The other day I shared lunch with a dear friend and sister in Christ who has been confined to a wheelchair her whole life. Though limited in her physical abilities, her personality and mindset were quite liberated. I sat and listened to her share her story with more depth and breadth than I had known, updating me on her life and current circumstances. Her job location had changed, transportation had become more difficult, and yet she wasn't complaining. Instead, without me saying a thing, she continued to affirm her desire to take ownership of her responsibilities and work for her provision. She said to me, "I have every qualification required to receive full government assistance, but what good would that do? I am responsible for me." Add those words to the sobering picture of the wheelchair that she drove about a mile just to get there, and you can't help but be encouraged and challenged altogether.
Ironically, yet to no surprise, this had aligned with a passage I had read that morning in devotions from 1 Thess 4. Paul, as he was commending the church for their love for one another, encourages them to press on even more in their love. He then elaborates on what that can look like: "seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone" (1 Thes. 4:11–12, CSB). In other words, if you want to love other people, work hard so that you're not relying on others for your provision, but so that God's provision comes directly to you through your work. Are there circumstances where one is unable to work and the burden of their provision falls on others? Absolutely; these commands aren't ruling that out. Ought we be a people ready and eager to carry the burdens of those suffering or sick and unable to work? Of course! God commands that we "carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2, CSB).
However, the moral principle still stands and ought not to change due to outlying circumstances or conditions. One sure way I can love you is by not burdening you with my provision.
To (when able) work hard to not be dependent on others is to love others.
However, if I can work for my provision, and yet don't work while also carrying the expectation that the burden of my provision ought to fall on others, how can God's love abide in me? This is why Paul says, "work with your own hands... so that you may be dependent on no one" (v. 12). This supplements what Paul says after his command to bear one another's burdens in Gal. 6:4-5, "Let each person examine his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load" (CSB).
We each have a responsibility to work hard with our own hands for our provision, and Paul says that hard work can and ought to be motivated out of love for one another. No wonder my friend confined to the wheelchair held to such a positive and bright perspective... her heart is radiating with the love of Christ for others. May we each receive the encouragement she speaks to us through her example to love others by working hard. Blessings!