2 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 18 Warning against idleness
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
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Some of the Thessalonians were not living according to the example set by Paul, Silas and Timothy. Paul’s first letter to them says “Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 13 – 14)
Despite this admonition, Paul has to write a second letter (2 Thessalonians, the subject of our current study)
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”
There is still a problem with some of the Christians being ‘idle and disruptive’. It is possible that teaching about the imminent return of Jesus was being misunderstood. Some people may have stopped working, believing the return of Jesus to be so close as to make daily work not merely unnecessary but a distraction.
The way Paul chooses to deal with the problem is instructive. He reminds the Thessalonians of the example that he, Silas and Timothy set. He reminds them of the rule he gave them, namely: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ And he says: ‘Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.’
Paul reminds the faithful Thessalonians that those causing the problem, the ‘busybodies’ are in error, but nevertheless they are still fellow believers. They need to be gently but firmly guided back to the right way of living, not condemned.
And Paul, as he signs off the letter in his own handwriting, confirms their status by saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” The letter – the admonishment – and the blessing of the grace of the Lord Jesus – is sent to all.
And that applies to all of us too. We are none of us perfect. We can all benefit from reading Paul’s words; we can all benefit from the loving admonishment of fellow Christians; and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is essential, and a great blessing, if we are to live as God wishes.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.