Come Into the Field

Read Matthew 9:35-38

For centuries, the economy of the United States was agrarian. The farming of our nation’s fertile land and raising of livestock was the bedrock of the economy and life in general. It required many hands to raise the necessary food to sustain a growing population. Whether directly involved in planting, tending, or managing the agricultural components, or not, every person was reliant upon agriculture in some fashion. When the industrial age arrived, the number of individuals needed to run the farms was reduced by the efficiency of new machinery and technology. People migrated off of farms and into cities where industry and service fields flourished. While agriculture continues to be vital to our survival, the number of individuals actively engaged in it is greatly reduced.

Jesus uses an agricultural reference in today’s passage from Matthew. Speaking to his disciples, who were actively engaged in forms of agriculture, Jesus tells them to request from God a number of laborers to work in the field of humanity. It is clear that Jesus says this as he has just witnessed the magnitude of the needs of humanity. Jesus is acutely aware that it will take a large number of people to actively address the needs of the multitudes. Only by responding to the needs will the people be ready to comprehend the message of grace which Jesus has come to share.

While we maybe two thousand years removed from the time in which Jesus shared these words, the situation remains much the same. There are still thousands of people who have needs which prevent them from hearing the Good News. We are these workers who the Lord desires to send out. Whether it be in our own neighborhoods or in another country, the harvest is abundant and just waiting for us to come and do the work. All of this begins by each of us addressing the needs of those around us. If each of us makes an effort, the work can be less burdensome. When we take care of the needs of a person, we make them more receptive to hear about the Lord’s loving grace.

Good Work Ethic

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching[a] you 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, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

17 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

Growing up in an agricultural state in the Midwest gave me the opportunity to be trained in the Midwest work ethics. These work ethics came out of the agrarian necessities which were brought to the middle of our nation by settlers ofPuritan descent. If you  have ever spent significant time around agriculture, you quickly become aware that physical work is the only way a farmer can be successful. Modern technology may have eased some of the burden but there still is a need for hands-on activity. Everyone on a farm must do their share of the workload. The raising of crops and/or livestock is an everyday, multiple-hours type of labor effort. Idleness is not a part of the Midwestern work ethic.

Paul writes to a group of believers who are in transition from a solely agrarian culture to one which is starting to include tradesmen and merchants. He is addressing an obvious concern which has arisen among the believers in Thessaloniki. Apparently some individuals have been neglecting their portion of work and living off the generosity of others. Paul lifts up two concerns. The first concern is that idleness leaves room for disruptive behavior. The second concern is that idleness is selfish and unfair to those who labor to provide. Paul instructs the believers on what can be referred to as the Midwestern work ethic. He indicates that only by doing one’s fairshare of work can one expect to receive from the bounty.

Today the work ethic of our ancestors is under threat. Some people have developed an entitlement viewpoint which communicates an expectation of receiving just because of (fill in the blank). Our generation is not the first to see this viewpoint, the royalty of previous generations had such an attitude. As Paul points out, this is unfair to all who participate in the work of the community.

An even bigger concern is what people do with their idle time. Paul shows that idle time is a playground in which disruption can easily take place. This disruption has a negative impact upon our communities and on the very lives of the one’s being idle.

Whether we call it a Midwestern work ethic or not, the direction Paul places before us is helpful for our society and for us personally. Let us encourage one another to work beside each other for the benefit of ourselves and our communities.