I led the other night at 4:11 … here’s what I shared. Thought I would share it with the blog world…
Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.
Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, The Message)
So, most of the translations of this passage use the word idleness a lot. What is idleness? Apparently it’s pretty important if Paul is talking about it so much in this chapter. How many of you know the story of the ants and the grasshopper? You remember the movie A Bug’s Life? Or the movie Antz? Both told this story. It’s a fable that is constantly told and retold to the next generation. Who knows what the moral of this story is? If you work hard now then you can play later … but if you play now, it might be too late to get all of your work done. So basically, do what you need to do and avoid being a slacker.
Whoa. Easier said than done, Paul.
Paul sounds a lot like my parents when I was growing up. He says that we know that we’re supposed to follow his example. They (Paul and company) were not idle (read lazy) when they were with the people of Thessalonica. They didn’t just take things from others, they paid for their food and such. Actually, Paul says, we worked all day and night so that we wouldn’t be a burden. We went out of our way to work all day and night when we were with you. We didn’t do all of this for our health … just because we felt like it. We even feel like we might have had the right to rest and not do these things. But we did work. Want to know why? We knew that it would be in all of our best interests to set a good example for you. We only gave you one rule: if you don’t work, you don’t eat.
This is the part that reminds me of the grasshopper and ant stories. The ants put all of their strength, energy and effort into collecting all of this food. Meanwhile, the grasshopper played all day long and kept procrastinating and putting it off, leaving it for another day. Eventually it got cold. The ants were all snug and cozy in their ant hill … feasting on the food they had worked so hard to gather. And the grasshopper was left with nothing. All of those tomorrows soon became yesterdays.
This is a simple story to learn from. Even though our actions might not show it, I think we all know somewhere in our hearts that we need to work for things in life. That we are not entitled to everything. You have to give a little to get a little. There are a million cliché sayings for this type of situation. It’s easy for us to say that we know we should be like the ants and not the grasshopper. It’s a very black and white story. You’re an ant or a grasshopper. Period.
Now, I don’t know about you but I feel like most of the time, I’m stuck in the middle. I’m not an ant, working my tail off in order to do my best for God and for my life … and on the other hand, I’m not really a grasshopper either, where I’m completely content with having everything handed to me on a platter and watching the world completely pass me by. Sometimes I’m in that gray area in between.
I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Marcel the Shell. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with him. He’s a shell. He lives a pretty average life. He has the things that he needs and most of the stuff that he wants. He’s nice enough. Stays out of trouble for the most part. Doesn’t cause many problems with the people in his life. Marcel is what I would categorize as the average Joe. Nothing particularly special about him, and he seems to have accepted his life situation. I think Marcel joins with me in that gray area in between the ants and the grasshoppers.
So that’s Marcel. He’s pretty cute. He makes you smile, possibly laugh. However, I can’t help but feel that he isn’t really content with his mediocre life. I feel like he wants more, and possibly doesn’t know what that more really is.
Sometimes, I feel like that. Like there’s something missing in my life … and sometimes it takes me a long time to figure out what that ‘something’ is that is not enabling me to move forward.
I think Paul speaks to those of us in this situation, too. There are people who act like Paul … setting examples for others, working hard, doing the right thing. Then there are the people Paul is warning against … people who are lazy, think they are entitled to things in life, and making poor choices. Then I think Paul speaks to those of us who are somewhere in between these two types of people. We try to make the good choices in life … but sometimes we fall into bad habits.
For example. Let’s live my life for a second. In my job, I have a lot of freedom. I am an itinerant teacher, which basically means I travel around to different schools all day to work with different students. I get to make my own schedule (within reason), there’s no one really paying attention to my comings and goings at the different schools, and much of my time is on the honor system. While all of these sounds great, and is great most of the time … the temptation to take advantage of this is huge. Driving around between schools, I notice that Kohl’s is having a sale, or I remember something that I needed at Target … and well, they’re on the way, right? I *could* work on paperwork and get things done that I need to get done today … or I could read that book in my car because no one’s watching me. If Paul were talking to me about my own life … I think he would tell me to get my act together. He would tell me that I shouldn’t be going through the motions in my life and just doing things to make the day pass by quicker. He would tell me that I need to do my work and remember why I need to do these things. I’m there for the kids, for the students. He’d tell me that I need to stop being such a slacker sometimes.
The title of this little section, in my bible at least, is “Warning Against Idleness”. Did you catch that? Not just “notes on idleness” or “discussions about idleness” but WARNING. Like a big red flag to catch your attention to something dangerous. Paul warns us that when we start going through the motions of life and acting as though we are deserving of everything that is in this world … we are losing the message of Jesus. Jesus calls us to be stewards of this earth and of our lives. We have a responsibility to not be caught in the middle of all the busyness around us … and figure out who God is calling us to be. If we live our lives as Marcel the Shell … we are missing out on all of the great things that God has in store for us. Paul writes of this to the church in Thessalonica. He knew there was something more than spending our time passing the days by with mundane tasks like video games, facebook, and twitter … that there are plenty of people out there who need us to be present with them, to form a relationship with them, and grow in our understanding of Jesus Christ.
I challenge you this week to step out of Marcel’s “shell” and dare to be the person you are called to be, full of spirit, love, and hard work. Amen.