Work Ethics: Nuts & Bolts

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Background
In 2 Thess 3, Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians, by once again providing instruction for behavior within the church. Before instructing the Thessalonians' behavior, Paul requests prayer for the spreading of the gospel and deliverance from wicked people. Scholars suggest that Paul's introduction follows ancient rhetoric. The ancient rhetoric embodies praise intended to gain a good hearing, before addressing a difficult issue. The difficult issue addressed dealt with certain Thessalonians not working but relying on rich brothers to meet their needs. Paul addresses this issue in the first letter; however, the behavior remained. In Paul's dealings with the issue, he urges the Thessalonians to separate themselves from those who are idle. Paul's urging exemplifies the intensity to which the lingering issue escalated. He continues his exhortation by identifying his own behavior amongst them. Paul's actions warrant imitation as he established a model example. Finally, he declares the Thessalonians to separate themselves to bring shame on the guilty parties. Paul concludes his admonishment with a closing prayer or greeting like the first letter. However, the final greeting of this letter emphasizes his authorship and authority, by his declaration that his own hand signed it. In conjunction with the demonstration of his authority, Paul concludes the letter departing grace to the Thessalonians.
Context
I numerously experienced times where I did not want to go to work. I was exhausted and required a much-needed break. During those moments, I desired to call off sick. Unfortunately, my conscience would not allow it. I knew that I was not ill at all. On certain occasions, when I endured mental exhaustion someone else reminded me that it was okay to take a mental break. Before the suggestion, I would not allow myself to take a break. I understood very clearly, Paul's statements that if a man does not work, he shall not eat (2 Thess 3:10).

 

Despite my work ethics, I noticed in specific areas where I did not maintain them. While at work, I responded to personal texts or browsed the internet. Certain days, I did not complete specific work tasks due to being distracted by technology. I also discovered that I was not the only one having this problem. I had a work colleague who spent several hours on his phone. He either played games, texted, or made personal phone calls. We became consumed by our devices. Even though we went to work, we did not work. We became idle. Our idle behavior compares to the Thessalonians. They no longer worked. They became idle and expected their brothers to meet their physical and financial needs.

Purpose
Paul commands the Thessalonians to not live in a manner, where they roam disorderly without order or plan. The term disorderly or idleness does not emphasize laziness, but rather the irresponsible attitude to the obligation of work. Consequently, the Thessalonians are not guilty of inaction, but of busy unrest. To challenge this irresponsible work ethic, Paul provides an example of how he worked among them. Paul continuously worked night and day in Thessalonica to not be a burden to the church as well as to be a model. Therefore, to combat the Thessalonians' irresponsible attitude of work, Paul demonstrates the benefits of his working behavior. Since he worked not to be a burden, he charges the Thessalonians to do the same. By imitating Paul, they too will not be a burden to others. Paul stresses proper work ethic in verse 10. He states that if one does not work, then one should not eat. Simply, the Thessalonians will not burden each other, because they possess the ability to work for their own satisfaction. After Paul urges right behavior in regards to work, he encourages the Thessalonians not to grow weary in doing good. His encouragement continues to emphasize his desire for them to not be a burden and to imitate his example.
Application
I am challenged weekly to demonstrate responsible work behavior. Due to gadgets, it becomes easy to be overly consumed by them. The outcome of such consumption leaves little to no room to focus on daily work tasks. Therefore, Paul's admonishment remains relevant for today's Christians. He completes his letter to the Thessalonians by addressing their irresponsible attitude to the obligation of work. He demonstrates the proper order for working, to not be a burden and accommodate one's own needs. As Paul corrects the Thessalonians, I too receive the same correction. What about you? What areas have you demonstrated irresponsible work behavior? Who have you relied on to meet your physical and financial needs versus seeking employment? Paul's challenge requests the same of us.