Laziness is not a fruit of God’s Spirit in us. Idleness is not a good thing. It leads to boredom which leads to discontentedness and sin. It does not contribute to the work of the church, our Father’s business. And it puts a strain on our Brothers and Sisters. Paul addressed the problem in his letter to the Thessalonians. Verses 6-9 read,
“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,8 nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”
Paul as a leader of the church, a missionary, and an Apostle could have let the churches he planted take care of his financial needs. He had the right to do that. Our church leaders and pastors have a right to be paid for their work. But Paul chose not to burden the churches with paying him. He worked as a tentmaker and earned his own money. (Acts 18:3). He supplied his needs and those who journeyed with him. Acts 20:32-35 reads,
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Paul worked to set an example to the church. He also worked because the people of the churches he planted didn’t need another encumbrance. And because the people he spread the gospel to, the people he served, shouldn’t have been expected to give him money. He didn’t speak and teach and then say, “Okay, now pay me.” He didn’t heal a person and then request they compensate him. He worked and earned his own keep. He gave out of God’s grace.
Working keeps us from being useless in the Kingdom. Working, staying active keeps us from many sins. Verses 10-11 read,
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.”
The lazy person has time, too much time to consider the desires of his flesh. He desires money and wants it given to him rather than earning it. That leads to all kinds of wrongdoing. (1 Timothy 6:10). He covets what other people have and is not willing to earn it. He has time to judge the people around him and spread his malicious thoughts to others with gossip. Paul gave instructions about young widows, who if cared for by the church rather than remarrying and caring for a household, would turn to frivolous idleness. 1 Timothy 5:13-16 reads,
“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.”
We are supposed to care about each other, but we do that without being self-important meddlers who judge, gossip and attend to everyone else’s life but their own. We care for and love each other. We love each other too much to let a brother or sister stagnate in sin. Verses 12-15 read,
“Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother”
First we encourage that idle brother to work. We also have to pay attention to ourselves, not wishing we could live the life of leisure that work-shy brother lives and not growing tired of our service to The King. And if that brother still remains lazy, we have to do the tough love thing. We have to warn him, stop providing his needs, and ignore him for a while until he hears The Holy Spirit and repents.
I know a few people who think the church is there to take care of them. I know a woman who quit going to a church when the Pastor told her he couldn’t keep giving her the many things she asked for. I know another woman who shows up regularly to a church only to get the pastor to pay for a hotel room. The pastor and by extension the church is very generous and kind, but when he offered these women a long-term solution to their problems, they refused. They didn’t want the solution that would take some effort on their parts, they wanted the silver platter. So in love, the pastor had to turn them down. The first woman did repent, and is now thriving. The second woman did not yet repent, but she stays in our prayers.
Jesus knew the importance of working even as a child. We have one story about his childhood, told in Luke 2:41-52. His family went to Jerusalem for the Passover every year. When Jesus was twelve, on the cusp of adulthood after the feast had ended his family left, but Jesus stayed behind. His parents didn’t realize it. I imagine there were many reasons for that, Jesus was probably a very responsible young man, the family was large and they were walking with the many other families returning to Nazareth. They assumed He was with His friends. But when they realized Jesus wasn’t with them they rushed back to Jerusalem frantically searching for their son. When they found him, this child who was not yet old enough to sit in the temple with the men, was at the temple speaking to teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. These man were amazed by His understanding. Joseph and Mary were astonished by everything about it. When they asked why he had stayed behind. Jesus answered, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” (Luke 2:49).
Some versions use the phrase “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV). To be in our Father’s house, to be a follower of Jesus, means we are about our Father’s business. When Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents, he was submissive to them, He grew in wisdom, and he grew in God’s favor and men’s favor. (Luke 2:51-52). Being about our Father’s business is a vital part of our walk with Jesus. Our Father’s business entails the paying jobs He leads us to, the ministerial work we do, our witness, and the service and love we offer to others.
Part of Jesus’ love is that He behaved in a way that gained favor from God and man. Our reputation, our testimony matters. Laziness is not a trait that Jesus had and it is not a trait we want.