Time is the most valuable gift we have. When we give of our time freely for the sake of the gospel, amazing things can happen. Paul the apostle knew this and made this principle a central issue of his teaching to the Thessalonians.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 4:11b–12:
“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (ESV).
A critical component of the Christian faith is to truly love people; this means sacrificing our own resources for the betterment of others (1 Thessalonians 4:9–11). But Paul doesn’t end there—he also tells the Thessalonians to continue to work.
Paul could make this remark because of the temptation to go full-time into ministry when it wasn’t necessary to do so. It’s possible that some people viewed the return as Jesus as so imminent that they felt they could stop working. It could have also been the case that some church members were living off the charity of other wealthier members, when they could have been providing for themselves.
Whatever the precise scenario, continuing to work allowed for the Thessalonian Christians to freely share about Jesus—without having to depend on other people for their livelihood. This model of bi-vocational ministry is what Paul himself modeled when he was with the Thessalonians in person (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
In many instances of ministry, bi-vocational is the right choice and should probably be the default stance. Paul realized the power of this testimony—no one would be able to argue that a person believes because he or she is paid to do so. People who didn’t believe in Jesus would also recognize the self-sacrifice made, for the sake of the gospel.
I personally have had a full-time job while working a very demanding ministry role as a volunteer. In fact, I did this for over a decade in various capacities with different ministries and eventually with Jesus’ Economy. I can tell you that it is incredibly rewarding. It can be exhausting at times, and you must still balance your rest with your efforts. But the things you can accomplish with your extra time can truly transform lives. There is a time for some ministers to go full-time into ministry—that’s what happened for me about six months ago—but that’s certainly not the case for all. And it’s certainly the exception to the default stance. And even now, I am still a volunteer—providing for the majority of my family’s needs for the time being.
For you, ministry work could happen from behind a computer—volunteering for an organization with a large online platform. This work could happen in person, working with a local homeless rescue mission. This work could happen as you minister to your neighbors and coworkers. This effort could happen as you are called to start something new for Jesus. Whatever the case is, the point is that we’re all missionaries and should all use our talents for Jesus.
How can God work in your life, to accomplish his ministry goals, without you having to quit your job or your daily work? How can God use your talents to accomplish his purposes?
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