Two more principles of Christian living are mentioned in First Thessalonians. The first of these is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12. Some brethren in Thessalonica had too much time on their hands and were not working. While Paul addressed this problem again in 2 Thessalonians 3, he wrote the brethren, ” . . . we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study [strive diligently] 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 Thess. 4:11–12). Christians should not mooch, nor should they take advantage of others, and should not be afraid to work. In addition, Paul warned about people who are dishonest. But this was not a new problem. Many years before, God censured Israel for this sin. “Behold, therefore I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made . . . ” (Ezek. 22:13). Christians should never be criticized for a poor work ethic from anyone—neither inside nor outside the Church. A good work ethic is based on honesty. By this means one will have adequate income along with an honest reputation. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1).
The other Christian-living principle is found in 1 Thessalonians 5. Paul states: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (v. 22). People do have a tendency to judge by appearance. Jesus told the Jews: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Because of the human proclivity to judge by appearance, it is important to take this into consideration. For example, Jesus told Peter that in order not to offend the temple authorities, they should be given tribute money. To keep from offending weak brethren, Paul warned the Corinthians that under certain circumstances it was best not to eat flesh. (See 1 Cor. 8 and 10). In many areas of Christian living, the practice of one’s faith is a private matter. In others, it is not. One should be aware of the difference.
Two important principles of Christian living are found in 2 Thessalonians. The first of these is found in Chapter two. Paul wrote: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). While the word “tradition” does mean “custom” (Jesus often criticized Jewish customs), it also refers to the practices and formalities given by the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 11:2 the same Greek word is translated “ordinance.” An ordinance is an authoritative decree or law and refers to that which had been delivered by the Apostles. Paul admonished the Thessalonians to hold fast to what they had been taught. And what had they been taught? They had been taught many Christian principles of behavior, and also about various prophetic events that are yet to happen. The application of Christian principles is a requirement for those called regardless of the historical time period in which they live. The Christian principles taught by Paul and the other Apostles are based on the eternal Law of God.
Paul once again addressed the lack of a proper work ethic among some of the Thessalonians. He emphasized:
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. (2 Thess. 3:10-14)
People who mooch or freeload are, in effect, cheaters. They attempt to go through life on the labor and sacrifice of others, or by taking advantage of them. The text above is clear in itself and needs no explanation. The problem is, and always has been, the need to realize how important a good work ethic is in the eyes of God. It is emphasized in the Scriptures. Respect for God’s Word brings good results. A good work ethic is the mark of good character, and Christians are expected to make a good work ethic a part of their daily lives. Sadly, many were not taught the importance of work as youngsters and find it extremely difficult to manifest the drive to accomplish this as adults. For those who take the Word of God seriously, determination and effort can accomplish it. We may have heard the saying: “God helps those who help themselves, and the government helps those who don’t.” There is some truth to this. The state program of sponsored entitlements has not helped many thousands of people to build character. There is truth to this saying also: “Do someone a favor, and it becomes an obligation.” Christians should not allow themselves to get caught in this trap, but should strive to live by every Word of God. This includes a good work ethic.
The book of Timothy addresses those things that ministers need to know in order to be effective and faithful servants of God. Why is this book important to lay members? The answer: Ministers are drawn from lay members. They are the source of future ministers, so what applies to ministers applies to lay members as well. Notice the first admonition. Paul wrote Timothy: “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do” (1 Tim. 1:3–4). Christian living means avoiding questionable ideas and concepts that are of no real benefit for edification. Those who indulge in this practice are guilty of vain jangling. Their goal is to become “teachers of the law,” of which they know little (vv. 6–7). Couple this instruction with what Paul taught in 1 Timothy 4, and the picture is complete. “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness . . . . Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:7, 16). By discussing useless and empty tales, many conversations become a waste of time. They do not encourage godliness and should be avoided. What is important is adhering to the true doctrine.
In 1 Timothy 6, consider this instruction as it relates to the importance of true doctrine:
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim. 6:3–6)
Today’s English Version translates the above section as follows in modern English:
You must teach and preach these things. Whoever teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the true words of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching of our religion is swollen with pride and knows nothing. He has an unhealthy desire to argue and quarrel about words, and this brings on jealousy, disputes, insults, evil suspicions, and constant arguments from people whose minds do not function and who no longer have the truth. They think that religion is a way to become rich. Well, religion does make a person very rich, if he is satisfied with what he has.
One more Christian-living principle, found in 1 Timothy, is the need to pray for all men, especially for those who hold offices of power. Why? So that we may live a quiet and peaceful life. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). God is the One who sets up and takes down kings (Dan. 5:21). In this present world, we should be very much aware of the danger of global war brought on by wicked rulers in high places. It is important that peace prevails so we may be able to concentrate on the things God has given us to do. Political upheaval and war can easily distract us from our calling and the ultimate goal in life. We need to be able to avoid the rampant violence, ungodliness, and evil of the world.
There are many fads and ungodly customs practiced in this world, among them improper attire and unseemly behavior. Many professing Christians pay little attention to these. Christian living means one should pay attention to styles of dress and behavior. However, there is no need to be extreme in either direction. Here is Paul’s admonition: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1 Tim. 2:8–10). Proper prayer should be void of unsettling emotions brought on by arguments and disputes between brethren or by unbelievers. Women should be dressed modestly so that their jewelry and clothing do not draw undue attention, or incite lust in men. Some present-day styles, especially among teenage girls, are so outlandish that even the midriff and navel are completely exposed. The length of jeans and slacks and some dress styles cannot get much lower without exposing those parts of the body that should be concealed. Entirely too much breast cleavage is also openly displayed. Many young girls do not realize that these clothing styles incite lust in men.
Overindulgence in alcoholic beverages is another thing to be avoided in the matter of Christian living. When Paul states that an elder must not be given to wine, this also applies to lay members. This requirement is one of many others for elders. See 1 Timothy 3:1–7. Notice, Paul implied that alcohol abuse can lead to family neglect. Many homes have been wrecked because of the abuse of alcoholic beverages. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). This goes back to the good work ethic, and wisely handling what funds one possesses. One cannot be a drunk or a spendthrift and also be a responsible Christian. Christian living requires one to set a good example (1 Tim. 4:12).
One of the greatest desires for many Americans is to be wealthy. The craving of possessions rules the day. For many people, the motivation in life is greed. If they cannot acquire the income to fulfill their needs, they resort to credit cards. Credit-card debt in the United States now runs about 40 percent of the entire national debt—40 billion dollars of the total—and credit card debt now averages $8,562 per household. Debt has become a national curse. The statement that, “People love what money can buy” is certainly true. Millions are unaware of the Bible admonition to avoid this curse. One who sets his heart on wealth, and what it can buy, will eventually be disillusioned. There is a proper balance in what the Bible recommends as a sufficient standard of living. “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient [necessary] for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:8–9).
Paul does not mince words about this lust for wealth, which is coveting. Here is what he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:7–10:
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they thatwill be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil:which while some coveted after,they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Coveting is a violation of the Tenth Commandment—a sin. What is the consequence of sin? “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20). Consider, for example, the following admonishments: “If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much . . . . This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.” (Job 31:24–25, 28). “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven” (Prov. 23:4–5). “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1).
Christian living requires a keen awareness of the Scriptures. Many professing Christians today are totally uninformed about the laws of financial success. An important rule is to live within one’s means and not to allow ourselves to get into debt from which we cannot be extricated. If in debt, one should work hard to get out of it. Christian living includes exercising good judgment in financial matters. Debt slavery is a very real thing in today’s society.