Work or wait for God?


Some passages (like Matthew 6:25-34) seem to say that God will take care of us, while others (like 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15) say that if a person does not work, he shouldn’t eat. So are we supposed to work or wait for God to provide?


This is a great question showing why the historical context of a passage is so important to interpreting it correctly. God promised the ancient Israelites that if they obeyed his law, he would never let them go hungry (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). And in the Sermon on the Mount, as Jesus offered his kingdom, he reaffirmed that promise (Matthew 6:25-34). They were not to worry about their next meal because God promised to provide for them as long as they were faithful to him.

Does that mean we should worry about our food? Not at all. God’s command to “not worry” has always been true for his people, no matter what dispensation we are in. But how we apply that can be different. For Christians, Paul commanded that if a person is not willing to work, they shouldn’t live off the kindness of their fellow Christians. “If you don’t work, you don’t eat!” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15) In another passage, Paul followed the command to not worry with the teaching that we can learn to be content whether we have much or little (Philippians 4:6-7. 10-20).

As Christians, we know that God does take care of his people, but he never promised to keep us from all hardship. Both can be true. We must be careful not to steal promises God made to someone else as if they were ours. We are to work hard to meet our needs (2 Thess 3:6-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8) and, if we have an abundance, share as we are able (Eph 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Galatians 6:10).

Throughout the Proverbs, wisdom tells us to save and plan for the future when we can, but both Jesus and Paul warned about the foolishness of storing up too much in this life because it can lead to trusting in stuff instead of trusting in God (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Tim 6:17-19).

So, the command is the same across all dispensations, but our response to the command is based on God’s promises and specific teaching to his people in each dispensation.

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