Weary of the good?
“As you for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” That’s my text. Paul wrote that to the church in Thessalonica, a city that was part of Macedonia and is now a large city in modern day Greece. He was addressing an apparent atrophy of goodness among the Christians there. They had grown weary of doing good.
How do Christians ever grow weary of doing good? It sounds like an impossibility or even an oxymoron. After all, Christians are of Christ and Christ is good. Christ said “I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in me will bear much fruit.” The fruit being….goodness.
Jesus also describes us Christians collectively as being the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city on the hill; Jesus makes it clear that Christians are to be out there, out there in the world, flavoring the world like salt, enlightening the world like lamps, attracting the world like a gleaming city on a hill.
Furthermore it would seem that doing good and being good is part of what it means to be a Christian. Outward goodness, while not being the cause of our salvation is one of the results of being saved by Jesus. The Apostle Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit “(The Holy Spirit who brings into saving faith in Christ) “The fruit of the spirit is Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” To have Christ is to not only have forgiveness of sins and eternal life but also the fruit of the outward goodness.
So a Christian without goodness is a profound anomaly. How can a Christian grow weary of doing good?
In our text, it seems that the some of the Christians in Thessalonica were just that way: they became weary of doing good. They had Jesus, they had salvation and eternal life and they believed that the return of Jesus was going be be soon. So they quit their jobs and refused to work. For quite some time there were these able-bodied people in the Church who refused to work. I can almost hear them justifying it “We’re the real Christians! We are more spiritual than others! If others were as serious about Jesus as we are they would quit their jobs and wait for his return like we are!” This they said as the happily ate the food of those who continued to work.
In his first letter to the congregation he told them that the end of the world is indeed closer than it was yesterday, but there were certain signs that hadn’t happened yet. And he said “aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs and to work with your hands …so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1Thess. 4:11-12). In otherwords… guys, we can’t be certain when the world will end, so get a Job!
But about year later, in his second letter, we learn that there are still people in the church refusing to work. Paul says “we hear that some among you walking in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” and “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” And notice Paul is says “If anyone is not willing to work” He’s not referring to those who are physically unable to work or those who have worked hard all their lives and prepared for retirement, He’ only talking to those who are able bodied and could very well work but refused to work and were presently sponging off of others.
So how did these folks come to this rather despicable behavior? How do any Christians find themselves doing despicable things? They get carried away by the sinful logic born in their sinful nature. Somehow these Thessalonians had come to the conclusion that their sin of laziness was noble and they had a right to be pan-handlers. They justified themselves. That’s how it usually works. The sinful nature is clever in that way, it is very good and convincing you into thinking that you are absolutely justified in your sin.
We are seeing that all over the place in this most cantankerous election that we have all been through. It is so easy for one to feel justified in their hatred for another who is part of an opposing party. People believe they have the truth, and they believe having the truth justifies their hatred. Indeed the people on the opposing side might prove themselves to be pretty vile, but this must not be allowed to corrode the good that we have been given in Christ.
We are meant to cast light, not darkness. We were meant to bear good fruits not poison fruits. So whatever it is that embitters our souls over this election, must not be allowed to carry us away into the sinful logic that that justifies hatred. Hatred is never justified.
Just to be clear; it is good and right and proper to stand firm for the truth. But when you stand firm for the truth and you do it with hatred, what goodness was in your stand for the truth is kind of canceled out. Jesus says, “if you hate your brother in your heart you are guilty of murder.” Hatred must not dwell in the same heart where Christ now lives. It must be confessed, forgiven, left behind. Otherwise it will taint your life and pull you away from God. And Jesus stands at the ready to help in this. This is why he came: to help us deal with these sinful logic moments that so entangle our hearts. He himself was taken to the cross because of the sinful logic of men who thought it justified their hatred. It was political people who brought him to his death. But even as they nailed him, he pleaded for their forgiveness and as he died he earned it for them and for you and for me. We can now confess our hatred and cast it off and go back to living and working.
It’s good to work for a living. It’s good to feed your family; It’s good to establish your house; good to be industrious; good to go to school; good to figure out what gifts God has given you so you can use for the good of being employed. And when you are doing these things if feels right because it is right It is God’s design.
I suppose people imagine that when Adam and Eve were in paradise that it was like they were on a perpetual vacation lazing about, reclining and letting grapes drop into their mouths. But scripture clearly says that the Lord took the man he made and put him in the garden to work and keep it. We were meant to work from the beginning. We are at our best when we do.
All jobs we do in one way or another support human civilization. There’s a whole lot of meaning in that. I’ll always remember the sheetrocker who came to our open house and pointed to his wife and his children…. to the fine seams he laid out in our ceiling. He smiled and said “I did that.” That’s a good thing. It’s good to find satisfaction in what you do.
But it’s more than that. When you work, you rub shoulders with all kinds of people. People whom God loves but who might not know him yet. In us they should see decency, honesty, commitment, love. And seeing these things will give them pause. They will wonder, “What does that person have that I do not have?” In Christ Jesus we were made to bear fruit and those fruits are beautiful, tasty, and refreshing even to those who do not know him. Our lives among the people of the earth therefore become a testimony of sorts…our lives are meant to say, “it’s not all bad, there’s something more, something that you might like.” “As for you brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” Amen