by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“We beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)
On Labor Day, we traditionally take time to recognize the great workforce here in America. From factories to restaurants, from typing pools to machine shops, from schoolrooms to gas stations, laborers help make the economy run, and on this day America honors its workforce.
The Bible likewise frequently commends those who work. For example: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).
Several of the words in our text are significant. The verbs “increase . . . study . . . be . . . do . . . work . . . walk . . . lack” are all in the tense implying a habit, or lifestyle. We are thus commended to have a mindset of work, not laziness, or expecting others to do for us what we can do for ourselves.
The word “honestly” elsewhere is translated “decently” or “properly” and is emphasized in the Greek. There is a proper way to walk.
Perhaps Paul was referring to his own example: “For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you” (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
Note that an admonition to continue in “brotherly love” (v. 9) is the context of our text. For one who refuses to work and becomes a burden to society exhibits a lack of brotherly love and is a reproach to the community of Christ.
Laborers are honored in Scripture, and so is labor. JDM