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Too Faithful to Work?
It makes sense, in a way. The Apostle Paul had come to town and preached powerfully about the Lord Jesus’ death, resurrection, and imminent return to gather all the faithful. “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” was the earliest Christians’ clarion call.
But after Paul left, some Thessalonica believers died, and this perplexed many church members. If they were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, they would not taste death, right? Hadn’t Christ died once for all? Paul’s letter to Thessalonia was partly to explain—to reassure believers there that those who died in the Lord would not miss out on the resurrection. But in his letter, Paul still spoke as if Christ would return shortly. He urged the believers to live at the edge of their seats: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:4).
Some of the Thessalonian Christians so strongly believed Paul’s word about Christ’s return that they quit their jobs to prepare. Can’t you envision the radical faithful looking a little askance at the less faithful who continued to show up for work rather than sit, pray, look to the skies, and wait? I can also imagine their shock when Paul’s second letter didn’t fall on their side.
Paul’s first letter had spoken of an immediate return, which caused some to devalue this life and its present work. The second letter spoke of an imminent return that elevated the very importance of present work. Imminent meant that Christ’s return would and could occur at any moment. Yet the time is not necessarily immediate; and faithfulness to Christ is not license to abandon one’s place in this world. As long as we are here, we are to steward our time and energy. Paul says with sharp-edge:
“Keep away from idle believers . . . imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and 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 . . . Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. . . . Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (1 Thess. 3:6-13).
As a laborer himself, Paul knew that one’s personal economics is a key witness to one’s faith. Paul knew, as every generation learns, that faith and work are as mutually dependent as the sails on the boats they propel.
- devout life
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