(Part 5 in a series of letters called Ramblings from your Grandparents)
“For even when we were with you we gave you this rule; If a man will not work he shall not eat.” ….Apostle Paul (II Thessalonians 3:10)
Grandpa and I often talk of our youthful days and how poor both our families were….and how little we realized our poverty. We were happy, carefree children, and money was not primary in our thinking. I suppose both our sets of parents were far more concerned with feeding and clothing us than we were but they kept their concerns to themselves; at least Grandpa’s parents did. My parents talked more openly of their inner feelings so I was quite aware of how my parents felt on many subjects and their concerns, but it never marred my sense of security.
Grandpa came from a big family and his dad always had a secure job. They were frugal folk and made do with what they had. I smile when I hear people say, “You just can’t afford a big family like we use to have.” Sure we could IF we would live by the same standards as parents of years gone by did. Grandpa’s parents never took a vacation in their long lives. The big treat of the week was to go to town and have an ice cream cone or candy bar. Everyone in the family worked, not always at money-paying jobs, but there were gardens to be tended and harvested, animals to be fed, and food to be preserved for winter eating. If the boys wanted to play ball it was in the vacant lot or out in the field and there was certainly no fancy uniform to be worn. Feed sacks provided cloth for dresses, aprons, dish towels.
When I went home to meet Grandpa’s parents for the first time I slept in the main bedroom on nice, white sheets. After Grandpa and I were married we would always have the same room when visiting and always nice, white sheets. I had been in the family for several years before someone made me aware that those nice, white sheets were the only ones in the house. Everyone else slept on feedsack sheets, sewn by Great grandma on her treadle sewing machine.
My family was smaller and dad had a steady job with adequate income the first years of my life. Then he launched into new work and never seemed to be able to make adequate funds though he tried very hard. We tried to help him as much as possible but were limited in the skills needed to really be of assistance. The latter years I was home we were just poor!
We still worked. Dad provided lots of food by having a big garden and hunting and fishing and I helped mom can vegetables and wild berries. We never went hungry but were always provided for by our own hard work and the goodness of God.
Another item that occupied a lot of our time was getting sufficient wood to keep ourselves from freezing to death. There was no central heat in either Grandpa’s home or mine while we were growing up. To have enough wood stacked for the long winters required considerable time in the warmer months.
A Parent’s Responsibility
Many children who lived through those hard times vowed that their children would never know the lack of money, the lack of food, the lack of “comforts of life” that they had known. Motivated to make life easier and more pleasant for their children, it appears that these last generations have allowed their children to grow soft and lazy and unappreciative.
As our own children drew near adulthood we were concerned that we had not prepared them for the rigors of the adult world in the area of work responsibility. Had we fallen into the trap of remembering our childhoods and what little time we had to ourselves because there was always another chore to be done? I, too, wanted our children to have more time to relax and do what they wanted. I realize now that is foolish thinking. Remember, Grandpa said it is the parents’ responsibility to prepare their children to leave home? A parent doesn’t do a good job of that unless they teach their children to work. We were extremely grateful to note that as each of our children began caring for a mate and home that they faced their responsibilities well.
Some of you grandchildren have grown up in the country with a little extra land for a big garden and animals to tend to. When we visit you during the summer months we often find you in the garden pulling weeds, picking vegetables, mowing the big yard, feeding the rabbits or whatever else needs to be done to keep the place tidy and in order. We remember one time when you older children were in the garden picking beans under the blazing summer sun. You were dirty and sweaty and tired.
“You children are so blessed to have parents that make you work,” was our cheery commentary. Yes, you looked at your grandparents with a bit of doubt in your eyes and perhaps a tad of exasperation. I remember those feelings well when I was a child. I didn’t like to work either; but after I grew up I was so VERY grateful for the years of work already behind me. Adult responsibilities didn’t come as such a shock because Grandpa and I had both been well prepared. “When you’re all grown up you’ll be glad you had to pick these beans today,” was our continuing jolly advice to you precious grandchildren. And it will be true.
Doing What You Must
Shortly after our eldest child became a wife and subsequently a mother, she would say, “There is a big difference between being busy doing what you WANT to do, and being busy doing what you MUST do.” How true!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:
“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” ….II Thessalonians 3:10
We suspect there was good reason for those words. Was some Christian trying to get through life without doing his fair share of the work? Was he doing little or nothing and expecting someone else to provide shelter, food, clothing? Was he feigning aches and pains and inability to do a good day’s work? Was he manipulating those who loved him to care for his needs even though he cared little for theirs? I expect so and Paul’s advice was plain, simple, to the point and easily understood. We ought to consider this scripture more today.
Our society is inundated with those who will not care for their own needs though quite able. These parasites on society seem to feel the rest of the world owes them a living, for what reason we’re not sure.
Worse Than an Unbeliever
Remember we talked about enablers? We believe our society today and many Christians, too, are enabling people to shirk their God-ordained responsibility to work and provide for their own needs. It makes Christians feel good to give food or money or clothing for the poor, but in many cases it simply enables people to go on “parking on someone else’s nickel.” When Paul wrote the young preacher Timothy with words of encouragement and advice, he must have seen some of those same types of people. Why else would he write,
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I Timothy 5:8
Wow! That’s strong stuff! How can you be WORSE than an unbeliever? An unbeliever doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. An unbeliever cannot go to heaven, has no hope of heaven, because unless we are washed in the blood of Jesus, there is no heaven for us. To be told you are WORSE than an unbeliever is BAD NEWS!
If a man (or a woman) doesn’t work, he ought not to eat; and whoever refuses to provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever. It’s time we cared enough about people to stop coddling those who are lazy and manipulative.
We know there are those who have real needs, people who struggle to keep food on the table, the rent paid. Folks who can’t afford to have their children’s teeth fixed or get new eyeglasses when needed. But we suspect that most people who are truly deserving of a little extra help will never ask for it. They trust the Lord, work a little harder, and manage to survive. God has blessed Grandpa and me with all we need and a lot of what we want. We would love to help someone who is in genuine need; but we will not knowingly enable those who will not help themselves.
Desire a Good Day’s Work
And so, dear grandkids, we guess you know we pray you will be hard workers. There is so much said today about people being “stuck” with jobs they don’t like and aren’t “fulfilled” in. As nice as it is to have a job you really enjoy I don’t think that is the heart of the issue. Your Great-uncle Tom (Grandpa’s brother) worked for over thirty years at the same job. While visiting one day I said, “Tom, you must have really enjoyed your work.”
“Why do you say that?” he asked.
“You’ve worked at it most of your life,” was my reply.
Then Uncle Tom said something I shall not forget, “Since when do you have to like a job to do it?”
He’s right you know. Liking your job is “frosting on the cake,” but certainly is not a necessity. What is important is that we do what needs to be done, do it well, do it cheerfully as unto the Lord.
“Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.” ….Proverbs 20:13
No child of God, no brother to the Lord Jesus, no grandchild of ours ought to ever be a sluggard. We pray you will have the wisdom, fortitude, and desire to do a good day’s work for a day’s pay, to do it uncomplainingly and with gratitude; and that all shall be done to the honor and glory of God! Being a good worker does not just happen, doesn’t come with the genes. Being a good worker is something we choose to be.