A Labor of Love
Loving Father, incline my heart towards You today. As I seek You in Your Word, I know You will find me.
Read 1 TIMOTHY 5:17-6:2
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“It is hardly an exaggeration to say that what the world needs more than anything else is men and women who are ready, prepared and willing to do an honest day’s work” (William Barclay).
Work. If you are reading this first thing in the morning, I am sorry to remind you of it. Today’s passage describes some important attitudes to the subject. First, in the Church there is a great deal of hard work to be done. Paul uses the word in v. 17 for hard labor. Preaching and teaching, especially in the hazardous environment of a pluralistic culture with many threats from false teaching, takes enormous effort (or at least, it should). Such workers need support, moral and financial, and their hard labor deserves respect and appropriate honor (17,18). True, they are servants of the Church, not little tin gods; yet there is sufficient evidence of stress and burnout among pastors and Christian workers to encourage us to reflect carefully on Paul’s exhortations.
Second, the passage comments on another arena for hard work: in society. Paul urges slaves to give appropriate respect to their masters, as a matter of consistent witness (6:1). In our context, how Christians act towards their employers is a similar expression of our faith and witness. Interpreting the passage is not straightforward. Why did Paul apparently tolerate the system of slavery? For one thing, he lived at a time when nearly one third of the population was slaves. But we should not underestimate his subversive teaching. Elsewhere he underlined the equality of all, slave and free alike, (Gal. 3:28) and here, significantly, he describes Christian slaves and masters as “fellow-believers” (6:2). It seems his main concern here is to ensure that there is no compromise of Christian witness.
The practical guidance for work in both Church and society will need appropriate application to our context. But we should not neglect the important principle that respect and honor need to be demonstrated where they are due so that God’s name is honored.
Think of ways you and your church can help those who are unemployed, or underemployed. What ways can help be given to their families?
Gracious God, I remember fellow Christians who are dealing with overbearing superiors, feeling isolated for their faith, or struggling with understanding their job. Give them grace and wisdom.