Michael Youssef - End of History and You - Part 7
America that had showed the world the power of what social scientists called, "The Protestant work ethic," with all of its hard work and labor, with all of its taking personal responsibility, with all of its diligent and hard work, with all of its purpose of succeeding so that we may help others succeed, all of that is now shifting and giving way to those who can work but refuse to work, yet they demand that those who work are penalized for their hard work. And today, I'm gonna show you that this kind of attitude is totally contrary to the Word of God. To make things worse, we have so many opportunist politicians on both side of the aisle, and with some misguided churchmen, by the way, who are going around claiming that Jesus and the early church have promoted socialism. That cannot be further from the truth.
Many of Jesus' parables teach us the importance of hard and diligent work, the importance of accomplishments, the importance of free-will giving. This business of taking away by force from those who work hard, squander it on some government program, as we are seeing these days very clearly, is contrary to the Scripture. Not only that socialism is anti-Bible and anti-Christian, it destroys the very dignity with which God has created us. I have lived 15 years of my early life where I have seen this in practice, taking place in front of my own eyes, where the government came in and began to take and take and take and then take some more. First, they enriched themselves. Then they gave the crumbs to their cronies. They called it, "Socialism". Until a nation that was the breadbasket of that region became a basket case.
I know probably some of you are saying, "Oh, Michael, wait a minute, Michael, Michael, this is politics. You're not preaching politics, are you, Michael"? No, I'm not. "After all, isn't the Christian faith is about worship and singing and praying and witnessing and giving? Sure, you can preach on stewardship, and you challenge people to give to the work of God, and help the poor, and help the needy, that's okay. Surely, you can preach about having faith and trust in God, but what are you getting into here"? Listen very carefully, please. This is very important because there's a big problem in our churches today. There's a big problem among the Christian community today. We have developed in the churches such pietistic view of Christianity that has left out one of the most important aspects of life, one of the most important aspects of our existence, namely, work.
We have falsely taught that God belongs to Sunday, and then the rest of the week belongs to us or to our employer, belongs to somebody else. It's plainly wrong. All of the week belongs to God. Every moment of every hour of every day belong to God. And that is why the Apostle Paul concludes his second epistle to the Thessalonians focusing on that one important aspect of life, namely, work. And if you look at the passage, you can turn to it with me, 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, beginning at verse 6 all the way to the end. This is the concluding in the series of messages "The End of History & You," from 2 Thessalonians. And in this passage, Paul actually goes as far as to say that, "Those who are able to work but refuse to work," as are distinct from those who can't get a job, okay?
I want to be clear on that. I don't want anybody to misunderstand me. You're with me? Can I get a witness? He is talking about the person who can work, and there is work, but refuse to work, he says, "Should be ostracized". Let's just be up front with each other here. Some Christians have a truly magnificent wrong view of work. They really do. They see it as a drudgery. They see it as a curse. They see it as something, you know, they just have to do. And it's symbolized in the bumper sticker that says, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go". No, I'm privileged to go to work. Such perspective on work is not only totally contrary to the Word of God, but it robs human beings of their God-given instinctive value that comes from work. It devalues the honor of work. It displayed disdain for that which God calls, "Good".
You see, historically speaking, when the Christian faith burst upon the Roman Empire, Romans and Greeks both had such a poor view of work and labor, they did. They view it as beneath their dignity, never dignified it. And yet, the Bible, from cover to cover, tells us that hard work, ownership, productivity, providing employment, producing profits, are all should be done for the glory of God. You see, I know the word "profit" is a dirty word, but that Bible... I mean, how many of you know the parable of the talent? And Jesus praised the one who doubled and took ten, brought ten. The other one brought five. He condemned only the one who did nothing. Why? Because God created man with an instinctive desire to work hard, with an instinctive desire to produce, with the instinctive desire to conserve and to earn, and, yes, to own. But why? Because when we faithfully work, we are imitators of God because God worked.
Jesus said, "I work, and my Father works". And when we are imitators of God, we bring glory to God. Can I get a witness? The Bible said in Genesis 1:31 that: "God saw all of his work, he saw all that he made, he saw all of his handiwork, and he said it was very good". He saw his handiwork, and he was pleased. God blessed his work. God blesses our work. And we believe in ownership because God is the owner of everything, and he lets us own something. Not for selfish reasons. Not so we can grab for everything we can. No, so that we too can help others. So that we too can help others stand on their own feet. Ephesians 5:1, Paul said: "Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children". In fact, when we take ownership, we bring joy to the heart of God. For we work for God first, not for the boss.
You see it clearly in the book of Ecclesiastes. When Solomon found himself looking at things from a human perspective, from his own eyes, not from God's perspective, when he got into the flesh, not the spirit, among other things, he messed up royally. But among other things, he saw labor and work as a curse. But then when he comes in under God's authority and he begins to see things, see life, see work from God's point of view, he said in chapter 3, verse 13: "Work is a gift of God". And in the New Testament, we learn that work is a spiritual duty. It really is. It is an opportunity for us to glorify God. It is an opportunity for us to glorify the Lord. Obviously, in that particular church in Thessalonica, there were some idle people. There were some in the congregation who were leeching off the congregation. And Paul doesn't tell us why.
The important thing is that their idleness is a sin that needed to be repented of. That's really the point of it. He is seeking for those people to repent of their sin of idleness. In fact, in these two letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, this issue has been mentioned three times. And in this passage, the final passage of 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, the Apostle Paul gives us six incentives to motivate those who are practicing the sin of laziness to repent of their sins and go to work. First, ostracism by disfellowshipping with the idle person. In modern-day language, we'd say, "Diss 'em". If Paul's speaking in the vernacular, he'd say, "Diss those folks". Secondly, Paul uses his own life example as an incentive, his own life model. Thirdly, hunger, fourthly, harmony, fifth, shame, and number six is love.
Let's look at them very, very quickly. Ostracism, Paul here is not giving them a suggestion. He's giving them a command. And it is not a command from his own apostolic authority, but it's a command from the authority of Jesus himself. Listen to what he said, "We command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, ostracize such a person". The word here means, "keep away from such a person, avoid such a person, pull back from such a person". The sentimentality that we are living in today, we have turned all biblical injunctions upside down. In fact, in Matthew 18, the Lord Jesus Christ, this ostracism is the third step in a three-step program.
In Matthew 18, Jesus said, "You go to the person and you talk to them one on one. If they refuse to repent, you go in the presence of witnesses and you talk to that person. If still refuse to repent, then you ostracize them. It's the third stage, before you pull back, before you let the person know that this is what you're going to do". Paul is saying, "Those who can work and refuse to work are unruly". That's the word he used, "unruly," in some of your translations. It means "out of line" or "out of order" or "contrary to Scripture".
Then he gives them the second incentive by using his personal example, his own life. Paul sought not to be a burden upon the Thessalonians. He had every right, as he said, to live off the preaching of the gospel, and he did receive from other churches that supported him. But he saw that this congregation cannot take it. They cannot take the burden. And he did not wanna be an extra burden on them and so he's saying this, "Lazy people, don't you be a burden upon that congregation either". I have struggled with this just about all my life, but certainly, I've struggled with the issue of setting an example in my personal devotional time and in personal walk with God. Because there is no use asking somebody to put on the hours if I'm not putting the hours myself.
There is no use me standing here and telling you the blessings of pouring into God, not just the tithe, which is only a beginning, but double and triple, and test God like he said. Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given back to you, heaped over". And there's no use, I tell you, that I'm standing here saying to you, "There are blessings I can't explain to you". There are blessings untold when you stop nickling and diming God. Should you give the tithe after the taxes, before the taxes, but become a hilarious giver? I cannot tell you the blessings without having experienced it myself.
Example is a powerful thing, and so, Paul goes on to give us a third incentive, verse 10, hunger, hunger. I know Paul is brutally honest here when he said that "anyone who has work, can work, refuse to work, should not eat". I know a lot of people, I heard them, they say, "Oh, this is harsh". But to tell you the truth, I think this verse need to be put on top of the labor department in Washington, D.C., amen, amen, amen. Governments, by nature, are in the business of power grab, just by nature. It doesn't matter what kind of a government it is. I don't care what your politics is. It's just the nature of government with the Roman government, the American... by nature, government loves to neutralize the church, loves to replace the church.
The reason government should not take over the work of the church is because governments end up helping those who can work and refuse to work. Because the government cannot hold people accountable, but the church can. Because the government ends up helping themselves and wasting their money on themselves and the bloated bureaucracies. Because government ends up really not helping those in real need. Those with real need, they get lost in the shuffle because they don't know the system. They don't know how it works. I thank God for faithful government employees, and there are many godly Christians who are working for government. But you know and I know the injustices that comes from these bloated bureaucracies.
The fourth incentive the Apostle Paul uses here is harmony. Look at verses 11, 12, and 13. What does harmony got to do with this? Oh, he said, "Because those who are not busy working hard, they become busybodies". That is not my word, it's his words. He said, "They become busybodies". And busybodies tend to destroy the unity and the harmony of the body of Christ. The idle are always gossiping, and gossip always creates disharmony and disunity and discord. And the danger of these deadbeats, Paul is saying, is they're not only creating disharmony, but they cause the hardworking believers to become unable to judge who is really needy and who is not.
And the problem is, when people get jaded and weary and tired, and then they tend to tie everybody with the same brush. And we must never, never, never, never do that. We must always focus on those who are in need, and we must always be ready to help those who are in need and cannot help themselves. It is of vital importance that you get this. It is of vital importance you understand this because we are called of God to help the genuinely needy. We are called of God to give generously to those who are truly in need. We are called of God to care for those who truly cannot take care of themselves. That's the Word of God.
And then the fifth incentive that Paul uses, verse 14, is shame. Shame those spongers. He doesn't use the word "spongers". Now, I wanna be sure that you understand what I'm saying, what he's saying, you know? He' saying, "Individually and collectively, that person who is refusing to work should be ashamed". We don't use that word anymore, I know. But it's a powerful, biblical word. Why? What is the purpose? Why does Paul want a person to be ashamed? Ahh, so that it may lead them to repentance. That's the whole purpose of it. It's not to punish, but it's to lead to repentance. The very purpose of discipline, which is a dirty word in most churches today, is to lead people to repentance. Well, how else you protect the flock from predators? Shaming someone can be a very powerful motivation.
When I was a rebellious teenager, belonging to a family that was not only well known in the city, but it was known for its godliness, I was always reminded of the shame that I'm bringing to the family name. And let me testify to you right now, even in my rebellion, that was a powerful motivator. Six, verse 15, Paul made sure, before he leaves this subject, that we must never hate that person. Don't personally resent that person. Don't deal angrily with such a person, but rather, lovingly admonish that person. Galatians 6:1, the Apostle Paul said, "If someone is caught in sin, who you are spiritual should," do what? "Restore him gently". Our motive must always be longing to restore an individual, always. We long for a person to repent and turn to the Lord, and then we'll open our arms and welcome them.
And that is why Paul concludes with a prayer for the believers in the church of Thessalonica, a prayer that "the Lord of peace grant them peace in all circumstances," with peace and grace of God that can only come to the person who is trusting and believing the loving, sovereign God. As history moves toward its own end, as we wait for the revelation of Christ coming, as we await the final stage of redemption, he said, "During that time of waiting, the peace and the grace of God will be abide in the obedient child". How? Because God himself is at peace with himself.
That's who he is. He is at peace with himself. God is never under stress. God is never worried. God is never anxious. God is never fearful. God is never unsure. God is never threatened. He's always at perfect peace and harmony within himself, and that's the kind of peace that Paul is praying there would be for every obedient child of the living God, that all of the turmoil that Satan throw us in and the circumstances throw us in will never disturb our inward peace. For it is the grace of God that found us in our sin. It is the grace of God that saved us from sin. It is the grace of God that sustains us all the way until we get home to heaven, amen, amen. Peace and grace.