From as early as I can remember, we had chores. In my junior high years, I learned how to sew Barbie doll clothes; and I would trade doll clothes for chores with my sisters. The chore event I remember the most, however, happened when I was in second grade (as close as I can remember). I had been assigned dinner dishes. Dinner dishes back then was not lining up the dishes in an electric washer that would do all the hard work for us. It wasn’t event turning a faucet to get hot water into a kitchen sink. For us, out in the Andean foothills in the airplane only accessible town of Apolo, Bolivia, doing the dishes meant heating water over a kerosene burner and washing in a galvanized steel wash tub under the light of a kerosene lamp hung on the wall above the table on which the wash tub sat.
I dilly-dallied around way to much on that particular evening, and the water in the wash tub got cold. The grease from the dishes started floating in the top of the water. My mood went from bad to worse until in second grade selfish frustration I decided the solution to my predicament was to run away from home. I don’t remember how I left the house or property, but I do recall running along the dirt street and round the block as the evening light fled with me. I found myself along the outside wall at the far end our property next to a stream, scared. The run-away solution having failed, I returned with my tail tucked between my legs, as it were, and was put to work finishing my assigned job.
I suppose there were a number of Biblical principles at work that night, but one of the most pointed is found in 2 Thessalonians 3: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (v. 10 ESV). It’s a truth Mom and Dad instilled in us from our very beginnings, and I think it is a message that needs to be heard again today especially in a world where passing responsibility seems to be in vogue.
We who are the Church, we who are the redeemed body of Christ, we who are citizens in the Kingdom of God are not only so for eternity; we are also so to make a positive impact on our world. There is something different about a believer, something that makes him or her stand apart in the world and something that makes him or her especially attractive to the world. One of those attractions is our call to personal responsibility. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians encouraging them to stand fast in the face of mounting persecution, he also commanded them to personal responsibility. He told them they should not even associate with another believer is that believer did not also practice personal responsibility. The believer is not to be idle. The believer is to be productive.
Sometimes our work is pleasant. Other times our work is wearing. So it is that in the end, the Holy Spirit’s word to us through Paul is to not grow weary in doing good. It is good to believe. It is good to trust in God’s promises. It is good to work, even to do the dishes in cold, greasy water under the kerosene lamp.