Thursday of Pentecost 23 – II Thessalonians 3:1-13

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

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. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 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. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 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. 12 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.

In some versions of the rule of St. Benedict is a wonderful passage about what the abbot is to do with visitors to the community. He is to show them honor and respect. He is to provide for them. But after three days, if a visitor will not contribute to the life of the community by chipping in to wash dishes or help in some way, things change. After several admonitions, the Abbot is to command a pair of hefty brothers to escort the miscreant out of the gates of the monastery and deposit him on the road.

The Benedictines are famous for their hospitality. If you show up at a monastery and they can possibly take you in, they will. It won’t be plush, but you will be fed and housed. But even their hospitality has limits. I am reminded of that as I see the many who live on the streets of our cities these days. Many, perhaps most of them, are not capable of working any more. Their addictions, mental illnesses, and other maladies make them virtually unemployable, but do we simply shrug our shoulders and say that is the way it is? I don’t think that is what Paul had in mind here. 

I do not want to offer up simplistic solutions to complicated problems. There is a lot going on with our homeless epidemic in this country. At the same time, I do believe that part of the issue is that we have allowed the nobility and dignity of work to be eroded. So many cannot see that working is good, they can only see it as an unjust expectation which society has laid upon them. Paul gently but firmly counselled his first and twenty-first century reader to work, to do so quietly and earn their own living. We can speak well of work. We can thank God today for the occupations and various vocations which have enabled us to contribute to society and to earn our daily bread. Praise God today for this blessing, speak well of work, and thank the grocery checker, teacher, electrician, etc., whom you meet today for their work.

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