Help Without Hurting
Those unwilling to work will not get to eat (v.10).
Every summer, female sea turtles trudge out of the sea and onto the beach where they lay their eggs. The baby turtles that eventually hatch follow the light of the moon as they scurry back to the sea. It’s tempting for beachgoers to carry the little guys to the water’s edge, but their well-intentioned hands only guarantee that the baby turtles will not survive. The arduous journey from nest to ocean is essential to develop their fledgling muscles so they can swim in the ocean currents. Shortcut this process and the baby turtles will die.
Remember the tiny turtles when lending a hand to help people. We must do our best to shelter them from external threats, just as some cities shade their streetlights so the turtles won’t mistake them for the moon and wander into traffic. But we must not do for them what they can—and must—do for themselves. A “hand-up” is better than a handout.
Paul heard that some in the Thessalonian church were “living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business” (2 Thessalonians 2:11). He believed that charity, in this case, would only encourage them to leech off the kindness of others. So rather than meet their basic necessities, Paul told the diligent Thessalonians to practice tough love: “Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us,” for “those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (vv.6,10).
Compassionate Christians will always be tempted to solve the problems that suffering people should tackle themselves. But rather than write a check and move on, we’re most helpful when we look beyond the immediate need and help them to develop muscles for the long haul. It can be hard to watch them struggle, but it’s their only path to survival.
Read Matthew 25:14 to learn of the responsible effort God demands from His children.
How have your ordeals strengthened you? How were you given room to work through your problems and to develop stamina for life?