He Shall Not Eat
I grew up going to church, but a church very unlike the ones that everyone else in my town seemed to go to. At my church, we talked a great deal about being nice to people, and especially poor people. The people I knew at school went to churches where they seemed to talk a lot about giving your heart to Jesus.
When the poor were mentioned, they seemed to have a different understanding from my church. It seemed that there were only two verses in the entire Bible that talked about poor people. One was where Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you (Matthew 26:11, etc.). The other was “anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (1 Thess 3:10)
What I understood from their use of these verses was that a) there will always be poor people and there is nothing you can do to change that and b) if they weren’t lazy they wouldn’t be poor so tell them to get a job. It seemed to me that people could ask Jesus into their hearts but not actually have the heart of Jesus.
Times have changed in the American Church, and in at least one way for the better. Nowadays I rarely find a Christian with this attitude. Giving time and money and energy to serve the poor seems more important to the Church as a whole, and I’m glad for that. Those verses from 2 Thessalonians, though, are still a challenge that we have to take seriously.
It is important to note that these are addressed to the Church and not to secular society. Members of Christ’s Body are not to sit around and expect others to financially support them. Rather, we are called to fully participate in society, to contribute our God-given talents so as to be givers more often than receivers. Of course, this does not always work out. There are many times that Christians find themselves in real need, and the Church is called to do what it can to help in those times.
This passage is also about how we spend our time with one another. Are we the kind of people who are interested in stirring up trouble in the church (busy bodies)? Or are we instead spending our energy in finding ways to be more loving, more tender, more merciful?
Interwoven in the Spirit’s command to the idle to earn their bread is also the command for the rest of us to “never tire of doing what is good.” (2 Thess. 3:13) One way we can do that is by helping people who need work to find it. We can provide ways for those in need to be trained, to find a job, so that they can use their gifts and talents to earn their bread. "Teach a man to fish," as the old saying goes.
This brings me to the last “alternative Christmas gift” that I’m going to suggest this year. Kiva.org is a secular organization that helps people like you and me give micro-loans. A micro-loan is a small business loan given at no interest. It is given to people who want to earn a living for themselves, but need seed money for that to happen.
At Kiva.org, you can loan money to someone so that they can start a business. In fact, you can give another person a gift certificate so that they can go on the website, find a business proposal they are interested in, and give towards it. Kiva guarantees that you will get your money back within about a year. So you can give a $25 gift certificate to someone. They can invest it and in a few months they get the $25 back. They can then spend it however they wish, or they can reinvest it in another project at Kiva.org.
This is an example of how we can a) encourage the poor to work for their own bread and b) never tire from doing what is good. I offer it to you as you consider what to get those last people on your Christmas list. The mall is crowded, traffic and parking are a mess, shipping is getting more expensive each passing day, and most people don’t need what you are buying them. Here is a way to give a gift that means something. OK, sermon over.
If you are reading this as a note on facebook, may I recommend you visit www.ThomasMcKenzie.com for the full service version?