“For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 NRSV
Although the stationary fishing boats above stand as sentries parallel to Landing Road, those who work on these boats know full well the meaning of hard work.
Work ethic is something many generations like to talk about. Grandma talks about her father, my Great Grandpa Osterhoudt, working on the Ontario and Western Railroad, where full days became full weeks. He would later serve as the manager of the Kyserike Creamery in Ellenville, NY, where he would produce milk for hundreds of families throughout the community. Milk was a constant part of his day, and there are milk cans in our homes to this day which represent his loyalty to this company. I cherish the memories I have as a youngster, sitting across his kitchen table, watching him eat Kellogg’s Corn Flakes for a late night snack – which I proudly continue to practice with my own bowl to this day.
I suppose many of you could share stories about someone instilling within you a strong work ethic, of the importance of a good day’s work, and giving your best every day you showed up to earn your paycheck.
Papa (my grandpa), was a NY State Corrections Officer. Grandma served on the production line at the local pharmaceutical company, the very same place Dad worked in distribution for his career. Uncle Frank was a NY State Senior Labor Standards Investigator, making sure employers were being fair to their employees. Jack Sherwin, Jackie’s father, grew up on a farm and then worked for 30 years at Reynolds Aluminum Company in Massena, NY. Aunt Ella and Uncle Charles worked their dairy farm their entire lives.
I don’t recall these loving family members complaining about their work, and they were thankful for the work which supported their livelihoods. Everybody had this attitude to work hard at what you were called to do, and appreciate the relationships you had with your work colleagues. Bowling teams were often work friends. Shared meals with other families were often with work colleagues. Camping trips very often involved work friends. Work and life seemed to be in good balance for those I looked up to as a youngster.
Maybe that’s what Paul is getting at with his letter to the Thessalonians. There’s nothing gained with idleness. Within our own baptismal vows, we promise to faithfully participate in the ministries of the church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. These vows do not leave space for idleness. Susanna Wesley, who gave birth to 19 children in 21 years, certainly provided son John with a remarkable model of a strong work ethic. Perhaps her influence led John to rise at 4am every day.
It’s easy for me to complain about the busybodies who are not engaged with meaningful work, for those I judge lazy, and for those who do not seem to have any initiative. It would be a more faithful endeavor for me to dream and wonder how the church could help people be less idle.
What if our empty Sunday school classrooms became workspaces where job training could be offered? What if our internet connections could serve students after school as they sought to complete their homework? What if our fellowship halls became workspaces for the local quilters, or the local recovery group, or the meeting place for the local organization without a building of their own?
What would your church look like if it was known in your community as a place to help folks be less idle?