“Won’t Work? — Don’t Eat!!”

“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat,” 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

The Word of God presents a plan for life that is perfectly complete and ahead of the shifting sands of man’s social innovations and novelties.

Man working in machine shop. Photo by Maxime Agnelli on Unsplash

The headline: “Benefits to be axed after a year on the dole to stop it becoming a ‘lifestyle choice’, Prime Minister announces” is but the declaring of a long-required response, though falling far short of what is needed, in the face of a social ill whereby schemers and scammers are provided with a comfortable ‘workless’ lifestyle by the Government at the expense of those who do work and pay taxes!

‘Skiving’ is nothing new. The excuses given range from the ‘cunningly ingenuous’ to the ‘lame brained’.

One trade union official, Paul Embery, is reported as offering the following stupid reason why some are right not seek work and instead live at the expense of others. “Many Britons are dissuaded from working due to its “mundane drudgery”. (See here)

There used to be a programme on the BBC radio, many years ago, called ‘Workers Playtime’.  It was transmitted by the BBC between 1941 and 1964. It was intended originally as a morale-booster for industrial workers during World War II.

Now it seems that ‘playtime without any work’ is what many demand!

Another such BBC radio programme was ‘Music While You Work’. It was a daytime radio programme of continuous music broadcast in the United Kingdom twice daily on workdays from 23 June 1940 until 29 September 1967.

Both of these broadcasting ventures were in order to aid workers often engaged in the most tedious of labours, especially during wartime and the subsequent demanding years of scarcity.

However, today sees the increasing notion that is held by some that they have a right to live and be entitled to a totally frivolous life at the expense of their neighbours!

From the words of our text it is obvious that it is not a new notion. The maxim that Paul quotes is founded upon an obvious truth   and is in accordance with the great law under which our Creator has placed us. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” Genesis 3:19.

That law in the circumstances was benevolent, and it should be our aim to carry it out in reference to ourselves and to others. The law here laid down by the apostle extends to all who are able to work for a living but who will not do it, and binds us not to contribute to their support if they will not labour for it.

What Paul was instituting was a rule whereby the local Church should not offer support to those who could but would not work and earn a living. Instead they were happy to live off the ‘charity’ of others. That which the apostle so succinctly states as a law originating with God is poorly imitated by politicians in an effort to save public money at a time of austerity. The prime minister and those who support him are not moved by a desire to institute biblical morality! No, most likely unwittingly they are recognising the simple logical common sense of that which has its origins in heaven!


Sadly, I do not think it will prove successful. The attitude of heart and mind that produces such selfish laziness is born within each person. It is an instinct of our depraved nature. Paul was teaching those who were but until recently, Grecian heathens. There was not the welfare provisions of today from which they could sponge. However, that did not stop some sitting all day in the sunshine at a street corner and begging of passers by. Most likely there were those who ‘advertised’ their needs either by mimicking illness or injury or exaggerating any physical complaint they may have had.

I will never forget my experience in downtown Nairobi when beggars of every form swarmed around me and those I was with. I later learned that oftentimes some of the dreadful injuries and deformities were evidently self-inflicted in order to promote pity on the part of those passing by!

I would have thought that employment was an easier route to obtaining food and clothing!

In the verses that follow my text, the apostle sets down the ‘Christian ethos’ regarding work.

“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. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all,” 2 Thessalonians 3:11-16.

1. It is the Saviour’s will that Christians be seen to be diligent workers, providing for their own necessities. “We command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

There is still, though mentioned very rarely and harder now to find, the ‘Protestant ethos’ in Ulster. It is that which the gospel implanted in the hearts of those who came under its saving influence in their thousands in times of blessing in the past. The words of Paul here were lodged in the hearts and minds of those submissive to the Bible and its outworkings were seen amongst the people of Northern Ireland. It has to be said that the rejectors of the gospel follow the instincts of their fallen nature and are prone to steal, lie and deceive in order to obtain that which they have no right to.


I was just informed that the cost of my car insurance was being increased substantially. Why? Because of the high level of insurance scams in Northern Ireland! That is the fruit of ecumenism and its undermining of Bible religion in the pulpits and pews of the main churches. Whether it be ‘PC’, politically correct or not, it is true to say that the Republican and Nationalist communities here were encouraged to seek those welfare benefits to which they were not entitled. The late Eddie McAteer, a nationalist leader who died in 1986, was known for his urging of his supporters to seek to disrupt the workings of good government here by deviously interacting with any Government agency they had dealings with! The purpose of his urging was to waste the time and money of the Government agencies which sought to handle the misinformation etc.

That is not the way of the true Christian, though it fits well with the ethos of popery!

2. Working hard to provide for ourselves and our dependants is but part of our duty of ‘well doing’. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” The words “well doing” carry the meaning of ‘acting uprightly’. The Christian is to be ‘upright’ in all his dealings and that includes his dealings with the Social Services! These benefits have, in essence, come from the influences of the gospel, though they have been corrupted and abused as this merciful providence has been implemented.

As there were those who held on to their portion of manna (Exodus 16:19-20), or who went out to gather manna on the Sabbath Day, quite contrary to the command of God (Exodus 16:27-28), even so there has been that abusing of the benefits of the welfare state since its outset.

I recall my mother telling me of her visit to a chemist’s shop in London (for our family lived there when the post-war Labour Government instituted the welfare reform after World War II) where there was a long queue at the shop. When my mother eventually was served and was paying for her items, the chemist complained of those before her who were seeking free items under the new regime. ‘This will not last’, he said. ‘People just want everything for nothing’.

Well it has lasted despite the abuse though it has brought the country nigh to bankruptcy!

3. Please note that those who abuse such benefits are to be shunned. “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.” Even Christians may do wrong and abuse these benefits. I would say that it has become more likely in these days of slackening moral standards. Claiming benefits to which the Christian has no right is hardly seen as a sin.

That was not Paul’s view or, more importantly, the Lord’s view.

Such wrong-doing was worthy of being ‘marked’ and the guilty party’s ‘company avoided’! It was according to these words, a matter for church discipline and membership suspension until repentance was manifested.

How far removed from God’s standards Christians have drifted!

Will the prime minister’s initiative work? I doubt it very much. There will be many objections to it in parliament and even more amongst the general public. Such abuse has become endemic. It has penetrated deep within society. Indeed, it has become an industry for some!

Recently, the Crown Prosecution Service announced: “Members of Britain’s biggest benefit fraud gang convicted”: “Five members of an organised criminal gang, which falsely claimed more than £50 million in Universal Credit in the largest benefit fraud in England and Wales, have been convicted.

Bulgarian nationals, Galina Nikolova, 38, Stoyan Stoyanov, 27, Tsvetka Todorova, 52, Gyunesh Ali, 33, and Patritsia Paneva, 26, have all pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering related offences at Wood Green Crown Court for their involvement in a multi-million-pound scam on the benefit system.”

The system is so open to abuse and carelessly monitored that foreign criminals are attracted to the ongoing ‘gold rush’ that is evident within the UK. It is this that is fuelling the invasion across the English Channel from France by rubber dinghies of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants on a daily basis. The stupidly paltry counter-measures taken to stop the migrants is but a mirror of the counter-abuse measures mounted against the daily plundering of state funds through benefit frauds!

All of this is but the toll the nation is paying for its rejection of gospel truth and its embracing of the flesh-pleasing follies of modern religion!

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
20th April, 2024