“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy.” (1 Thess. 5:14) “Stay away from believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us… imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you…even while we were with you, we gave you this command: ‘Those unwilling to work will not get to eat’.” (2 Thess. 3: 6 – 10).
Whoa, that’s pretty harsh! Or is it really?
Paul, in addressing this issue with the Thessalonians and, in effect, the whole Church, had plenty of precedent for this admonition as it was not new thinking but was rooted in the sound wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs and in the nature of common sense.
Let’s face it – most people become annoyed with slackers who depend on others rather than themselves to provide for their needs. The contrast and tension that can exist between the lazy and the hard worker is usually very obvious and can lead to some real negative drama. The hard worker wants to shout out – “get off your rear and get out and get a job”. The lazy just expect to be taken care of and make no plans for their provision and future. They feel entitled and those that support their lifestyle become enablers rather than helpers. Taking on responsibility for another that will not take on responsibility for themselves just breeds selfishness and a distorted sense of how to value and deal with money and one’s finances. All of sudden the “compare game” begins because someone else has something that they want. They are not content with what they have – they want more. They question and ask “Do you mean that I have to get a job and start learning to provide for myself? I have to earn my own money to buy both what I need and what I want?” Oh, no, such despair! Do we see a “lazy, spoiled brat” here somewhere?
Proverbs with its couplet format has many sayings throughout its 31 chapters describing the lazy in the first line and contrasts that to the hard worker in the second line. One proverb begins by noting the example of the ants –
“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” (6: 6 – 11).
The term “lazy” is frequently used to describe such slackers along with the add-on tag of “sleeping/slumber” to depict their condition. Such behavior results in “poverty, hunger, no food” because they have not planned or worked to produce a “harvest”. Furthermore, they are also described as “wicked, ungodly, not trustworthy, their path is blocked by briars, consider themselves smarter than 7 wise counsellors”.
Meanwhile the “hard worker” prospers and is depicted as “rich, diligent, wise, planning and working their land to provide food for the winter, righteous, godly, trustworthy, a clear path to walk down”. (note the various references in Proverbs that address this subject – 10:3-5; 12:24, 27; 13:4; 14:23; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 24; 20:4, 13; 22:13; 24:33-34; 26:13-16; 28:19-20).
This all comes down to the “attitude” and “behavior” expressed by either the slacker or the hard worker and how each results in either disastrous or beneficial consequences. It’s a “reap what you sow” thing. From the beginning God intended that man work, charging man to tend to and oversee the world that He created. (Gen. 1:26-30). This is an extension of God’s work in sustaining His creation. When man goes against God’s direction for his life, the results become that of the “lazy”, while “obedience” results in the rewards of the “hard worker”.