Friday 23rd October 2020 – 2 Thessalonians – Don’t be Idle
2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 15
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.
Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians offer insight into some misunderstandings that might trouble a community of new Christians. Paul and Silas established the church at Thessalonica just a year or so before writing, and these new Christians were still learning the fundamentals. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus had taken place only about 20 years earlier, so it was all very recent (20 years ago today? That was only the turn of this century!) Perhaps it’s not too surprising that there was confusion, including so-called false teachers who peddled fake news about Christianity causing some of the Christians in Thessalonica to give up work. Those Christians lived in idleness, supported by wealthy patrons and Paul was not impressed. Paul expected Christians to earn their own living. He wouldn’t tolerate idleness. “If you won’t work, you don’t eat!”
As I write, we are making our way out of lockdown, and facing an unknown ‘new normal’. Lockdown has been a period of intense work for some, and enforced time-off for others. It’s meant high anxiety for many, especially those who were furloughed, lost their jobs and consequently lost some or all their income.
Paul is quite clear that he is talking about people who are unwilling to work – very different from those who are unable due to previously unimaginable circumstances.
Whilst he expected to support himself, we know that when he lived in Thessalonica, Paul accepted offerings and support from the Christians in Philippi (Philippians 4: 15-16) and in the first letter to Thessalonians, he urged people to care for each other (1 Thessalonians 5: 14).
Today Paul’s approach is as important as ever; we must be willing to work, and as Christians we must support those who are still suffering after Lockdown or other unexpected events, and finally, like Paul, we must graciously accept occasional support for ourselves.
Help us to be willing to work
to make our own living,
and feed our families.
Help us to support those who are unable to work
due to circumstances they can’t control.
Not just financial support
emotional support too.
And Lord, help us to graciously accept
that sometimes we too need support.
We pray this in the name of Jesus,