First Earn, then Eat!

“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
The Apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV).

The key word in the much neglected verse above is “man,” which in context means “grown-up.” Of course, babies and children must be fed long before they can work. As they grow, they learn to take responsibility for their lives. Others need time and support, for legitimate reasons, to train or recover from setbacks or disabilities. They need to eat too. Grown-up Christians who are not afraid of honest work also stand at the head of the line to help the helpless.

Fruitful seeds of integrity are sown into the biblical maxim above. Justice stops rolling when able-bodied non-working people live as a burden on hard-working people. Some grown-ups genuinely need a hand up, but too many today prefer to live in emotional and financial diapers. And they vote!

A Chinese proverb puts it this way: “Dig a well before you are thirsty.”

A Serious Sin!

What kind of people steal, embezzle, cheat, defraud and extort? Answer: lazy people who want a free ride– the same sort of people who enslave others to live off of their labor. The apostle Paul advised otherwise:

    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. (Ephesians 4:28).

No Lazy Legacy:

The Puritans arrived in America with an earnest sense of vocation and they worked hard to fulfill it. John Winthrop’s call in 1630 to make America a “city on a hill” was a call for honest work. They welcomed work and hardship as God‘s will. The farther we stray from our Puritan legacy, the more our culture crumbles. Puritan priorities are found in Will Roger’s quip some ninety years ago: “What this country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.”

A Biblical Mandate:

Paul taught that “…each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5). He advised, “Work with your hands… 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 also reminded the Thessalonian saints that he did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it. Instead, “…with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:8). He admonished the idle (the unruly and undisciplined) saying, “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).

Final Thought:

Work hard

Sacrifice leisure, focus on your goals and beat back all your setbacks. But don’t expect the applause of all. Instead of letting honest labor inspire them, slackers and shirkers wallow in self-pity and envy. They will belittle you as “privileged.” Ignore them and listen to Thomas Edison (1847-1931): “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

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