In the wilderness, God provided them daily food from heaven (Ex 16). But this would not always be the case. God knew that in the future, these slaves would have to fight in battles, raise their own food and develop skills to survive on their own.

God also understands human nature, and the importance of having work to do (Prov 10:16; 22:19; 27:23; Eccl 9:10a). Work is part of God’s plan for mankind; this has been true from the beginning (Gen 2:15,20). So God commanded Moses to give the people work they must do in order to eventually live and prosper in the Promised Land.

The Apostle Paul encountered a similar problem with the church at Thessalonica. People were getting saved and delivered from bondage to sin. But they were so excited about their new-found freedom that they quit working. They began to just sit around and wait for Christ’s Second Coming! They were worried that if they weren’t watching, they might miss Jesus when He came again. But Paul reassured them that there would be no way to miss Christ’s return to earth (1Thess 4:16-5:6; 2Thess 2:1-5).

Paul also reproved them, pointing out that each person should be working and living life in an orderly manner (2Thess 3:6-12; see also 1 Thessalonians 4:11). Otherwise, in their idleness they could become disorderly and busybodies. Paul cites his own life and conduct, and the life and conduct of his leadership team, as an example of working to support oneself and taking care of responsibilities.

There are times and places where good jobs are hard to find. But productive work of some kind can usually be found everywhere. Labor is always profitable (Prov 14:23). Church leaders must encourage people to be productive in their lives. The fruit of their labors, no matter how small, will help provide for their needs. They will also be blessed by God as they give a tenth (a tithe) to the Church (Mal 3:8-11), and have extra resource for other good works (Eph 4:28).

A Special Word to Pastors, Evangelists, Apostles, and other church leaders:

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul makes it clear that those who labor spiritually have the God-given liberty to receive financial support while they labor in ministry (1Cor 9:1-11,14; see also Romans 15:27).

However, Paul is quick to also say this: “Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ … But I have used none of these things [the right to receive material support from those to whom Paul preached and ministered] (1Cor 9:12,15).

Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself so that he would not be a burden to the churches (Acts 18:3; 20:33-35; 2Thess 3:8,9). He did not receive support from the people of a local church. Paul gives us three reasons why he labored with his own hands to support himself in ministry:

1) So the Gospel would not be hindered in any way (1Cor 9:12).

2) Paul worked for an eternal reward, not an earthly one. Paul was exceedingly careful to not abuse or misuse his “authority in the Gospel” for selfish reasons (1Cor 9:18).