I once had a car that would almost die whenever I came to a stop. I could be waiting to get out of a parking lot, sitting at a stoplight, or just waiting outside a friends house to pick them up. If I was stopped for more than a couple of seconds it started acting like it wanted to stall. The car simply would not idle. So I found that if I put the car in neutral and pushed the gas, thus revving the engine, I could keep it running without having to restart it. Or the other option was to hold the brake with my left foot as hard as I could while slightly pressing the gas pedal with my right. But with that, there was always a fear that my left foot would slip and I would go careening into the car in front of me or the intersection of moving traffic. It was never a dull moment with that car. In life, being idle can have the same effect. We can find ourselves stalling if we are not careful. God never intended us to be idle in life. In fact, scripture has quite a bit to say about being idle and its effect on the human experience as well as our spiritual experience as followers of Christ. Here are just a few examples:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. - Ephesians 5:15-16
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. - Proverbs 31:27
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. - 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. - 1 Timothy 5:13
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. - Proverbs 19:15
But in addition to these we have a passage of scripture from 2 Thessalonians that came from our reading today, in which Paul addresses this very issue and does so at length, pointing to the example that they had set before them.
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Idleness leads use down very destructive paths. When we have nothing to do we typically find something to fill the void. The question is what are we filling it with? It has been said that "idle hands are the devils workshop". And people have even quoted it as being from the Bible. The quote itself is not from the Bible but the principle and the meat and meaning of it surely are.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Paul points out that those who waste their time in idleness (or in a non-productive manner) are easily led into sin: “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” By not using their time productively, these people were tempted to meddle in other people’s business and stand in the way of their progress. Paul says something similar in 1 Timothy 5:13, “They get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” These idlers and busybodies were wasting time that could have been used to help others. In essence, their lack of activity was leading them into sin.
Many times idleness comes from a lack of having a goal or a purpose. But as followers of Christ we have the ultimate purpose and goal in life. Purpose is something that we should not be short on. When we lack a purpose or goal we will oftentimes find ourselves trying to fill our life with "doing" all the wrong things. We live in a sinful world and everyone, because of our human nature, is impacted by that. If we allow ourselves to be idle and find that we are not doing anything we will inevetably be tempted to fall into sin. If we have nothing to do, the devil is ready and waiting to find things for us to do.
As followers of Christ we need to live as Christ did and taught us to. He himself made clear that when he walked this earth he would be about his fathers business. (Luke 2:49) We were never called to be comfortable and live "the life" our culture beckons us to chase after. He told his disciples to pray for workers to be sent into the harvest fields in Luke 10:2 - Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
There is work to be done while it is still called today. The Lord will be coming again and there will be many who miss it. We have been called to be workers not idlers and the harvest is great. In the Treasure Valley alone, despite the number of churches we see throughout our valley, there are tens of thousands who do not know Jesus Christ.
So I ask you today, are you finding yourself to be idle? Do you find that you are more concerned with the affairs of others and injecting yourself into their lives and business form the stance of a busybody or a gossip? Or are you working as if unto the Lord and looking for every opportunity to inject yourself into the lives of those who need to know, and don't yet, the name that is above every other name; Jesus Christ?
Are you looking for purpose? The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few. Starting today, how will you be a part of impacting the Treasure Valley for the Kingdom of God?