“But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” (1 Thess. 4:18)
Paul writes the Thessalonians and says that they are doing a fantastic job of loving one another and in fact that love has been evidenced toward all the churches in Macedonia. The Thessalonians have carried on the model of the early chapters of Acts caring for one another’s needs, caring for orphans and widows, and making sure no one lacks anything. And Paul instructs the Thessalonians here how to continue in that love. And he says that centrally it is found in seeking a quiet life, minding your own business, and working hard. And says specifically that this is what they commanded them, and this is so that they may have a good testimony towards unbelievers and so that they might not lack anything. I just want to zero in on one of those principles that Paul reminds the Thessalonians of: working hard with our hands. Paul says that one of the foundational virtues of the Kingdom is hard work. In fact in Paul’s follow up letter to the Thessalonians, he reiterates this point, saying that it was one of the fundamental traditions that he had left with them (2 Thess. 3:6-8, 14). He says that he and the other apostles did not eat anyone’s bread free of charge but they worked with labor and toil day and night so that they weren’t a burden to them. Likewise, Paul says that if any man will not work, he should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). The Kingdom of God should be a place of sharing and distributing to those in need, but this is not because we are welfare state or because we are printing worthless money like we’re in a monopoly game. The Kingdom of God should be overflowing with gifts and products and resources and assets such that no one lacks anything. But this is all based on fearless, sacrificial faith that works by love. Paul tells the thief to steal no longer but to work honestly so that he will have something to give to those in need. You might have even noticed that one of the prayers that we pray in the thanksgivings for the bread and wine notes that even this bread and wine was made by human hands. This is not because we have earned anything. This is not because our work gets us a place at this table. Rather, this is because of the grace of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit changes us, we become producers. We become fruitful. We become hard workers and cheerful givers. And this is because Jesus who was rich became poor for us so that we might become rich. Here at this table, God continues to give His life to us. Here we are promised an endless supply of mercy and forgiveness and grace. And it’s all free, all grace. So come and received the gifts of God for the people.