1. This summer is hot, and we enjoy some vacation. Many people are waiting a summer vacation for a whole year. A balanced life of work and rest was designed by God. He worked hard for six days of creation and then he rested in the seventh day as the balanced pattern for us humans. It was applied to the whole universe, even to the land. Rest cleanses and restores our tired body and mind due to hard work and prepares us for the next work. No proper rest results in sickness and even death. Therefore, rest is the grace of God as well as the humility of man.

2. However, rest without work destroys the balance of healthy life. It is against the will of God, our Creator and Savior. God wants for us to work hard and then rest. It is another aspect of our salvation, to make us a good worker to serve for God and our neighbors. Jesus said that "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."(John 5:17) God is a hard worker, and so are Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Because Christians are the followers and imitators of God, we have to work hard. But some early Christians misunderstood the Christian life as something like joyful fellowship to spend time together in eating, talking and singing. Paul heard this and severely rebuked such Christians as wrong and bad. Even, he gave some disciplinary direction to the Thessalonian church: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”(6); “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”(14-15)

3. To be a good Christian means to be a good worker. God called us to be good workers for the Kingdom of God. Then, what is a good worker? First, a good worker is a hard and diligent worker. Being idle is a problem. Idleness is different from rest. It is unnecessary rest and rather harms body and soul. Proverb describes the sluggard like these: ”The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!”(19:24); ”The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!’ or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’"(22:13); ”As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”(26:14) Because not to work is against the will of God and creation order, it immediately and naturally results in the problem of survival. It is called “natural punishment”. So, the apostles gave some work rule to Christians: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’”(10) Even, a small insect works hard for survival. Nature works busy. So, the Bible says: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”(Prov. 6:6) The sluggard does not fit to survive in this universe. Paul gave the example of diligent work to the fellow Christians: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.”(7-9) If one does not work, he or she will be a burden for others and eat by other’s work. And, they will become poor and their house will perish: “If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.”(Eccl 10:18) So, to the idle Christians, Paul urged to earn their bread: “We hear that some among you are idle… Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”(11-12) The Bible teaches that we have to make not only our bread but also that of our family (1Tim 5:8) and other needy people, offerings (Eph 4:28, Acts 20:33-35), saving for emergency and future (2Cor 12:14, Tit 3:14), and taxes (Matt 22:21, 17:24-27, Rom 13:1-7).

4. Second, a good worker is a right worker. Hard worker is not simply a good worker. We need work ethics. If we imitate God in work, we have to work hard in positive way. Robbers, drug-sellers, gamblers and gangsters work hard, but they are not good workers because such work is not right. Paul says that “as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.”(13) Any work to be harmful to others, whether it is producing, selling, teaching, serving, operating, or any activity, is not right. Such a work is sinful and criminal even when it is legal in form. If some Christians work hard to manufacture or sell something harmful for others, he or she should repent and change work: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”(Eph 4:28) Paul gave an example of bad business which is in fact laziness and idleness. It is busy contact and gossip: “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”(1Tim 5:13) Verse 11 sharply pointed out that “They are not busy; they are busybodies.” Even for gossiping and troublemaking, it takes time and energy. But, it is not a right work. Of course, a good work may not be paid. A good worker is one who helps and contributes for people and society, whether it is paid or not. It is not a selfish work only for money and gain. Human being is so precious and worthy, and therefore any good work is impossible to be fully paid. Money cannot buy human being. Our job whether it is paid or not is our calling and vocation. A selfish work only for the benefit of oneself is a bad work and thus no work. It is the sin of sloth. Even though we have enough money to live, we have to work because work is not for money but for contribution and help for others. We may not complain or make excuses that we have no ability to work. In the parable of talent, Jesus said to such a man: “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?”(Matt 25:26) Even many handicapped people work hard. Many people who are less talented than us work hard.

5. Third, a good worker is a Kingdom worker. Every servant of the Lord should work hard: ”Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.”(Rom 12:11) Salvation is like giving a work to do. Jesus said that “'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” and gave a work.(Matt 20:6) What is the Kingdom work for us to do diligently? It is the work of love for God and neighbours: sharing our materials, time, ability, heart and love with those who need our help such as the poor, weak, sick, lonely, and lost. Our life is the God-given opportunity to work and help others as much as possible. Whatever the situation is, do not be idle and work hard for the Kingdom! For such a good worker, God will bless richly and reward greatly: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you!”(16) Amen.



...(take 2)

By Nathan Mates

While on this earth, humans are still under the laws of the countries they inhabit, subject to their rulers, and forced to interact with others. This is not necessarily a bad thing-- many other people could stand to hear the gospel. But, there are concerns as to food, clothing, and other temporal needs we have. These are somewhat legitimate concerns, but they are not to be the focus of our lives.

Jesus had several things to say about this subject in the Sermon on the Mount: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." [Matthew 6:25-34]

Strong words, there. Worrying about such needs is definitely out, but there's part of the flipside to faith that God will take care of you: you need actions to match your faith, or it's dead. [James 2:17 paraphrase.] And, the Bible has many things to say along those lines, that should not be neglected either. Proverbs says this most succinctly: "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." [Proverbs 14:23] and "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys." [Proverbs 18:9]

While being one of the most effective early evangelists of the Church, the Apostle Paul didn't neglect this. Luke records his occupation in Acts: "After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them." [Acts 18:1-3] Paul's worldly skills in working with his hands were not neglected once he came to know Christ; on the contrary, he used those skills to support evangelism.

Paul would later recount this time in his own words: "We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honoured, we are dishonoured! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." [1 Corinthians 4:10-13]

The Thessaloniacan churches appeared to have problems with working to support themselves, as Paul had to mention this issue in two letters to them: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." [1 Thessalonians 4:11-12]

Paul's words later were even stronger: "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat." [2 Thessalonians 3:7-12]

The only one that we should be dependent on is God for our daily strength, but in the affairs of this world, adults should strive to not be dependent on anything or anyone else. There are obviously exceptions, metered out by grace, to the rule above, such as the sick. But, the guiding principle should still be followed: if you can work, do so. Ministries, such as one's family, must come first, and overwork can be just as dangerous as under work, but being a freeloader is not a good testimony as to the gifts God's given you. There are some side benefits of good skills as well: "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men." [Proverbs 22:29]

Even Jesus had words to say about putting money and skills to work in the world. His proverbs on the ten minas in Luke 19:11-27 starts off as follows: "While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" [Luke 19:11-13]. The good servants in this parable put their skills to use, earning more. But, the wicked servant hid the mina [Luke 19:20], afraid of losing it. Jesus' retort was that even investing that with bankers would have been a better use of that money than doing nothing with it. Once again, doing even minimal work is better than no work at all.

God's given us all many skills, talents, and abilities. Many are spiritual in nature, such as the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. But, there are also skills that help in worldly aspects as well. David was a great shot with a sling, used at first to protect his flocks from lions. Paul, as noted above, made tents. Several of the original 12 disciples were fishermen. These gifts, while not overtly spiritual, still came from God. And, as such, we are to recognize that even our daily work is using God's gifts, but laziness is refusing God's gifts.

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