Michael Youssef - Look Up When Others Are Looking Down - Part 4
Turn with me, please, to 2 Thessalonians. And those of you who are visiting, this is the last in a series of four messages from the letter of Paul, second letter to the Thessalonians. This is the fourth in the series, the last in the series, and this is chapter 3, verses 6 through 18. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", it's now Paul speaking, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who's idle and does not live according to the teaching you have received from us. For you, yourselves, know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labored and toiled so that we would not be a burden on any one of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. But even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If any man will not work, he should not eat.'"
I think this motto should be on every building in Washington, DC, yeah. "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy. They are busybodies. Such people we command and urge, in the Lord Jesus Christ, to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him". He's taking names. "Do not be associated with him, in order that he may be ashamed. Yet, do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace in all times and in every way. The Lord be with you. I, Paul..."
Now, remember, I told you the false teachers were circulating letters, forgeries, and they're saying they're from Paul, with false teaching. So, he makes sure that they understand this. So, here's the last verse. He said, "I, Paul, write these greetings in my own hand, which is a distinguishing mark in all my letters. This now I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all". This is not the most popular message in our basket case culture. Now, you know and I know there are many people who view work as a necessary evil, just generally speaking. They just think work is just a necessary evil. And it's like some years ago I saw a bumper sticker that says, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go". Well, that's just not correct. But even there are Christians, there's some Christian believers who mistakenly believe that work is a curse that is associated with Adam's sin and fall to enter sin. But if they really understand the Scripture, if they look at Genesis chapter 2 very carefully, they will discover that it is not so.
In Genesis 2:15, before the fall, before Adam and Eve sinned, here's what God said. "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden," to do what? "To work and take care of it". Before Adam sinned, before the fall, Adam was working in the garden, and that work was honorable. That work was healthy. That work was pleasurable. It was only after Adam and Eve have sinned that there was some changes in the environment of work, not the work itself, but in the nature of the earth itself. Changes have taken place after sin, changes in the weather, changes in crop failures, changing of... this whole environment change that took place after sin, but not the essence of work, not the very purpose for work. God created us to work. I'm going to show you that work makes us, one of the things that makes us truly created in God's own image.
Work is never a curse. It's a blessing, it's a blessing. I'm personally convinced that the believers in heaven, they're not gonna be sitting on clouds harping on something, but they'll be working in heaven. Here's a historical fact. When the Christian faith burst into the scene in the pagan Roman empire, Christians elevated the status of honest work, of hard work. That was not known in pagan Rome. The Greco-Roman culture viewed physical labor as beneath their dignity. And so what they did, they imported, the Roman empire imported two million slaves. They did everything. And we talk about slaves in the Bible, teachers, doctors, they imported everybody. By contrast, the Bible, from cover to cover, teaches hard work. Hard work, productivity, investments, ownership, job creation, honest profit, and prosperity are all honorable and consistent with the righteousness of God. But there's even more. When we work, we imitate God, we imitate God and bring glory to him. God, the Bible said, worked for six days and then rested on the seventh day.
Question: Why does our imitation of God bring him glory? I'm going to tell you: because when we are industrious, creative, productive, we reflect the character of God in our lives, amen? Conversely, those who are able to work, can work, but refuse to work, they are not only dishonoring themselves, but they're dishonoring their Creator. In our passage here, 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, verse 6, "In the name of Jesus Christ, we command you," what? "To keep away from every brother," that's a believer, obviously, a brother is a believer, "who is idle and does not live according to the teaching he receives from us". See, Paul is invoking no less than the authority of Jesus Christ himself.
Now, here's a simple principle we should always remember, okay? Write it down. What you tax, you get less of. You got that? What you tax, you get less of. What you subsidize, you get more of. Very simple, right? Simple? Do I need to explainify it more? I will. When you tax work and productivity and punish work and productivity, you get less work and productivities. And when you subsidize laziness, dependence, you get more laziness and dependence. In other words, you're destroying the God-given likeness of God in us, as his creation, because God-honoring industriousness is stamped on our being who are created in God's own image. Genesis 1:31, "God saw all he had made, and it was very good". It was very good. God was pleased with his handiwork. He was pleased with the fruit of his labor. God, as the landlord of creation, took delight in his ownership of the created universe.
Here's a summary of a biblical view of work. Listen carefully. I'm going to give you a summary. Here's the truly biblical view of work. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you must take ownership of your work. Did you get that? You must take ownership of your work. Listen to what Paul said in Colossians chapter 3, verse 23. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for," whom? "The Lord". Not your human boss. To the Lord. You're ultimately working for the real boss, who sees you 24/7; 24/7, he's watching you. And when you understand this, you will work with absolute integrity and honesty. You will not shortcut, because you are working for yourself first and then for the Lord. Because in the long run, God is the one who truly rewards you. God is the one who truly can reward you and faithfully reward you, and reward your diligent faithfulness.
When you take ownership in your work, whatever it might be, in the factory floor, in the office, wherever you are, when you take ownership, when you see your work from God's perspective, then and only then you'll receive satisfaction, you receive fulfillment, you receive contentment. And, beloved, satisfaction, contentment is all gift of God, gift of God. And that's also why if when your earthly boss, your human boss unfairly treats you, you can be at peace. You can be at peace because your real boss sees everything, he knows everything, and he is the only one who can reward you accordingly. Paul could confidently say, verse 10, 3:10, 2 Thessalonians, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'" Somebody's gonna say, "Michael, this is harsh. This is unloving"!
I said an emotional basket case culture; that's... operates on feelings. "Harsh". They're more kind than God. Isn't that amazing? But listen, this is truly the height of love. It is the height of love. Sometimes the worst thing you can do for some people is to shower them with compassion, is to meet all of their needs, is to solve all of their problems; why? Because you are replacing God and their dependence on God. Let me hasten to say, this does not mean, it does not mean, I want you to not miss this. Don't miss this. It does not mean that there are not people who have genuine needs. I want to keep emphasizing this, because I don't want anybody to walk outside and say, "Michael hates the poor". Huh? In the church at Thessalonica, obviously, there were some who were lazy and unproductive, some who were freeloading on the hardworking people. And the believers in that church were feeding these freeloaders.
The goal of any church discipline should be repentance and redemption, period. And that is why Paul uses the power of example. He said, verses 7 and 8, he said, "When I was with you, I wasn't idle. I had to work. And you saw how I lived". The example of Christians is very important. Listen, I cannot preach to my kids, growing up at the time, you know, good work ethics when I'm lazing off and putting my feet up and not working. I can't tell you, as my beloved congregation, "This is what the Word of God says," and now I'm taking it easy. I'm gonna go to heaven running, I'm gonna... Beloved, I believe with all my heart that we can witness with our lives as much as we witness with our words.
In the last message, we saw how the apostle's burden for the church was stability. Remember that? Stability. It's always been the burden of the apostle Paul, and you see it in all his writings. Stability and harmony in the church was very important to the apostle Paul. And that is why he writes here, verses 11 and 12, he says, "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive". And disruptive. "They are not busy working but busybodies. Such people we command," not suggest, "command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat". I love the contrast. The English translators who did this did a fabulous job, because I love the contrast between the busy and the busybodies. I love that. People who are busy working, they do not have time to be disruptive and divisive in the body of Christ.
Lazy people seem to have all the time in the world to go around sowing discord, spreading gossips, making nuisance of themselves. And that, my beloved friends, causes destabilization in the church. Another way that these idle folks bring dishonor to the church of Jesus Christ is that they make it difficult for the church to distinguish between the truly needy and the ones who are not. We are called, this might be the fourth time I've said this, okay? We are called to give with generosity to those who cannot care for themselves. Finally, the apostle Paul uses a terminology here that we have completely disavowed in our modern-day culture. That's because we're confused. We are very confused regarding the concept of shame. The word shame is mentioned here deliberately by the apostle. Verse 14, "Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed".
I want to explain this to you in a way that you must understand it. What we have done, because we don't like that word, we threw the baby with the bath water and made the word to be bad. But you know what? Really, there is a good reason why it's negative. There's a good reason why this word is a negative word, and I'm going to tell you why. Because, you've gotta hear me right on this one. It is tragic, it is tragic when children, or even adults, become emotionally paralyzed due to what I call toxic shame. It's a tragedy, it's a tragedy, especially shame that they do not deserve, especially shame that was inflicted on them by abusers. But having the capacity to feel shame, even when it's between you and the Lord, it's a good thing. It's a good, there are times when I'm even alone, when I blurt something, if I'm watching something, and I say, I'll stop.
I said, "Lord, I'm so embarrassed that even came out of my mouth". And if I say it in front of people, I immediately tell them that, and I repent, because I'm ashamed that I would even allow my mind and words come out of my mouth like that. But if it leads to repentance, it's a healthy shame, not toxic shame. When Adam and Eve sinned, when they realized that they were naked, what did they try to do? They covered up their sin. Didn't work. Sin only has one cure, and that is confession and repentance; one cure to sin, all sin. Verse 15, "You do not regard these as enemies, but warn him as a brother". Love, genuine love, real love, biblical love has to be our ultimate motive. It has to be our ultimate motive, nothing else.
In Galatians 6:1, Paul said, "If someone is caught in sin, that person is to be restored gently". Sadly, there are many legalistic churches, of which I know some, who would shoot their woundeds, and they shoot their woundeds instead of restoring them gently. It is loving restoration that we must, must, must long for and practice, why? Because just as we rejoice in the fact that our heavenly Father forgave us all our sins, when we repent, when we repent, now, if a person does not repent and is not repentant, that's a whole different ball game. We want them to rejoice when we forgive them, just as we rejoice in our own forgiveness when we repent.