By Chris Martin
Perhaps the most difficult and important truth we must learn as Christians is that no work we do, no collection of good deeds or extraordinary acts of righteousness, can earn us entrance into God’s kingdom. Salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8–9). This truth is difficult, at least for those of us coming from a Western perspective, because we are so conditioned to believe in merit-based economies. What is more “American” than believing hard work leads to great reward? But the kingdom of God is radically different, and if we don’t buy into this truth, we may work so hard to earn our salvation that we miss out on the fact that it has already been earned for us!
When we come to realize that our works don’t save us, we will find rest in the finished work of Christ (Hebrews 4:10). Still, we must not lose our fervor for the God of our salvation and the gospel. God Himself called work “good” in the garden (Genesis 1:31). And so, it is important for us to work diligently, too—in our vocations and callings, loving and serving others well, bearing God’s image to the world. It is a call and responsibility of Christian living to steward the gifts of God well.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, Paul is cautioning his readers against lazy living, while also reminding them of how he lived and served among them (vv.7–9). The point is clear: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat,” he tells them (v.10). Paul has been made aware that some are relying on the generosity and work of others to sustain and provide for them, while their own hands remain idle. It’s not that they are unable to work. According to Paul, “They are not busy but busybodies,” to which he exhorts “such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves” (vv.11–12). But to the faithful who have remained productive and may be discouraged by the idleness of some in their community, Paul says, “As for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good” (v.13).
Do not grow weary in doing good. What a deeply encouraging command from the apostle Paul. It can be easy to grow weary in this world. God knows this, and He equips us with everything good to do the work He’s called us to do (Hebrews 13:21). We do not work for our salvation, yet faithful work blooms out of a life that has been purchased by the finished work of Jesus, rooted in a deep love and affection for Him (Ephesians 3:16–19).
We must remember this: work accomplished for the kingdom does not happen apart from the King Himself (John 15:1–5). Plumbers fix pipes to the glory of God. Teachers grade papers to the glory of God. Fathers read bedtime stories to the glory of God. Husbands comfort their wives to the glory of God. The Christian life calls us to work with diligence, stewarding our relationships, gifts, and opportunities well. While work requires our best efforts, the burden is infinitely easier, lighter, when our gaze remains on our faithful God (Matthew 11:30). So do not grow weary, friends. Remember that God is with us.