Sermon for Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
November 17, 2013, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Sermon Theme: “Christians Aren’t Grasshoppers”
(Sources: Emphasis online Commentaries; Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 23, Part 4, Series C)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
You can’t help but think of Aesop’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper when you read today’s sermon text. But Pastor Mosley came up with a 21st Century version of the ancient fable which I want to share with you today.
The ant works all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well-fed, but the grasshopper has no food or shelter. Shivering, the grasshopper calls a national press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well-fed while others are cold and starving. All the major broadcast and cable networks show up and provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to film of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.
America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can it be that, in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? A representative of the NAAGB (The National Association for the Advancement of Green Bugs) shows up on Nightline, charging the ant with Green Bias and making the case that the grasshopper is the victim of 30 million years of greenism.
Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everyone cries when he sings, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Celebrity guests say that they will do everything in their power for the grasshopper, who has been denied the prosperity he deserves by those who benefit from our society unfairly. The EEOC ramrods the Economic Equity and Anti-Greenism Act through Congress and the President makes it retroactive to the beginning of the summer.
The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and his home is confiscated by the government. Just before he dies homeless and penniless in a snowbank, the ant has a flash of insight But we’ll never know what it was.
We can see that the main issue Paul deals with is as old as the world itself, and continues to plague us today. In fact, there is a very ancient Chinese proverb that says, “A man can stand for a long time with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in.”
There is, however, one major difference between the situation Paul describes in Thessalonica and most past and present examples of folks who do more than their share of the work and folks who don’t work and try to live off the labor of others.
In truth, there is in all of us the desire to get benefits without having to pay for them, whether in cash or our labor or time. There are some people who will always take advantage of the good will of others. Even among members of our churches today there are those who are able-bodied who will never volunteer to help with any event, never give as they could and ought to, and at the same time sit back and criticize those who are trying to make things happen for the church and to reach out to those who need to know about the love of God. Paul is very
direct in telling the congregation they should follow the example of their pastors.
Because members of the Thessalonian congregation interpreted the prophecies to mean that Christ’s Second Coming was imminent, like today or tomorrow, they saw no reason to do any work. Since the End of Times is at hand, and Jesus is coming back any time now, why bother to work. Paul is so annoyed at their attitude and their laziness that he says, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Paul isn’t talking about people who want to work but can’t find a job, but about those who choose not to work.
Our younger generation would not be able to see how serious this idleness was for the community as a whole. Those of us who lived in the 1930’s and 40’s understand daily chores like chopping wood for the wood heaters, gathering kindling to get the fire going, raising, killing and plucking chickens to have meat on the table, milking the cow or goat so that you had milk, cheese, and butter, weeding the garden so you had vegetables to eat. You didn’t go to the Supermarket and buy these things, or go to thermostat and turn the heat up.
Every day in Paul’s day and time took an enormous amount of work to subsist. Unless you were rich, you were just a step away from joining the huge number of beggars, who were blind people, crippled folks, widows, and orphans, sitting on street corners in places like Thessalonica with a bowl or cup, begging for food. That’s why Paul says at the end of the passage, “Do not grow weary of doing good.” If you were a Christian, you would share the bread, cheese, butter you worked so hard to make with widows and orphans, etc.
This whole thing presents a moral quandary for Christians. God does indeed command us to help others in need, but, at the same time, Paul is concerned with folks living off the labors of others while choosing to do nothing.
Last week, a friend of mine posted on facebook that as he was going into a café to eat, he was asked by a well groomed man in front of the place for two dollars to catch the Metro bus. My friend gave him the money, then when he came out of the restaurant, the same panhandler was asking another person for two dollars to catch the bus. By then he no doubt had a pocket full of dollar bills. While we are to compassionate and giving, we are not to contribute to someone else’s sinning.
Paul says lazy Christians were an abomination unto God.
There was another abomination in the congregation at Thessalonica. Paul says that some of you in the congregation who are idle and not busy at work are “busybodies.” Well, you know what a busybody is, don’t you? A person who meddles in somebody else’s affairs, sticks his or her nose into someone else’s business and tells them what they ought to be doing or not doing. It has been my observation that most busybodies also pass on information to others in the form of gossip. Jesus once said that we must not point out the speck of sawdust in somebody else’s eye when there is log or plank in our own.
To be sure, we are living between the time of Jesus’ ascension and His return. How long that time will be nobody but God knows; in fact, God says we are not to know. According to Paul, while we are waiting for the end of this era, we should go to work and do our chores. When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the end would come tomorrow, he said that he would plant a tree today.
To sum up Paul’s message in a nutshell, between the Ascension and the End of Times, we are to work to eat, work to set an example, and work to do good. And we are cautioned not to grow weary! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.