Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Work… Eat

Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3: 10-13

Verse 10: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat”.

As interconnected people we often have to work together to accomplish or achieve things. This is true at work, in sports, and in our churches. If four people are each working on a part of a project and one person fails to do their part, then the project remains incomplete. In team sports all members on the court or field must each perform their specific duties if the play is to be run well. In church, each member needs to contribute in some way or the church is less than it could be.

When I was still teaching, at times I would have my students work in groups. Occasionally one would not do much. Often the others would pick up the slack because they wanted to succeed. They might finish, but the end product would be less than if all four had done their part. Once in a while the lazy student would become disruptive, taking away from the group’s effort. If redirection did not work, the last resort was to form a “group of one”. This is what Paul is hinting at today’s passage as he addresses the sin of idleness.

In verse ten Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat”. When one fails to contribute and also draws away the resources of the group, this negative balance brings the organization down. But this is just one consequence. It seems the idle folks have found something to do. They have become busybodies. This most likely involves gossip and other forms of negative behavior. They have become the student in the group not only failing to contribute but also being a barrier to the rest of the group completing their work. Paul urges them to get with the program – to “settle down and earn the bread they eat”. Be a contributor and not a taker. In the following verses Paul goes on to offer the “group of one” advice: “do not associate with him”.

The danger of being idle can also affect our personal faith. If we become willing to hit the snooze button instead of getting up to pray and study the Bible, then we inhibit our faith growth. If we become willing to allow a friend to take us fishing on a Sunday morning, then we are missing out on an opportunity to grow closer to God. If we choose or place worldly things or people ahead of our faith, we are being spiritual busybodies. When we do these things, we are choosing not to eat the bread of life. We are also likely filling ourselves with things that negatively affect our relationship with God. When we stray from our spiritual disciplines, our connection to God and to others suffers. Instead, let us each be encouraged by Paul’s words: “Never tire of doing what is right”. Then we will be pleasing to the Lord our God.

Prayer: Lord God, when I am tempted to skip my quiet time or to not go to that study or meeting, remind me of Paul’s warning and encouragement. Whenever I choose you, life is so much better. May it be so. Amen.

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Reading: Luke 7:36 to 8:3

Labels are a dangerous thing.  Labels are barriers that can inhibit ministry.  Simon the Pharisee labels people.  The woman is a ‘sinner’.  This means to keep away from her lest she make him unclean as well.  Jesus is a ‘teacher’.  He has some good things to share and maybe a few are even applicable to Simon’s life.  But teachers are human, just like him, so they require no allegiance, no commitment, no special status.  And this ‘teacher’ allows a ‘sinner’ to touch Him, so Jesus is almost a sinner too; certainly He is at least ‘unclean’.

We too like to label.  We like to label people because it allows us to put them in boxes and because it allows us to keep them at a distance.  And like the Pharisee, these labels sometimes allow us to dismiss people from our thoughts like he did with the woman.  She was invisible to him even though she stood crying in his own home, right there in front of him.  How often have we driven or walked past a homeless person with a sign asking for help?  How often have we ignored the unkempt woman sleeping in the back pew during church?  We notice them briefly, apply our label – lazy, drunk, outcast… – and move on.

Jesus said to Simon, “He who is forgiven little lives little”.  For the woman she is forgiven much as Jesus restores her to righteousness.  As a new creation she can now go on to love others as Jesus first loved her.  For Simon, he is unwilling to see past a label so he cannot even begin to offer forgiveness for the judgment of others that he had in his heart.  Therefore he will also live others little.

What allowed Jesus to look past ‘sinner’ and to see the brokenness inside the woman?  What can we do to look past lazy, drunk, outcast… to begin to know what is broken inside of others?  The key is in the reverse of Jesus’ statement to Simon.  May we, as followers of Christ and as witnesses to His love, also offer much love to those in need of healing so that they too can begin to experience His forgiveness and can then begin to find healing for the brokenness in their lives.  May we not stop at the label but step beyond the barriers that keep us from sharing Christ with the world in need.