For we hear there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. (2 Thessalonians 3:11)
Some time ago, due to health reasons, I was encouraged to resign from my paid career. While I have worked at various tasks — writing a spiritual memoir, founding a support group, creating a podcast — nothing quite replaced working for a paycheck. 2 Thessalonians has caused me to consider the nature of what I do with my life and wonder if I can say I earn a living. If not, do I deserve a seat at the Lord’s table?
First, a little context about first century Thessalonica. Many Christians believed that Christ’s return was imminent. So why work? Some carried this even further to become armchair quarterbacks — busybodies, as Paul puts it. Not only did they not work, they also criticized the work of others. As one of my church brothers pointed out, this could be compared to professing believers today who are eager to write tomes of proof-texted opinions on Facebook comments, yet neglect the work God calls them to do.
Work comes in a variety of forms. Manual labor. Housekeeping. Teaching. Childcare. Administration. Volunteering. Writing. The litmus test for work is not how physically demanding it is, whether it is socially reputable, or even if it is financially compensated. The measure is if it gives glory to God and contributes to the wellness of creation. It has taken me nearly a decade to accept that what I do is worthwhile. I am not idle. I am serving God and others to the best of my ability.
So what sort of labor is required for us to then fully appreciate the sustenance of God’s bounty?
Where is the line between meaningful activity and seeming idleness?
What work do we need to do to “taste and see that God is good”?
The short answer is that all work is worthy. Or, at least, work that is done in the name/Spirit of Christ.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said this:
No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
All work that glorifies God and contributes to the wellness of creation is good and holy. It is both necessary and of extreme importance.
Follow your vocational calling, no matter where it leads you. Higher Education may not be right for you. Maybe it’s the military. Or trade school. Maybe it’s entering the workforce and going to community college or an on-line school. My primary point is that your value as a laborer, a human being, a child of God, does not hinge on your position or pay scale.