Work — or Parasitism?
A typical picture of Russian reality — lines of professional panhandlers standing near Orthodox temples. All of them are zealously crossing themselves: allegedly they are praying for us… (though, of what worth are the prayers of these people-parasites?)… There are very few among them who are indeed in trouble and really need money. Others just chose parasitism as their profession.
And people give alms to them, because Jesus Christ said: “Give to everyone who asks of you…” (Luke 6:30).
But did He mean this kind of “giving”?
He Himself achieved everything. He was consubstantial with the Father. He Who is merged with the Father needs nothing earthly. He is ready to accept death of the body and to rise then in the Father. The body for Him is but an impediment and only the Will of the Father makes Him maintain the existence of the body.
Jesus lived not for Himself, He lived for people. And He gave them all that He had, all of Himself. He suggested the same to His followers. Why do you need anything earthly? We are working, preaching the Truth, healing people, they are glad when we visit them, they will feed us, we have clothes, we are given a shelter for night. What else do we need on the Earth? Seek the Father then! And do not grudge giving others what you have.
“… Be not anxious as to your life, what you shall eat, nor for the body, what you shall put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, having neither storehouse nor barn, and God feeds them; how much more are you better than the birds?… Consider the lilies, how they grow: they do not toil, they do not spin; and yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these… Thus, do not seek what you shall eat, nor what you shall drink, and stop being in anxiety (about this). For all these things the nations of the world seek after; and your Father knows that you have need of these things; but rather seek the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock! … Make for yourselves … an unfailing treasure in Heaven, where no thief comes…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:22-34)
Moreover, one day, “… a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher! What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered, ‘You lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor… and come, follow Me…’” (Luke 18:18-22).
Jesus knew that this man could make progress if he decided to become His disciple. But the man did not decide to become a disciple of Jesus…
Who did Jesus address when He proposed to renounce all the earthly: the people worthy of becoming His disciples or all people? Of course, the former!
For example, once He came with His disciples to the house of Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha. Mary “… sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she came to Him and said, ‘Lord! Do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha! Martha! You are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42).
But who would have fed the guests if Martha had not done it? Then why did Jesus say these words to her? He said it to justify for Martha the behavior of His favorite disciple Mary. And Martha, on her side, performed the highest service she was capable of.
Who was worthy of becoming the closest disciples of Jesus? Idlers and parasites? No!
Jesus hoped to impart to His closest disciples the highest knowledge about the cognition of the Heavenly Father. It concerns the final stages of personal evolution of human souls. And we have to prepare ourselves for them by developing in ourselves Love, Wisdom, and Power through earthly affairs — through sexual and parental love, through providing ourselves and our families with living, through helping friends and anyone whom we can help, through defending them from criminals, through striving to improve the material and spiritual life of all people… And only when we have developed ourselves in all these exoteric affairs, then the time comes to engage in serious esoteric work with the purpose of cognizing God-the-Father and merging with Him.
Only few people are capable of the latter. The rest have to perfect themselves through labor for the sake of other’s good first of all, through studying religion, strengthening themselves in faith and in religious ethics.
And only they who work “are worthy of their food” (Matt 10:10). It is “the laborers (who) are worthy of their hire…” (Luke 10:7).
It is the one who works that is worthy of material welfare: “Who serves as a soldier at his own wages at any time? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock and does not partake of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things according to man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox threshing grain.’ Does God take care of oxen? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? It was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.” (1 Cor 9:7-10).
Jesus and His Apostles did not grow wheat, did not graze cattle, did not build houses. But they served people with the higher service — the service that these people could not fulfill themselves. They showed the way to God. And thus they deserved food.
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of power? Do all have gifts of healings?… But zealously strive after the better gifts, and I will show you a more excellent way!” (1 Cor 12:29-31)
“… We did not eat any man’s bread freely, but we worked with labor and travail night and day… not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example to you, to imitate us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this, that if anyone does not choose to work, neither should that person eat… And if some do not obey our word by this letter… have no company with them… yet do not count them as enemies…” (2 Thes 3:8-15) “But we beseech you, brothers … to work with your own hands, as we commanded you!…” (1 Thes 4:10-11)
All people have to work. Jesus worked. The one who does not work to provide oneself with living and to help others (if able to do it) is a parasite without chances of approaching God.
So the question is: should we encourage the parasitism of people by indulging them? Do we harm them or help them by this?
But let no one conclude from the above said that we should never give anything to others. We should give, and not money only. This is a manifestation of our love. But we should give to those deserving it. This will be a deed of wisdom.
Let us remember the words of Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who have toiled: they have found the (right) life!’” (The Gospel of Thomas, 58).