Our theme for this month: “Character and Integrity”
Our Bible verse for today: “In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: ‘If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat. For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Don’t enable bad behavior”
In yesterday’s devotional I made the statement that virtuous Christians care about others. I also said that character and integrity are often evidenced through acts of kindness, compassion, and mercy towards those in need. I even cited the example of Jesus as He ministered to the outcasts of society, and then I encouraged all of us to go and do likewise.
That lesson is certainly true, but there is a caveat that must go with it, a balance that must be struck. In our eagerness and enthusiasm to be a blessing to those in need we must be sure we truly are helping and not hurting. We have to be sure that our charitable acts of compassion are not in fact enabling bad behavior. Sometimes helping actually hurts more than it helps.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 the Apostle Paul was writing about some people in the community who could work – they were capable, but they chose not to work. Instead, they were living off of the generosity and charity of others. They were taking advantage of the acts of kindness and mercy extended to them by kindhearted Christians, rather than going out and earning a living so they could take care of their own needs. In such a case Paul’s instructions to those kindhearted Christians was to stop feeding those people. The implication is that if they get hungry enough, they’ll get a job and buy their own food.
This was tough love in action, and sometimes tough love is exactly what the situation calls for. It is love, but it is tough, and it is intended to motivate the other person to start doing the right thing rather than to continue taking advantage of others. We’ve all had encounters with people like this, people who go from person to person, from church to church, from helping agency to helping agency, getting what they can from this one, then moving on to the next one. My thought when dealing with such a person is often, “If you would put half as much effort into working at a job as you do trying to get stuff for free from other people, you would have a pretty good life.”
Sometimes the best thing we can do for the other person is to say “no”. And sometimes the test of our own character is our ability to use tough love when it is appropriate. Be wise enough to know when “no” is the right answer. Then be strong enough to stick by it.