn wages so that we can have the wonderful privilege of giving to God and His work and to anyone who is in need in Christ’s name.

Let him work with his hands that he may have something to give him who has need. Eph 4:28

Paul is not saying that a minister does not have the right to earn his living from the preaching of the gospel. He has much to say on this in 1 Cor 9. But he made himself an example for the Thessalonians to follow, so that by their learning to work and to give, the pastors who came after him would be able to be supported financially- ( for this is in the church’s best interest.)

3) There Is a Duty to Self
“Brothers, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thes. 3:13). For all the work we do God has promised not only a material wage, but a spiritual one. Our material wage, which is for time, is determined largely by the way the work is done and whether the “boss” is pleased. The spiritual wage, which is for all eternity is determined by whether service is done for the Lord or for self. The Christian must continually keep in mind the prize that awaits him when he sees Christ. Nothing will be more worthwhile than to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant …enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23).

I ask you: Is your Christianity related to your work? Or do you somehow feel that God is your God in the church, but He cannot leave the church building in order that He might be your God in work, in school, at home or in college? Is the work you do a terrible cross for you to bear, or do you enjoy the freedom of knowing that you are not working for earthly masters, but for the Lord and that your reward will come from him? Jesus said “Be occupied till I come.” Whether in our work for the Lord in spreading the gospel, or in our daily employment at home or in the workplace let us sing: We will work for Jesus till the shadows fall, Labour for the master till we here him call. Amen.


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