Welcome to Monday’s podcast from STC Sheffield. My name is Helen. This week we’re going to be concluding our journey through 2 Thessalonians and starting to explore 1 John together. Although our readings this week are from different books of the Bible, we’re going to be asking the same question each day: What does my life proclaim?
Proclaim means, ‘to announce and declare publicly, to say something emphatically, or to indicate clearly.’ It comes from the Latin proclamare which means ‘to cry out.’
With that in mind, let’s focus on 2 Thessalonians 3 v7 and 8:
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.
In these verses we see Paul encouraging the Thessalonians to work hard, and to follow the example that he set in this. These words are reminiscent of others in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2 and Chapter 4. Back in Acts Chapter 18 we also read that when Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, he worked as a tentmaker alongside Priscilla and Aquila, and this continued to be his practice as he travelled around. Paul’s passion was to share the gospel and plant churches, but practically he remained in secular employment and produced tents.
Paul was a Christian at work in the work place.
So, the question today is: “What am I proclaiming through my attitude to work and my actions in the workplace?”
Whether our place of work is a factory, a hospital, an office, or our home…….whether you choose to work as a volunteer, or are struggling to find a paid job……. Whether you absolutely love your work, whether you’re facing redundancy, or counting the weeks until retirement…….whatever work situation we find ourselves in, these verses from Thessalonians can help us think about what we are proclaiming as Christians at work in the work place.
Firstly, we are designed to work.
God himself is a worker – a Creator – and we are made in his image. Working is part of our Godly design. Paul wants people to work, and not be idle, because this is part of God’s perfect and original plan for every person. It’s a way in which we can serve God and seek to become more like him. The word ‘work’ appears just under 800 times in the Bible, so clearly it is important to God; and in Hebrew the word used for worship and work is actually the same.
Whatever work we have been given to do; whether we manage multi-million pound budgets or whether we put cans on shelves in a supermarket; do we clearly and emphatically believe that by working we are reflecting the image of our Creator, and so fulfilling his plan and design for each one of us?
The workplace is God’s place.
Being able to proclaim this truth over our lives will transform both our attitude and our actions at work.
Secondly, work is something which God intended would bring pleasure. It would be good.
At the end of each day of Creation, God declares what he has made to be good, or very good. And Paul concludes his section on work with the encouragement to “never tire of doing what is good.”
However, in Thessalonica, Paul saw the exact opposite of this happening because of the system of patronage. Rich patrons would financially support people, not by asking them to work, but instead by just expecting them to go around telling others how fantastic the patron was! People were literally being paid for being the busybodies that Paul refers to in verse 11. People spent time making themselves or others look good, rather than minding their own business, working with their hands to earn money, and doing good! But as Christians our ambition should not be to maintain old social systems, instead our aim should be to bring about social transformation.
Our job as Christians is to be in the world, in the workplace, transforming it, having an impact on our home, our school, our workshop, our council – being salt in areas that are rotten, bringing light to places that are dark. At work we have a unique opportunity to cry out, to make a public declaration, about zero hours contracts, office politics and gossip, greed and corruption, the atmosphere and culture in our workplaces – to name but a few.
Working to do what is good is a hallmark of being a Christian.
Where can we publicly promote the goodness of God in our workplaces this week?
And finally, the work place is a place of mission.
As Paul says, through our work we are called to model a Godly lifestyle to others, to set an example, and win the respect of outsiders. The average person spends 60-70% of their waking hours at work during their lifetime, and interacts with over 100 people at work each week – this gives us a lot of opportunity to do those three things that Paul highlights!
Alan and I have the privilege of leading Community Church at STC Sheffield, and we have heard some great stories about people stepping out in faith in the workplace. One woman works for a heavy industry company with hundreds and hundreds of male employees and just 9 female workers. She has decided to intentionally build community with these women by setting up a monthly social get-together. Another woman has put ‘Why Jesus?’ booklets in the staff prayer room. A guy who works for Sheffield Council has invited his boss to church. Another man leads a team with many international contractors. He and his wife have begun inviting them round to their house, offering them hospitality when they are thousands of miles away from home.
Do we take the opportunities given to us at work to proclaim something about our faith and the way that a relationship with Jesus Christ helps us and impacts our life?
Do those we work with look at us and see Christ at work, in the workplace?
Heavenly Father, thank you that we are designed to work, and that working is part of our worship to you. Help us to be people who never tire of doing what is good in the places where you have set us to work. May our actions and attitudes at work proclaim you to others. Amen.
READING: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.