And now, brothers, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up…
"Two men," says Carlyle," I honour, and no third. First, the toil-worn craftsman, that with earth-made implement laboriously conquers the Earth and makes her man's. Venerable to me is the hard hand, crooked, coarse, wherein notwithstanding lies a cunning virtue indefeasibly royal, as of the sceptre of this planet. The second man I honour, and still more highly, is he who is toiling for the spiritually indispensable — not to say daily bread — but the bread of life. These two in all their degrees I honour; all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listeth. Sublimer in this world know I nothing than a peasant saint. Could such now anywhere be met with, such a one will take thee back to Nazareth itself. Thou wilt see the splendour of heaven spring from the humblest depths of earth like a light shining in great darkness." In Paul you have these two labourers which the sage of Chelsea so greatly honours. The text leads us to consider labour in four aspects —
I. AS A GUARD AGAINST DISHONESTY. "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel." Covetousness is the soul of theft. The apostle did not covet because he worked for his livelihood. Such labour acts as a security against dishonesty in two ways.
1. It raises a man above the need of another's property. The great Creator has given to every man, as a rule, that natural skill and strength which, when industriously used, will secure all the temporal good he needs.
2. It trains a man to respect another's property. The man who toils for what he has alone knows the value of property. Laziness breeds covetousness. The industrious habits of a people are the safeguards of a nation's property.
II. AS A CONDITION OF INDEPENDENCY. There is a sublime spirit of independency in these words: "Ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities and to them that were with me." This feeling must have been heightened by the fact that he knew that he had a Divine claim to their temporal things (1 Corinthians 9:13, 14), and also by the fact that on account of his influence over them, he might have extracted from them large portions of their property. Two thoughts are suggested here —
1. That it is a desirable thing for a minister to be secularly independent of his people. Why else does the apostle rejoice at it? The people who feel that their minister is dependent upon them are likely to take advantage of his poverty, and to misinterpret his acts of purest generosity; and the minister who feels his dependency may come under a strong temptation to humour their prejudices, and under a painful sense of his own humiliation.
2. That a secular independence, therefore, every minister should endeavour to obtain. Any man with two healthy hands can do it and ought to do it. Agriculture, mechanics, trade, literature, medicine, law — the minister who wishes to be secularly independent of his people may get his livelihood from some of these.
III. AS A SOURCE OF BENEFICENCE. His hands not only ministered to his necessities, but to them that were with him, so that they enabled him "to support the weak." Industrious labour is socially beneficent. The industrious man —
1. Necessarily enriches society. He produces what would not have been without him, and thus adds to the common stock of wealth on which society lives. The lazy man, on the contrary, consumes without producing, and thus impoverishes society.
2. Generally becomes both able and willing to help society. Industry has the power, not only of supplying the means to alleviate the distress, but often generates the disposition to do so. Where Christianity is, as in the case of Paul, the disposition is.
IV. AS A PRACTICE TO BE FOLLOWED. "I have showed you all things."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.