Labour Not for the Meat that Perishes


    "...They invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more perfectly." Acts 18:26



     Wherever God moves to establish (or re-establish) the perfect  way of grace which replaces the way of the law, he raises up a voice to fully articulate that more perfect way. When the fullness of time was come to introduce the covenant of grace to replace the Mosaic covenant, God raised up the apostle Paul to clearly articulate it. Thus we have the letters to the Romans and Galatians in the New Testament. Additionally, we have the letter to the Hebrews by an un-named writer.


     The salvation by grace we have through Jesus Christ has many unfolding dimensions. It brings release to the Church from the requirements and curses of all law, and into a higher righteousness through the Spirit. The purpose of this article is to articulate more perfectly the way of grace concerning salvation from the dead works of fixed economy and social community under the "Law of Debt for Service Rendered."



The Law of Debt for Service Rendered


     In the beginning of history, the very first law to which man became subject was what we shall call the "Law of Debt for Service Rendered." This law says that man must earn bread by the sweat of toil.[1]


      We refer to this law in many ways. Most commonly we call it "earning a living." In more complex economy, we say it this way: "You do this for me and I will do that for you. You give me such-and-such and I will give you so-and-so." In terms of social community, this same law is phrased: "I be kind to you and you therefore be nice to me. I do you a favour and you owe me a favour later." All of this describes what we call "The Law of Debt for Service Rendered." It is the law of interpersonal obligation, both economic and social. Henceforth, we will simply call it the "Law of Work."


     All law is given by God to expose man's lawlessness and to check that lawlessness.[2]  The form of lawlessness which the Law of Work was given to check was the new preponderance to laziness acquired through Adam's sin. This first law appears throughout Scripture, especially in Proverbs. In the New Testament, it is succinctly stated by Paul: "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." [3]


     Wherever there is law, there is a curse.[4]  The curse is that by his knowledge of the law, man becomes accountable for doing what he otherwise has no ability to do in any way that satisfies God's requirement. Therefore he becomes subject to automatic judgment without recourse. Meanwhile the rest of his life is subject to dead works under that law.


     Under the Law of Work, man was sentenced to a life of profitless labour.[5]  His works under this law could not please God,[6] for after a life of toil, he dies anyway. His dead works could not sustain him forever on the earth. They could not even correct his new bent toward sloth and laziness. It would always be there. The reality of this curse was witnessed to by the growing of thorns in the ground. So we find that with his subjection to his first law, man was put under his first curse.[7]



"Cursed Is Everyone That Hangs Upon a Tree"


     This brings us to the salvation by grace we have in Jesus Christ from the curse of dead works under the law. We know that Jesus died to save us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.[8]


     But from how much of the curse? Did Jesus die only to save us from the curse of dead works under the Law of Moses? If so, from where else can other salvation arise to save us from the Law of Work? If Jesus did not die to save us from the curse of all law but only that of the Law of Moses, then there is no salvation from the curse under the Law of Work. For after Jesus there is no more sacrifice for sins! [9]  If Jesus didn't save us from the first curse when He died the first time, then there is no salvation from it because Jesus only died once and won't die again.[10] If so, it means we are subject to earning a living for ever!


     Too much to swallow? If you don't believe that, if you don't believe you will have to work forever, it must be because you indeed believe Jesus covered that curse when He died. That Jesus did indeed die to remove the very first curse is signified to us by the fact that on the cross, He wore a crown of thorns.[11] By this we are shown that Jesus' death on that tree covered the curse represented by those thornsthe curse of dead works under the Law of Work.


     But if it is true that Jesus died to remove the very first curse, then that curse has already been removed. So it remains for His people to enter into their salvation by grace from it here and now. Now is the day of salvation.[12]


      No, dear Relative. The curses for which Jesus died were not removed on some "time-release plan." They were removed all together, made of none effect then and there, once and for all at Calvary. The only delay has been the failure of His People to enter into their practical deliverance from all curses because of their unbeliefan unbelief out of which it has been requiring God centuries to restore them.


     This then is the message of salvation by grace from the curse under the Law of Work. Jesus Christ died to remove the curse of the law which says a man must earn his daily bread to stay alive. His salvation by grace extends to fulfil the righteousness of that law by obedience through the Spirit.[13] God ordained that by grace, a man should enter into the completed liberty of trusting God for His provisions apart from the law. Salvation by grace changed the entire definition of "work."


     Before Jesus Christ, "work" was defined as earning a living by sweat. Since Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirement of that law for us to gain perpetual life, "work" became defined as obedience to the Spirit outside the Law of Work.[14] Man became lifted into an entirely new economy in which God became man's direct Employeran economy in which man's only obligation is to obey the will of the Father through the Spirit. God "pays his keep" in the world without respect to human economy or a man's own physical labour.


     Salvation from the Law of Work was typified in the Old Testament. While Israel travelled through the wilderness, God directly supplied their physical  need  through  manna.[15]  Israel did not "earn" manna. For Israel, the Law of Work was temporarily lifted and they lived under complete grace respecting that law. This was a foretype of the Church's coming salvation from that law in Her 2000 year wilderness journey until Christ's return.  It especially typifies Her last three and one half years' journey through the wilderness of world tribulation outside all human economy. Other foretypes of this salvation in the Old Testament include Elijah[16] and the prophets who lived outside the Law of Work and the dead works of human economy.



The Teaching of Jesus


     To get a real feel for the truth of our salvation from the law of human economy, we need to turn to the Life of the Author and Finisher of our faith. The Word of Jesus Christ is our final authority. There are a number of telling statements from Jesus revealing that He lived above the Law of Work. He lived under the higher law of grace through obedience to the Spirit.


     Christians are quite familiar with the story of the "woman at the well." After the disciples returned to Jesus at the well, they urged Him to eat some food. His response was, "I have meat to eat that you know not of." [17]  When they pressed Him further, He elaborated: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me." [18]


     When we read this, we commonly believe Jesus was saying that for Him to do God's will was more important than for Him to eat. We also believe He was saying that by doing God's will He was being kept from the need for eating. Both these are true. But He was saying more. Jesus was actually saying that He depended on the Father for His provision outside the Law of Work. He was making a statement about the economic system of grace under which He lived. He was really saying to His disciples, "I have food from a source outside human economy with which you are unacquainted. My food is supplied to Me strictly in conjunction with My obedience to the Father."


     Jesus alludes to this same reality in a statement one time to Martha. As Mary sat and listened to Jesus, Martha was burdened under the "work" of getting a meal together. To Martha who was living under the Law of Work, Mary appeared lazy. But Jesus in effect told Martha that Mary's attentiveness to Him was a far more valid "work" in God's sight and that Mary was not under the Law of Work to which Martha was subjecting herself.[19]


     As Jesus lived by grace beyond the Law of Work, so He intended His followers to livewithout exception. We know that His Life is the pattern according to which we are expected to work out our salvation through the Spirit. We have been ordained to become conformed to His image in every detail here and now.[20] This therefore must include walking in grace outside the Law of Work, free from the curse of dead works.


     It is no surprise then that we find Jesus telling His followers they ought to walk as He was walking [21] concerning this grace:

     "Take no thought for what you shall eat or what you shall drink or wherewith you shall be clothed...for your Father knows you have need of all these things." [22]

     Could words be any plainer? What do we think Jesus was saying? Because of unbelief, we interpret these words merely to say: "Don't let earning a living become important to you. Don't let it take pre-eminence in your thinking." But that's not what He was saying. In terms of His own exemplary life, He was saying, "Come out from under the law of earning a living." To "take no thought" for what one is to eat means taking no thought for fulfilling any Law of Work by which food is earned.


     Jesus was insistent that His followers come out from under the law of fixed economy. He told them that unless they did, they couldn't truly serve God. Immediately preceding His injunction to take no thought for earning a living He said: "You cannot serve God and mammon." [23]  By linking this statement to His injunction to take no thought for earning a living, Jesus was clearly referring to more than just "money" when He spoke of mammon. He was referring to the entire process under the Law of Work by which man takes thought to make money! He was really saying: "You cannot serve God and take thought for (i.e., live under) the Law of Work." In so saying, Jesus removed any notion that salvation from the works of earning a living is an optional luxury of grace for the spiritually adventuresome. It was a mandatory requirement for anyone who would call himself a servant of God.


     In another place, Jesus said, "Labour not for the meat which perishes, but for that  which  endures  to eternal life."[24]  What was He saying? He was directly superseding the law given to Adam which said, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat." What then? Was He destroying the Law? Was He abolishing all economy? Certainly not. He was ordaining the fulfilment of the first law by a higher law.[25]  He was substituting the first economy with a higher economy.


     Jesus didn't just say "Labour not." He went on to say, "Labour for that which endures to eternal life." He was telling men to take their definition of "labour" out from under the Law of Work and re-orient it to the Law of Grace even as He laboureddoing the will of the Father in the power of the Spirit. Thus saying, He rendered the original law of none effect. He delivered us from having to think any more in terms of "earning a living."



Giving: The Earmark of Heavenly Economy


     The new economy of grace articulated by Jesus was specially identified by the Spirit-law of giving. In direct contrast to the life of sweat under the Law of Work, Jesus advocated a life of trusting rest denoted by the freedom of giving. He explained that, opposite to provision based on industrious labour, provision in God's economy is based on giving. In "Babylon," the more one "works," the more one receives. But in God's Kingdom outside the camp of Babylon, the more one enters into rest from personal labour evidenced by His freedom to give, the more one receives: 

     "Therefore I say unto you, give and it shall be given to you."[26]

       So the freedom to give is the earmark of salvation by grace from the works of the Law of Work.[27] (Note: this principle of giving is a central feature of the current "Prosperity Movement"a movement which anticipates the Church's soon release from slavery to babylonian economy. 


Freedom from Obligation to Man in the New Economy


     In advocating a way of life free from the dead works of human economy, Jesus did not teach that the Father's provision in the new economy would never come through secondary babylonian sources. Consider:

      Jesus lived totally independently of fixed human economy, totally above the Law of Work. He saw the Father as His sole Employer. His own Life was marked by tireless giving. In the face of this however, Jesus did not hesitate to receive the Father's provision through the means of menprovision which had somewhere been generated through the babylonian system under the Law of Work. For instance, Jesus often ate freely from the table of pharisees[28]food which in man's eyes had been obtained through the Law of Work. Again, Jesus was supplied through the estates of certain women[29]money which had been generated through fixed economy under the Law of Work.

    One would think that if Jesus is going to preach against "labouring for the meat that perishes,” He ought not receive favours generated by such labour. Why, Jesus even went beyond that apparent hypocrisy. He dared to break that same law

socially when He criticized to their faces pharisees from whose tables He was eating.[30]  (Under the Law of Social Debt for Favour Rendered, you just don't do that!)

     But did Jesus feel hypocritical? Obviously not. Doesn't it seem strange to us that Jesus felt no obligation to a system through which He was receiving some of His provision? Doesn't it seem especially offensive that Jesus felt no obligation to "be nice in return" to those from whose tables He ate and in whose homes He slept? To us, yes. To Jesus, no. Why? It is because God is the ultimate Giver of all things to all men, whether or not they think they earned it. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness of it." [31]  Man owns nothing, not even what he thinks is his by lawful possession. In God's economy of grace, God is not limited to meeting His servants' needs outside human economy. Therefore, should the Father see fit to bring provision indirectly through human economy, His servant is not obligated to that secondary source.


     It made no difference to Jesus whether the Father's provision came from a fish's mouth [32] or a widow's estate; from a miraculously multiplied loaf [33] or from a pharisee's table. He saw it as from the Father only. And should it come secondarily through a man who himself has "earned" it, Jesus felt no obligation to the man. Nor did he feel obligated to soften His truth on such account. He did not feel hypocritical for receiving the Father's provision from a source while criticizing the nature of that source.


     Now make no mistake. Jesus wasn't a boor. He was not given to wholesale, boldfaced criticism of His hosts and benefactors. (For every criticism He made, imagine how much He withheld saying in love of all He knew about people!) He was thankful and appreciative to his human providers. But He never felt obligated to them. This freedom from all sense of obligation is intrinsic to salvation from the Law of Work under the economy of grace.



What about II Thessalonians 3:10?


     We have now amply shown that Jesus delivered us from the Law of Debt for Service Rendered. Salvation from the dead works of "earning a living" and also from the obligations of social favouritism is part of the total package of salvation by grace. Through the salvation of Jesus we have been set free from the "work" of human economy and raised to live according to a new economy of grace marked by the freedom to give.


     But if this is really true, then we are faced with what appears to be a monumental contradiction of this grace by none other than Paul, the apostle of grace. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, he gives this injunction:     

    "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." 

     What do we say to this? It seems like Paul is keeping the Church under the original law given to Adam after all. It seems like he is contradicting Jesus. This is important because Paul's words have become the number one stumblingblock to keep the Church from breaking out of Her slavery to the dead works of earning a living. Every time God moves in a believer's life to fulfil the words of Jesus and practically release him from the Law of Work, the Church quotes Paul's words to keep him bound and to justify Her own continuing enslavement under the law. (This is especially true in North America where workaholism is considered a mark of godliness.)

     The first thing we say is this. Do we qualify the words of Jesus in terms of the words of Paul? Or do we interpret Paul in light of Jesus? Who is the author of our salvation and therefore our final authority? [34]  Jesus or Paul? It should be obvious that the words of Jesus supersede and qualify the words of Paul. Even if we could find no explanation for this seeming contradiction, we can't possibly use what Paul said to disqualify the message of grace brought by Jesus. The entire thrust of God's revelation is that we are not under law but under the Spirit and we are to be coming out from under law through the Spirit's working in us. If so, how do we reconcile what Paul was saying to what Jesus said so we may divide God's word rightly?


"Work Out Your Salvation with Fear and Trembling"[35]


     The solution to the problem is not complex. The key to understanding it is knowing the difference between our salvation in principle and our salvation as it is worked out through us.[36]


"If We Live in the Spirit"[37] 

     In principle, we are no longer under any Law.[38]  By Law here we mean God's revealed will as it is perceived by the natural mind and capable of attempted fulfilment by natural strength. This includes not only the Law of Moses but the Law of Work.

     Why are we no longer under any Law? Was the Law abolished? Not at all. We were abolished. We (our old man) were crucified with Christ Who Himself fulfilled the Law and Whose death covered our past transgressions under it.[39]  In place of our old inner man, we were born anew.[40] We became reborn of Christ's own nature. We became a new creation in Christ.[41]

     Because Christ's Life is righteous (having perfectly fulfilled the Law) and because we are re-born of His Life, we are the righteousness of God in Christ.[42]  In principle therefore, our New Life already has fulfilled all Law. Christ's Life is our Life.[43]  Christ is not under the Law. Therefore we are not under the Law.

     For whom was the Law made? The Law was made for Lawbreakers.[44]  Christ was not a Lawbreaker. We are born of His Life. Therefore as new men we are no longer Lawbreakers. Therefore we are no longer under the Law.

     We are under no obligation to any form of God's revealed will as we naturally perceive it or are capable of attempting its fulfilment in natural strength, mental or physical. Instead, we are simply under the law of the Spirit of Life ("Law" here refers simply to the way something operates. We live by the operation of the Spirit of Life in our new man).[45]

     This is what our salvation by grace is all about in principle.

"...Let Us Also Walk in the Spirit." 

     But there is the progressive side of our salvation in which our new Law-fulfilling, righteous nature has to be worked out through who we yet are in the flesh.[46]  In our flesh remains a law (principle) of sin.[47]  Because of this lawlessness remaining in our flesh, our flesh remains under a certain natural consciousness of the Law [48] even though we are in principle no longer under the Law. To avoid confusion, let's call this remaining consciousness of Law the "word of law," or simply "the word"[49]  (not to be confused with the Living Word of Christ in our new nature).

    The "word" exposes remaining sin in our flesh the same way the Law exposed the sin that we were before we were converted. The word is brought to us both through the Scriptures with all its injunctions and ordinances, and also by personal commands and promises of the Holy Spirit as they surface on the screen of our fleshly mind.

      As the word exposes what lawlessness remains in our flesh, we release the Spirit of Life to take our in-principle righteousness and work it through our flesh to crucify the lawlessness.[50]  By this the Spirit translates our inward holiness into complete outward holiness. As we encounter each word, each principle, each ordinance of Scripture that exposes some remaining lawlessness in our flesh, the Spirit works out our inwardly completed salvation into living reality here and now.

     Once the Spirit has worked-through our salvation in the flesh against some form of lawlessness, then we are no longer lawbreakers or "wordbreakers"not only in principle, but now in practice as well. When this happens, we become delivered from even the natural consciousness of the word. We don't have to think about it. Its righteousness is now a part of us. It no longer applies to us even in the flesh! Our life becomes a free flow in the Spirit.

      As long as we have remaining natural consciousness of word of law, it is because we have some remaining form of flesh disobedience to be crucified. The word of law is therefore a disciplinary tool of the Spirit much like training wheels on a bicycle. As we use  training wheels to turn our fleshly imbalance into skill, the Spirit uses the word to turn our remaining imbalances of soul into skilled character, a vessel meet for the unhindered flow of our inward righteousness.  And if our bodies don't wear out before our souls reach perfection (a nearly unheard of phenomenon), our bodies can immediately put on immortality and never see death.[51]


     To capsulize, then. By our salvation-in-principle, we are slaves become sons. By our salvation-in-practice, we are children becoming adults.[52]

     In the first, the Law is a force of bondage and curse from which to be delivered once and for all. In the second, the word (of law) is a tool of discipline from which to be increasingly freed as the Spirit weaves its righteousness into our being.

     In the first, we have been made righteous. In the second, we are made to express the righteousness we have been made.

     In the first, to "live by grace" has a meaning in the pure sense. It refers to who we are within because of what Christ did. In the second, to "live by grace" has a meaning in the applied sense. It refers to who we are becoming without as we release the Spirit to kill sin exposed by the word until our intrinsic grace nature can supplant it.

     To understand this two-fold nature of our salvation is to understand why we have a certain limited dealing with a form of law after we are in-principle taken out from under all Law at our conversion.



     Our righteousness by grace has no practical effect until the Spirit has killed fleshly sin to make way for its expression. But the Spirit doesn't kill sin apart from our natural awareness of it. And our natural awareness comes through a word of law concerning that sin. Therefore to preach grace before the word of law has made us conscious of the sin from which our grace will save us is to reinforce our sin.

    To illustrate, a child's intrinsic freedom to ride a bike has no meaning to him until his sense of balance has been instilled through training wheels. To merely say to him, "You are free to ride! You are free to ride!" only reinforces his inability to do so. He is free in the sense that he is not locked in his room! But that freedom is of no profit to him until by discipline he learns how to express it through a sense of balance.

     Using the same analogy, once balance is not a problem for a child and the training wheels have instilled his discipline, it is folly to leave them on the bicycle. They must come off. If they are left on, they no longer help but hinder, and may even cause a crash. The child can certainly "earn" no further riding ability by keeping them on.

    Similarly, once we are aware of fleshly sin by the discipline of the word, then we preach grace. We release the Spirit to kill that exposed sin so our grace-righteousness may flow, making our salvation effective in our flesh. We don't use the word of law further. Its job is done. The flesh can't rid itself of its sin by trying to keep the word. All the flesh can do by the word is spin dead works. To keep preaching the command once we are aware of the sin is to try to live by the law. No. This is where we let grace take over.


     The spiritual art of rightly dividing God's Word pertaining to holiness hinges on right spiritual discernment of this issue. The great debacle in the Church over righteousness is due to failure to rightly discern when to install and remove spiritual training wheels. Many who recognize their freedom from the Law fail to deal with fleshly lawlessness through the discipline of the word of law. Preaching grace to their flesh, they reinforce its sinfulness.[53]

    Many others who recognize their fleshly lawlessness fail to recognize their intrinsic freedom from all Law in principle. Long after they should have left behind the word of law to express that freedom, they continue spinning to themselves dead works and holding others in bondage to their legalism. Instead of releasing the Spirit to kill what has been exposed, they try somehow to perfect their flesh themselves. They only succeed in exacerbating their awareness of sin and make life miserable for themselves.



Now Back to Paul


     If we understand the context in which we still have a certain dealing with law after we are converted, then we can understand why Paul said to the Thessalonians, "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." Paul was not abrogating the message of Jesus who delivered us from the Law of Work. He was ministering a word of discipline to deal with a manifestation of laziness in their flesh. Once disciplined in it, they could walk in the complete grace of salvation they already possessed from the Law of Work.


     In principle, the Thessalonians were not subject to the Law of Work. In principle, they were the "industriousness of God in Christ." But in their flesh, they were particularly subject to the unexposed weakness of laziness ("busybodies").[54] They were what we would today call "welfare cases." They were ignorant of the standard of God's righteousness (by the Law of Work) which requires industriousness.


     Before these Thessalonians could walk in the grace of their internal righteousness of Christ's industriousness, their fleshly laziness had to be exposed by a word of discipline so that the Spirit could deal with it. In order to walk in the complete grace of Spirit-empowered labour, they had to have that grace worked out under the discipline of the word of natural labour. The words "Labour not for the meat that perishes" had no meaning for them. Because of undisciplined  laziness they didn't know how to labour, period. Such words could only be interpreted by them to mean, "Labour not!" They would only reinforce their basic laziness.


     That is why Paul told these people to work. He didn't put them back under Law. He put them under discipline until their intrinsic freedom from the Law of Work could have meaning and could find expression through them.


      This particular preponderance toward laziness seems to have been common to certain of the Greek people. The Cretans had a reputation for being "slowbellies." [55]  For this cause Paul warned Titus to put them under the same discipline as the Thessalonians. Today you can go to places like Haiti, Mexico, and other third world nations where this same form of lawlessness prevails. Before you can tell people like this to walk in grace from the dead works of earning a living, their flesh has to be disciplined through the knowledge of the Law of Work. Otherwise you reinforce their laziness.


     But for a people who are already conscious of the evil of laziness by their knowledge of the Law of Work and whose flesh is disciplined thereby, that Law has no more relevance! Once the Law has exposed lawlessness, it has done its job. It is not given for a people to obey through dead works. It is given that the Spirit may fulfil its righteousness through them by the indwelling life of Christ. That righteousness is ultimately fulfilled outside the entire framework of human economy. As Christians, if by our awareness of the word the Spirit has worked laziness out of our flesh, it is time for us to move into the complete grace of Jesus' words, "Labour not for the meat that perishes." At that point, Paul's injunction to work has no more relevance.



Different Strokes for Different Folks


     Paul and Jesus were addressing two different types of people. Paul addressed certain Greeks who had a predisposition to laziness. By contrast, Jesus addressed industrious Jews. These people were thoroughly conscious of the evil of sloth and prided themselves on their industrious dead works under the Law of Work. They knew nothing of God's grace or the true purpose for the Law. They counted their own efforts to fulfil the Law by "hard work" as righteousness. God counted it as "dead work." The Jews needed to hear the message of grace through the words, "Labour not for the meat that perishes." They needed to move into the grace of Spirit-led labour above the Law of Work.


     As it is evil to preach grace to a people who still have to have their lawlessness exposed by word of law, it is equally evil to preach the word of law to people who have been disciplined by it, shutting them  up unto dead works.[56]  This brings us to the crux of our problem today concerning Paul's words to the Thessalonians. Most of the readers of this article are Christians who already know how to "earn a living" under the Law of Work. You have been raised amidst an industrious nation governed by the "puritan work ethic." The consciousness of the evil of sloth is fully engrained into you. Because this is so, Paul's restatement of the Law of Work has no application to you.


     But the reason it is an issue for you is because of your own unbelief in failing to move into the complete salvation from the works of the Law. You have used Paul's word to justify serving God and mammon at the same time. You persist in your dead works under the word of law and in holding back others.[57] You have failed to rightly divide God's word by your unbelief and therefore the word of scripture is become your stumblingblock.[58]



The Rest of the Story


    If you are going to try to use Paul's injunction to keep the Church shut up from entering the fullness of grace that is ours in Christ Jesus, you need to consider the rest of the context in which Paul's word was given.


     In the same chapter (II Thess. 3), Paul alluded to the fact that he himself was technically free to live by grace outside the Law of Work.[59]  He specifically said so in his first letter to the Corinthians.[60]  Through His employment by the Father, Paul didn't consider himself to "work" for a living according to the world's definition. He did not consider himself bound under the dead works of the old Law.


     The only reason Paul "worked" (according to the Law) in these particular cases was to (1) set an example for the lazy Thessalonians,[61] and (2) prevent immature Corinthians from using their hospitality against him later to blunt the force of his correction. They might say, "Who are you to bite the hand that fed you?"[62]  (In light of Jesus' example, Paul wasn't really even obligated to take this precaution, but he thought it safe.)


     If one tries to make a blanket unconditioned Law out of Paul's injunction to the Thessalonians, then even Paul himself would have to be judged guilty of breaking it. In order to make up what he refused to receive from the Corinthians without paying for it, he was willing to receive from other churches like the Philippians without paying for it![63] Again, if Paul's word nullifies the word of Jesus, then Jesus was the greatest Lawbreaker of Scripture with respect to the Law of Work. He received all manner of support and favours without paying for them! Whoever tries to put himself and others under Paul's injunction as a blanket Law immediately condemns himself if he receive even one thing without paying for itfor he is obligated to keep the law without exception![64]



The Nature of Paul's Earthly "Work"


     The controversy over Paul's injunction to work is much deeper than it appears. At issue is not merely whether or not a man is working, but whether or not a man's work is contributing to the building of babylonian society. To highlight the issue, let's look at the nature of Paul's own temporal employment.


     When Paul was labouring in visible accord with the Law of Work, he did so at a self-employed trade that left him free to keep his mobility outside the fixed economy of the Roman Empire.[65]  He worked at one place for a season. Then he quit to minister a while. Then he moved on and worked elsewhere for a matter of months. Then he would quit again, etc. Paul did not hold today what we would call a "steady job," i.e., an established business of long-term interest that visibly contributed to the Roman economy.


     Why is this important to see? Because in determining whether a Christian is fulfilling Paul's injunction to work, the Church in America has gone far beyond the issue of whether a man is performing earthly labour. Because the Church is so wrapped up in supporting American babylonian society, those who use Paul's injunction to keep the Church bound to earthly labour do not accept that a man is working unless his work is recognized as contributing to the babylonian economy. A believer may be performing manual labour in his service for God, but if it is not steadily and visibly in support of babylonian economy, the Church will not recognize it as "work."


     By the Church's warped interpretation of Paul's injunction combined with its strictly babylonian definition of work, not even Paul's work would be recognized as "work." Imagine if a man today in America lived as a travelling tentmaker outside American economy, moving unpredictably from one city to the next, remaining a few weeks or months only to pass on to another place. The Church would brand him as unstable, lazy, and guilty of breaking Paul's injunction of working!


      Today, a Christian may take up piecemeal employment that accords with the Law of Work, performing a number of different jobs on a temporary basis. But because it is not steady and fixed in harmony with fixed society, the Church will not recognize it as fulfilling the Law. The glaring hypocrisy is this: In the babylonian definition of "work," a man such as a government bureaucrat may literally do nothing but play records all day in his office. But because he occupies a recognized position in the babylonian system, he is accepted as "working"and the Church accepts it also!




     What is the overall point? The point is that neither Paul's life nor his words can be used by the Church for remaining under the Law of Work, and especially not in terms of supporting American collective society. The only thing Paul's life shows us is that sometimes, in the course of living by grace, God allows certain of His People to "work" according to the Law of Work.

But God's perfect will is for His people to live by grace above all knowledge of the Law of Work, above all sense of interpersonal obligation, and outside the fixed societies of men.


     God wants all His People to manifest the Life of Jesus with respect to earthly labour. And if His People happen to be found "working" in conjunction with the Law of Work, and even inside of babylonian economy, it is to be the exception, not the rule.


The Right Word for Today's Church in North America


     What is our conclusion? The word for the North American Church today is not "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." The word is

"Labour not for the meat which perishes."

The Western Church already knows how to "work" under the Law of Debt for Service Rendered. The Church is in fact a slave to dead works under the law of the "puritan work ethic." The Church is moreover enslaved to that law according to the definition of collective society.


     The Church prides Herself on Her dead works in support of the American Dream. The Church does not know Who She isfree to live above the Law of Work outside babylonianism.


     The Western Church must hear that She cannot serve God and serve Babylon under the "puritan work ethic."[66]  She must hear that hard, physical labour is not a self-sustaining virtue in God's eyes.[67]  He takes no more pride in dead industry than He does in lawless sloth. The self-righteousness of American labour is as abhorrent to Him as the laziness of Haiti. He is pleased only with the labour that brings us into our rest from the works of all Law.[68]


     The Church needs to stop using the words of Paul to qualify the  words  of Jesus. The Church  needs  to  cease using II  Thessalonians 3:10 to persecute those who are breaking into the more perfect salvation of John 6:27. Most American Christians who do this are either pastors who do not live by the injunction and bleed their babylonian sheep for their "tithes and offerings," or they are sheep who support such pastors. Hypocrites!


     The Church needs a new definition of "work." She has accepted the world's definition so long that She cannot understand God's true labour in any other way. The Church needs to see God's work from God's eyesthe true labour of Spirit that begins in our overcoming the evil forces that cloud our spiritual awareness of Godthe labour that starts in absolute stillness of mind and steadfastness of spirit, requiring incredible spiritual effort and discipline.


     Is it not a strange irony that what God calls true workprayer, meditation, intercession, praise and worshipthe Church scoffs at as laziness? Yet She is unable to endure at these "lazy" occupations for more than but a few minutes a day. In God's eyes, the Church with Her roots sunk deep in "working" America and slaving under the Law of Work in His nameShe is the sleeping sluggard. And until the Church learns to labour for that which endures to eternal life, God will not recognize Her activity as work, but as sloth.


     Because the Church has failed to leave behind Her dead works under the Law of Work, God is going to give Her a crash course in salvation by grace. He will take Her out into the wilderness amidst world tribulation.[69]  There, cut off from all Her dead work, He will teach Her once more how to live by faith, and to receive Her manna only by His grace. In that wilderness He will work out in Her the grace He planted within Her at Calvary. Forced to labour no more for the meat that perishes, She will learn how to labour for that which endures to life eternal.


     The call is again clear. Let us put off our unbelief. Let us put off our religious self-justification in the name of obeying the word of God. Let us stop tripping over our self-imposed stumblingblock of Paul's injunction. Let us put off the filthy rags of the old Law and put on all the garments of grace lest we be found naked when He appears.[70]  Let us cease taking thought for that which the Gentiles seek through their rebellious civilization. Let our only obligation be to do the will of the Father. Let us eat only of the meat He provides us. Let us go in the strength of that meat outside the camp of babylonianism to fulfil the Great Commission.



     Why wait for the tribulation when we can learn now?




[1]  Gen 3:19                      

[2]  Rom 3:20; 7:7                 

[3]  II Thess 3:10                 

[4]  Gal 3:10                      

[5]  Eccl 1:2 - 2:26               

[6]  Gen 4:3-5  Pr 21:4            

[7]  Gen 3:17-19                   

[8]  Gal 3:13                      

[9]  Heb 10:26                     

[10] Heb 9:26                       

[11] Mt 27:29                       

[12] II Cor 6:2                     

[13] Rom 8:4                   

[14] Rom 6:17-18 > 8:12             

[15] Ex 16:14ff                     

[16] I Ki 17:2-16              

[17] Jn 4:32                   

[18] Jn 4:34                   

[19] Lk 10:38-42                    

[20] Rom 8:29                       

[21] (I Jn 2:6)                     

[22] Mt 6:25ff                      

[23] Mt 6:24                   

[24] Jn 6:27                   

[25] Mt 5:17                   

[26] Lk 6:38                   

[27] Lk 6:30; 12:33  Mt 10:8; 19:21 

[28] [ex] Lk 7:36              

[29] Lk 8:3                         

[30] [ex] Lk 7:40-47                

[31] Ps 24:1                   

[32] Mt 17:27                       

[33] Mt 14:15-20; 15:32-38          

[34] Heb 12:2                       

[35] Phil 2:12 

[36] Col 3:1

[37] Gal 5:25

[38] Rom 6:14

[39] Rom 6:6

[40] I Pt 1:23  Jms 1:18 (Jn 3:3-8)

[41] II Cor 5:17

[42] II Cor 5:21

[43] Gal 2:20

[44] I Tim 1:9

[45] Rom 8:2

[46] Phil 2:12

[47] Rom 7:23

[48] Jms 2:8-12; 4:17

[49] Jms 1:22-25

[50] Rom 8:13 Col 3:3,5 Gal 5:24

[51] Jn 11:26

[52] Gal 4:1-7 (I Jn 2:12-14)

[53] Rom 6:15

[54] II Thess 3:11

[55] Tit 1:12-13

[56] Gal 3:3; 4:9; 5:1-4

[57] Mt 23:13

[58] Rom 9:31-32

[59] II Thess 3:9

[60] I Cor 9

[61] II Thess 3:9

[62] II Cor 11:7,9-10; 12:13-18

[63] II Cor 11:8 (Phil 4:10)

[64] Gal 5:3 Jms 2:10

[65] Acts 18:3

[66] Mt 6:24ff

[67] (Is 57:12)

[68] Heb 4:1-11

[69] Rev 12:14

[70] Rev 16:15