"For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work — he shall not eat!" 2 Thessalonians 3:10
The Gospel is directly opposed to all sin; and in proportion as we drink into its spirit — shall we hate sin, and regulate our lives by its precepts.
Idleness is a sin. Man was formed for labor; he is required to work, and the God who made him says, "If a man will not work — he shall not eat!"
There always have been some idle professors, who seem to imagine that they were born to live upon the industry of others; they creep into churches, plead their poverty, and by various artifices they impose upon the benevolent, and rob the industrious poor of what belongs to them. The alms of the church should be given to the aged, the sick, and the industrious poor. It is our sin, if we allow our benevolence to sanction idleness. We either ought to know whom we relieve, or employ others to dispense our alms who will inquire into cases, and give judiciously. A godly man would much rather work than beg; it is always a pleasure to him to earn what he eats and wears; but it pains him to be obliged to receive from others, and he is always grateful when he does.
But some professors are never satisfied, and therefore they are never grateful; they speak and eat as if they thought the saints were under an obligation to them, because they profess religion; they have the mercenary spirit of the slave — but are destitute of the generous spirit of the child.
We should beware, lest we encourage idleness on the one hand — or allow the impositions of the unworthy to dry up the streams of our benevolence on the other hand. Some seem to want an argument, to satisfy their consciences, while they live in the neglect of the exercise of benevolence — and unworthy characters furnish them with one. But such should remember, that the precepts of the gospel still bind them, even if their kindness has been abused. They should realize that what they have given has not been thrown away, for God looks at our motives, records our good deeds, and "will not forget our work of faith and labor of love."
It is best, if possible, to employ the poor, if they are in health, or at least to offer them employment; to visit them at home, and see if there is cleanliness and frugality; for here, even some professors are very deficient. They would rather fold their hands, and spend their time in talk — than clean their dwellings or mend their clothes; such must not be encouraged — it is a sin to do so. "If a man will not work — he shall not eat!" Our attention should principally be directed to the aged poor, the sick, and those who have large families without wages, or insufficient employment; there are plenty of such, who require and deserve our assistance.
But as for those who dress above their station, indulge their appetites, and waste their time in visiting and talk — such should be reproved, and be told plainly of their inconsistencies, first with gentleness and kindness; and if this has not the desired effect — then with sharpness, as those who live in sin because they love it.
Let no one think that the precept at the head of this piece is unduly severe — it is not; but it is absolutely necessary, and expresses the will of God respecting all idle professors. Work is pleasant to the industrious, and labor is always conducive to health; it keeps us out of the way, of temptation, and preserves from a thousand snares! No one can be happy — who is not employed. No one is at liberty to waste precious time; talents were not given to be wrapped up in a napkin, and hidden in the earth — all are to be employed, for themselves, or for others, or for the Lord.
Idleness is a sin with which Satan was never charged, and of which every professor should be ashamed.
"If a man will not work — he shall not eat!" If this precept was obeyed — idle professors would be very few!