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Giving God Our Best

In a world consumed by the pursuit of more for less, giving God our best requires that we break free from this exploitative cycle by embracing integrity, diligence, and genuine devotion.

It seems that people want to give the least and yet expect the most. We want more pay for less work. We want more luxury for less money. We want more return for less investment. At the same time, employers want more work for less pay. Businesses want more revenue for less product. Governments want more control for less accountability.

 

We can try and blame it on postmodernism or millennials, but this is an issue as old as the ages. It was Lucifer who wanted to be like God without having to worship Him, despite being one of God’s most magnificent creations (Isa. 14:12–14). It was Eve who wanted to be like God without having to be subject to God, not realizing she was already made in His image and likeness (Gen. 3:4–6). It was humanity who knew God but did not want to honor Him as God, despite being given clear evidence of His majesty (Rom. 1:19–21).

 

Sinful Efficiency Is a Spiritual Deficiency

 

Sin has corrupted us—from Lucifer’s sin in the heavenlies to mankind’s sin in their hearts. So, what we see being flushed out in our day and age is only a long running continuum of history’s trajectory. The good news is that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power of sin and infused us with the ability to break the cycle of more for less through the Holy Spirit who lives inside the spirit of every born-again believer.

 

Now, there are those who would argue that more for less is about being efficient, and they would be correct. But that is not what I am talking about. I am speaking about a selfish spirit that seeks to profit at someone else's expense—whether it is our employers or our employees, our businesses or our customers, our governments or our citizens. The most egregious of all is when we seek to profit and God’s expense.

 

Insights for Disciplined-Discipleship

 

The apostle Paul had to address this issue with the church in Thessalonica, when he wrote: “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good” (2 Thess. 3:11-13 NASB).

 

Paul gives us three insights about giving God our best.

 

1. The church is not our perch. In the church at Thessalonica there were some people who were not working but were using the saints as their source of sustenance. Paul had already instructed them in person and through a prior letter to earn what they ate, but his words were falling on death ears (v. 10; cf. 1 Thess. 4:11).

 

For some people the church is nothing more than a hustle, playing off the goodwill and generosity of a community governed by Gods command for acts of kindness (2 Cor. 9). Instead of taking initiative and responsibility for their own lives, they spend their days meddling in other people’s affairs and draining their hard-earned resources. But the church is not a perch from which busybodied charlatans can sit and observe in hopes of finding their next victim. Paul says that people who live like this are undisciplined and defy his example and the ethos of God’s community.[1]  


2. We are to live off our own labor. With an imperatival force, Paul urges them in the Lord’s name to stop being busybodies in different saints’ houses and to start busying themselves with feeding themselves.[2] The apostle is so firm in his position that he instructs the saints to avoid associating with those who refuse to work for what they eat (v. 14).


Christian charity does not absolve each of us of his or her personal responsibility. The benevolence of the saints is a temporary communal safety net to help those in crisis situations. But anyone who thinks the church is a social welfare program is grossly mistaken. The problem was not that someone needed benevolence; the problem was that they were leaching off the saints instead of laboring for their own sustenance—more for less.  


3. We are to maintain our morality. Despite Paul’s admonition for those who were acting as charlatan busybodies to get busy working, he encouraged those who were sharing their resources to keep doing what was right. In other words, people’s ulterior motives or bad behavior should not discourage us from obeying the Scriptures and following the example of the early church in Acts chapters 2 and 6, where the church supported those in need.


It is easy to become cynical and stingy because of a few people who seek to manipulate our kindness, but those who engage in such a lifestyle are soon found out. We are to expose them by not associating with them in order to shame them into changing their behavior. However, their immorality should not dampen our generosity, because God provides for His people through His people. In other words, keep doing good.


Hustling Is Hard Work


Hustling people is hard work. It seems easy until you realize your customers, employer, or fellow church members are on to you. Pretty soon what was once low effort and high reward becomes high effort and low reward. It is better to do what is right and trust God to supply your needs according to His heavenly riches (Phil. 4:19).

 

We are living in a time of spiritual apathy. Believers are attending church less, praying less, and studying the Scriptures less, yet we want more from God. And while Paul’s admonition is regarding food and work, I want us to expand the application of this text to our own relationship with God. Are we giving Him our best? Or are we busybodies using Him for what we can get out of Him?

 

Rev. Isaac Hayes is an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and author of Men After God’s Heart: 10 Principles of Brotherly Love. He is also a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 148.

[2] The NET Bible textual notes.

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