Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eating the Fruits of your labors

2 Thes. 3:6-12 (ESV)
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. [7] For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, [8] nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. [9] It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. [10] For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. [11] For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. [12] Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” Luther once said that if he knew the world was going to end tomorrow he would probably go plant a tree. What a thought. Especially applicable to evangelism which is mostly about planting seeds, the harvest from which is not always apparent or anywhere in proportion to the seeds planted. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we do well to plant the seeds anyway. And we shouldn’t expect to harvest from the seeds we planted yesterday. Evidently though, not all the Thessalonians shared this sentiment with Luther. Put in context of second Thessalonians you can picture people giving up on work as they expect Christ to come back at any moment, or even suspect that he already came and left them behind. The issue Paul addresses up front to this letter with the assurance that there is no chance of being left behind. They were lazy and living off the work of others.
What is said here is true enough in other contexts as well. I get call after call from people looking for handouts. I don’t often give them. I don’t feel bad about it either. I care for people, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who don’t care enough about themselves to get a job. I also understand that hard times hit people, and sometimes we all need a little help getting by. No shame in helping or being helped in those situations. It’s a different story from the guy who wanders through town ends up in the hospital for a heart condition, checks himself out the next day against doctors orders to go pick his dog up from the pound, and then calls you to see if you can give him some money for his heart medication. (That happened.) The guy cares more about a dog than his own life? And I’m supposed to give him money? Sorry there comes a point where you have to help me help you. Not working, not even willing to work? Go somewhere else.
Paul cites his own example as one that should be imitated. Paul rarely received money for the work he did. That is for preaching the Gospel. He was content to do a tent ministry. He was also his own boss in the enterprise and could take time off when needed. He set his own hours. I think this is one of the biggest problems with the modern worker priest situation. Most days I probably could have a side job. Though I have to say being a pastor of a congregation takes up a lot of time on its own. There is a lot to do. If you are in a mission situation there is even more to do. But just the prayer and study a pastor does should take up a good portion of the day. Being a pastor, especially with a family, is not very compatible with side jobs. If I have to punch a clock and put eight hours in a day somewhere else I can’t very well be available to make calls on others during the week. Sometimes it looks as if the pastor isn’t doing much. The harpooner looks the same amidst all the rowers on the dingy. But if the harpooner starts rowing he misses the opportunity to shoot when it comes. (Thanks Eugene for that analogy, and the one about planting seeds.) Paul anticipates this problem.
Paul is always quick to point out that he forewent his right. But it was his right to get paid for his work spreading the gospel. He has some strong chastisements for those who think that pastors shouldn’t get paid for being a pastor. Around here Mormons look at you askance when you tell them that you are a pastor, they can’t believe that is someone’s job. Getting paid for preaching the gospel and other pastoral work is looked on as anathema. They brag about their bishops (closest thing they have to clergy, lay men set a aside to watch the ward) not being paid for the work they do. I’d be embarrassed to get paid for what they do do, but that is another story. They think it is a sin to get paid for church work. Paul has different thoughts. Paul thinks it is actually a sin not to pay for the work pastors do, and it is there right to get paid, even as it was his right, which he willingly forewent.


Steve Martin said...

I'm with you all the way, Bror.

What could be more important than the stewardship of the Word and Sacrament?

Many pastors are not paid enough, in my opinion.

Daniel Skillman said...

The closest thing that Mormons have to true Pastors are their "Apostles" and "Prophet/President(s)." Incidentally, all of these are PAID POSITIONS. Hypocrisy? Without a doubt. The next time you are questioned by a Mormon about your "salary," you can tell them three things: 1.) Both Jesus and St. Paul say that the one who preaches the Gospel should get his living by the Gospel; 2.) The "Apostles" and "Prophet/President(s)" of the LDS church get paid; and 3.) You don't get a "salary" at all. You are not paid for your "job." You are given monetary (and other) gifts from your congregation so that you can devote yourself full-time to something the congregation considers to be of the uttmost importance. You don't get paid for your job. You don't have a job at all. You live out a calling. The money and other gifts you receive are charity in the Lord from the congregation, given so that you might be completely free to proclaim the Gospel.

Bror Erickson said...

Good points. Though the apostle's might be compared to synodical bureaucrats rather than pastors.
But Mormons are so craftily trained to lie they usually have no idea they are doing it. And playing games of semantics with them is tedious.