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A Tough But Essential Command

November 9th, 2016

But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us. (2 Thes. 3:6 NET)

The Christian faith is a compassionate faith. Christ taught us to love, to serve, to be generous, and gave us His example of a life of service. The early church exploded with compassion toward one another through the inner working of the Spirit of God. Compassion and generosity are inseparable aspects of the Christian faith. We read in Scripture:

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. (Deut. 15:7-8)

[Christ said:] Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matt. 5:42)

Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Why then would we see such words in God’s Word as are found in this chapter, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: ‘If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat'” (2 Thes. 3:10)?  The reason is that compassion can be taken advantage of by heartless and lost people, to the point that those who truly need help are not helped at all.

This was not a teaching or a command to stop caring, or to cease giving. Rather it was a command to give wisely.

When we lived in Manila, Philippines we saw both the needs of the urban poor and the abuse of each other within their own group. Children stand at many intersections, dressed in rags, begging for money. The children naturally touch your heart and you want to give, but if you look you will see someone older standing in the shadows nearby, who is their handler. As soon as they receive money he takes it from them, and often it goes to drugs and alcohol, and not to the benefit of the children themselves. In fact, at one time, it was illegal to give money to beggars because, supposedly, it simply increased crime and the further abuse of children.

That was why when we lived there we did as many missionaries did. We carried small sacks of rice and gave these to the children, and we received more sincere thank yous from them for having done so. And our mission was also involved in social programs to truly help the poor with training and education.

Each church and each Christian have a calling to be gracious and generous. We are not just to feel compassion for the lost and needy, but we are also to do something for them. Yet at the same time we have an obligation to give wisely. How can we give wisely?

Give according to needs, not according to requests: We must feel greater pressure and leadership from God to give than pressure from the people who ask or the community around us. Just because someone asks does not mean that they should receive. This was the problem that Paul was addressing – the abusers of Christian compassion.

Help establish people in a better lifestyle and do not give just to support their bad habits: We should do more than simply enable people to continue to be dependent. Sometimes feeding the hungry is essential, but it is not a permanent solution to anyone’s problem. We should help people get a better life, and not just a meal – a hand up and not just a hand out. I think every Christian employer should be on the lookout for someone whom he or she can help by giving them a job, by mentoring them, encouraging them, helping them get on their own.

Say no to those unwilling to work: Paul’s command not to give food to the one who will not work, emphasizes the unwillingness to work. There are many who are willing to work but who are unable to work because of injury or illness, and some who cannot find work because of the economy, and those are who we should help. But someone who intentionally refuses to work – is unwilling – when they have both the ability and the opportunity, that is the person we should not help.

And in not helping them we are in fact helping them – teaching them the importance of them making a positive difference in this world.

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