It is no secret that businesses in our communities and across the United States are on a desperate search to hire workers. Incentives to go back to work continue to increase, with sign-on bonuses and even pet insurance being offered to lure in new employees.
Both speculation and research abound as to why people are not returning to the workforce in the continuing covid-impacted environment. “The Great Resignation,” as it has been called, may simply be a bump in the road on this unprecedented pandemic journey. Or it may be a cosmic shift in how people view work and what they are willing to sacrifice for their job or career. Either way, the potential exists for individuals to move away from habits of diligent productivity and move toward a lifestyle of idleness.
The term “idleness” does not refer only to the condition of sitting around doing nothing. It is not hard to find agreement that a frenzied work pace is not good for anyone and contradicts the biblical commands to observe a sabbath, a rest. However, idleness goes beyond simply taking an afternoon off to rest. Idleness, as used by the apostle Paul, refers to disorderliness and being busy doing something other than what you are supposed to be doing – hence, the term “busybodies,” found in 2 Thessalonians 3:11. They were busy doing something, but it was not their work. They had time on their hands to meddle in things that weren’t their business. Time to get involved in sinful behaviors or bad relationships. Time to waste being destructive rather than constructive. The warning against idleness is a reminder that when you stop doing what you should be doing it’s not long before you start doing what you shouldn’t be doing.
Paul gives a glimpse into his own work habits. As an itinerate preacher, he did not have a steady source of income. However, he was a skilled leather craftsman and made it his practice to set up shop in the local marketplace when he arrived in a town to preach. He would earn wages that provided for his shelter and food. He did not expect others to take care of his every need, though he had a right to do so. Instead, he provided an example for others to follow to avoid the dangerous trap of idleness.
It is important to note that Paul does not speak harshly of those who cannot work, those who cannot provide for their own needs but rely on the generosity of others for sustenance. The church had a plan in place to provide for orphans, widows, and those unable to help themselves. Paul’s criticism is directed toward those who have the ability to provide for their needs but choose to be idle, a choice that leads to trouble.
But Paul’s discourse on idleness circles back to a place of hope, a place of grace. The ultimate goal of this rebuke is not one of excommunication, as if chasing away an enemy. Rather, the goal is one of restoration, as if bringing a disobedient child back to the family after having a time-out in his room. While it is never okay to disobey God, His grace is always ready to help us no matter what our situation.
* If you do not have a relationship with God, that relationship will begin with His grace. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
* If you are in a relationship with God but struggling to obey His commands, He will answer your prayer for help with His grace. (Hebrews 4:16)
* If you are a follower of God who is weary in well doing, God promises that His grace will be sufficient to keep you “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58)
Grace will meet you where you are but it won’t leave you where you are.