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The Work of Your Hands

The Work of Your Hands

Words of Faith 3-26-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Thessalonians 4

    [11] Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, [12] so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.


       No. We are not quite done with this little text yet.  Yesterday we heard from Paul that there is a great blessing in a quiet life that is undisturbed and not noisy, and a careful life that does not push into other people's business.  He also commended industrious work. 

       For Paul, it was clear that working with one's own hands demonstrated the brotherly love he had been teaching because a self-supporting person is not a burden to others. Paul himself set the example by working with his hands when he was in Thessalonica (1 Thes. 2:9).  

      This verse is significant because it dignifies manual labor.  It is likely that many, if not most, of the people in the church at Thessalonica, came out of the working class of that city. Greek culture deplored manual labor and relegated it to slaves as much as possible, but Judaism held work in high esteem. 

      Every Jewish boy was taught a trade regardless of his family's wealth.  Every Jewish girl learned the many skills of homemaking.  Jesus was a carpenter and probably a stone cutter by trade and training. He most likely worked construction with His hands more than anything else before beginning His public ministry.  

      Paul commends this type of work ethic. The Bible teaches that work itself is a blessing, and working with one's hands should never be despised by Christians. Paul saw diligent work as an expression of brotherly love because a person who is willing to work with his hands humbles himself to provide for his own needs and opens the door for giving to others.  While we are not to be fiercely independent of others, it is a good thing to provide for oneself.

       In modern life, diligent work surely includes the work of the mind and ideas.  For those who do not literally work with their hands, we might hear this verse in a very different way.  When we work with our minds in the world of ideas, design, business, management or finance, there is something renewing about working taking time to "with one's own hands."

       If you think about it, many people find something very re-creative in hobbies such as carpentry, carving, woodturning, crafting, cropping, gardening, auto-repair, home-renovation, painting, landscaping, and other "hands-on" work.  There is something sincere and rewarding about working with one's own hands. 
      The "work of our hands" is also something that that can be offered to our neighbors, our church community and our missionary partners.  A hands-on project at a local church can save thousands of dollars.  A hands-on Church Work Day can be an immensely bonding experience.

      There is great gratification to be found mixing concrete with a shovel (hard labor to be sure!) in a developing nation to build a school, church or orphanage.  Some of my most memorable and powerful spiritual experiences have been with professional people as we set rebar, hauled buckets of concrete, or created a make-shift clinic at a mission location.   

        Of course, at the heart of this, Paul was calling all Christians to be productive and self-supporting if this is at all possible.  Scholars and historians suggest that some early Christians had apparently decided to take up the lifestyle of traveling philosophers who begged for support.  Begging on the street was typically practiced by only the poorest "people of the land" who had no property.  Some may have been attracted to the lifestyle of begging adopted by the "Cynic philosophers" of ancient Greece.

         The "Cynic" philosophers were anti-worldly wanderers who expressed independence from social needs by begging.  Cynics typically owned only the barest necessities-- a cloak, staff, and begging purse-- and often greeted passersby with harsh, antisocial words.  This was not the sort of lifestyle that Paul advocated for Christian believers.

        Paul discouraged the Thessalonians from expecting financial favors from the brethren merely because they were fellow Christians. This was not to promote a fierce spirit of independence. There indeed are times when we need financial help of the Body of Christ.  Paul was not saying that every Christian must become completely self-sufficient but he was advocating personal responsibility and he saw this as a manifestation of mature Christian love for the brethren.

        Paul made it clear that when brotherly love is observed in a community, this is a witness and testimony that will draw the attention of non-Christians and so glorify the Lord. Love of this kind is appreciated by everyone. Paul placed importance on the testimony of Christians before outsiders, unbelievers. This kind of behavior also wins the respect of Christians. People appreciate those who do not take advantage of them.

         What are you doing with the "work of your hands"?  Are you diligent in your work?  Are you making a home that shines with the love of Jesus?  Are you finding renewal in some creative art or constructive labor?  Are you extending love to others in the Body by the work of your hands?  Are you offering yourself to your church family or the mission of Christ?  Is the work of your hands a testimony to the glory of Christ in your life?


     Father God, I offer to You the work of my hands, my mind, and my heart.  Show me the way of diligence in the path You have called me to.  Show me the places of renewal that You have for me through the work of my hands.  Show me the gifts that you desire for me to give to others through the work of my hands.  In Jesus' name.