[We] urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (1 Thess. 4:1)

Our rosebush was dying. A parasitic plant had grown up around it, leeching off the nutrients that the roses needed. I had to become an impromptu plant surgeon and hack away the harmful vegetation so the rosebush could flourish again.

The apostle Paul longed for his Thessalonian converts to flourish spiritually. Twice in this week’s passage, he encouraged them to follow his instructions for growth “more and more” (vv. 1, 10). But what tied his instructions together?

The answer is love. Like I did with the parasitic plant, Christians must hack away the lust and junk that harms brothers and sisters in Christ (vv. 3–8). When pruning happens, brotherly love is free to flourish (vv. 9–10). And brotherly love minds its own business, not its brother’s business; it does its own work instead of leeching off its sister’s supplies (vv. 11–12).

Paul, writing in Greek, tied brotherly love to work ethic with his words. Verse 9’s word for brotherly love is philadelphia (like the city in Pennsylvania). Verse 11’s word for “make it your ambition” is the similar-sounding philotimeomai—more literally, “love it as an honor.” Loving the family of believers includes loving the honor of honest work. If brotherly love is the rosebush, then the work produced by love is the beautiful, fragrant roses that make Christianity attractive. Now, that’s flourishing!

Replace lust and laziness with loving and working for someone’s good.

Jerome Van Kuiken grew up in the Philippines as the child of missionaries. He teaches Bible, theology, and apologetics at Oklahoma Wesleyan University and serves in the children’s ministry at his local church.

© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.