A different kind of “street service”
Hebrews 13: God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship…that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.
We’re not sure who is the writer of Hebrews, but this chapter (and not just the Timothy, Italy, and prison references) feels a whole lot like Paul’s writings. As he closes the letter, as Paul does, the writer tosses in a lot of one line instructions. As a reader, what I get out of a chapter like this depends a lot on what’s happening in my life right now. Tomorrow I might read it again and have a different “one-liner” jump out at me. Anyway, the instruction to take our faith out of the church and into the streets stands out to me. Christians are to be generous people who not only respond to needs when we’re confronted with them, but who actively go out and seek those in need that we might minister to them in Christ’s name. I tend to think of “worship” as what takes place on Sunday mornings inside the church building. In this passage I’m reminded that God really likes it when I make my “sacrifices” (an Old Testament style of worship) outside the church building and into my everyday life; at home, at work, and out in the general public. In-church worship is important, a vital part of living in Christ. Out-of-church worship is just as important as I take Jesus in practical ways to those “out there.”
Take Away: Worship inside the church and service outside the church are both vital parts of Christianity.
Dealing with freeloaders
2Thessalonians 3: If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
Having dealt with the issue concerning the Second Coming Paul turns his attention to a more immediate concern. From the establishment of the Church years earlier, Christians have been wonderfully generous. That’s true concerning their relationship with outsiders but even truer of their relationship with one another. The Church is like a family with each person valued, loved, and cared for. Some are more materially blessed than others but in blessing some the Lord has blessed all. However, that mutuality has drawn some to their number who come to get rather than to share. This, apparently, has been a problem from the beginning. Paul reminds them that twenty years earlier when he was their pastor that he set an example of pulling his share of the load and also had a rule in place that everyone else did the same. This was such an important concept that Paul sat an example: working his fingers to the bone for the church and then moonlighting to help with the expenses of the church. It’s a balancing act in which those who have genuine needs are cared for but at the same time those who won’t do their part are encouraged to do so. It’s a challenge for the Thessalonians and it’s a change for the church today. On one hand, we have “no work, no eat.” On the other hand we have the instruction to not “treat him as an enemy.” The Apostle tells them to sit down with such a person and explain to them that we may not all be able to contribute an equal amount but we can all do whatever it is that we can do. Allowing people to be freeloaders in the church (and, I think in society as well) isn’t doing them a favor.
Take Away: We need the wisdom of the Lord to show compassion to those who need a helping hand and at the same time insist people do what they are capable of doing to care for themselves.