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Bible studies

Bible study: Income generation and co-operatives

A study on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 looking at the apostle Paul's teaching on income generation

2005 Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Credit schemes – Footsteps 26

How enhancing access to credit can help people lift themselves out of poverty

Income generation and co-operatives

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6–13.

The apostle Paul was deeply troubled by a report that some members of the church at Thessalonica were idle without doing any work, but were active in a wrong way, for example, by interfering in other people’s business (v 11). This created a bad influence in the community which eventually had to take on the burden of providing for such idlers (1Thess 4:2). So Paul, using himself and his friends as models, encourages the Thessalonians to work together in order to generate income and live on their own earnings (v 12). Let us look at the characteristics of Paul as a model for ourselves:

  • Although Paul, as an apostle, had authority to receive income from the churches he had established (v 9), instead he chose to set an example of supporting himself by hard work. He and his companions worked ‘night and day’ rather than be a burden to church members (1Thess 2:9).
  • Paul generated income by doing the work in which he had skill and experience. He had been trained in the trade of tent making (leatherwork in making tents) and so he continued with this trade in Corinth (Acts 18:3). We also need to recognise our own skills and talents and use them to provide our income.
  • Paul worked together with others familiar with the same trade. He joined the couple, Aquila and Priscilla, with the same profession and worked with them (Acts 18:1–3, 2 Thess 3:9 ‘we worked night and day’).
  • Paul’s work supported both himself and his companions Acts 20:34). He also had a deep concern for the poor and needy. He encouraged the Ephesians to work so they could give to those in need (Eph 4:28). He had motivated the Gentile churches to make contributions to the poor in Jerusalem (Rom 15: 26–27). Therefore we, as God’s people, are called to work hard by using our skills, and to generate income both individually and collectively so that we can support ourselves and those in need, whether our Christian workers or the poor.
  • Income-generating and co-operative efforts are very important for the welfare of families. In the modern world it is easy to ignore our family responsibilities, even while we are caring for the poor. Parents should provide for their children (2 Cor 12:14), while children must return this support as their parents grow older (1 Tim 5:4).

It will be impossible to support ourselves, our families, the church and our community unless we develop the habit of ‘saving’ a small amount regularly out of what we earn. Otherwise our hard work may be in vain. If Joseph had not stored up food during the seven years of plenty, he and his people, both in Egypt and Canaan, could hardly have survived the time of famine (Genesis 41:33–57). Co-operative efforts with an attitude of ‘saving’ can build a prosperous community. It is for this reason that we have, in many places, co-operative banks and societies which offer several savings schemes and which distribute the money saved for community welfare projects. If we work hard to generate income and use facilities to save our resources, possibly we can overcome economic injustice and inequality.

by Dr Jey Kanagaraj

Questions for discussion

  • What are the skills that I have? How can I use them to lead a self-supporting life?
  • How can I help my own family and the families in my community?
  • Who are the needy in our community? How can we help them, both as individuals and as a group?
  • How can we use both our individual and our joint income to be more effective in mission and evangelism?

Dr Jey Kanagaraj is a lecturer at Union Biblical Seminary, PO Box 1425, Bibvewadi, Pune, 411037, Maharashtra, India.

EDITOR: The author of the Bible study on ‘Women at wells’ in issue No.24 was Elizabeth Hill and not David Partington. We apologise to Drishtikone for this error.

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