Jeremiah 27:1-22; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18; Psalms 85:1-7; Proverbs 20:11
NT: “Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister who is idle and does not live according to the tradition received from us. For you yourselves know how you should imitate us: We were not idle among you; we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and toiled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It is not that we don’t have the right to support, but we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves. But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don’t consider him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 CSB)
To some, Paul’s command here may seem to be heavy-handed and harsh, but it was not intended in that way. In our culture, the word command can have a negative connotation… a word that feels very bossy and unloving. This command from Paul was not that at all. The Greek word for command had to do with a military order or directive that is transmitted from the commanding officer to the troops on the field. Paul was not claiming to be the commanding officer – he was transmitting orders from the Head of the Church… he was writing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus taught that if a brother or sister is confronted and corrected, yet does not pay attention and repent, that person is to be excluded from fellowship. So Paul’s command actually came from the authority of Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul encouraged the believers to lead a quiet life, mind their own business, and work – so that they wouldn’t be dependent on anyone. Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, he exhorted the believers to warn those who were idle. That word idle means disorderly… a soldier who refuses to fall into rank and submit to the orders of the commanding officer. There were members of the Thessalonian church who refused to work and were living off the generosity of others. Paul warned those people, and the believers in Thessalonica warned those people. Those idle people did not heed the correction nor the warning, so the result of that, based on Jesus’ teaching, was a removal from fellowship until they humbled themselves and repented. In withholding fellowship, they were not to treat the idle people as enemies. The act of withholding fellowship was to be done out of love – that the offenders would become ashamed of their behavior, repent, and come back in line.
Some people believe that it was the idle busybodies that started the rumor that the Day of the Lord had already arrived – and they were using that as an excuse to not work. Whether that is true or not, the truth is that Christ has not returned yet. And until Christ returns, there is work to do. There will continue to be work to do – either until we die, or until Christ raptures us to meet Him upon His return. As Paul stated, as long as we are able-bodied, we are to work quietly and provide for our needs, and not become a burden to other people. Of course there are times and situations where that is not possible – but that is the exception. If we are able, we need to work. We need to work to provide, and we need to work towards fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. And the work that we do is all by grace through faith. As long as we follow the commands of our Commanding Officer and receive the grace that He gives us through faith, we will not grow weary in doing good – and in the end, we will hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant… Share in Your Master’s joy.”
Prayer: Lord, You are my Lord. I don’t live according to my preferences. I live according to Your word, Your will and Your ways. Are there times when I don’t want to comply with Your directions? Yes, there are. Are there times when I would rather do nothing than to engage in Your kingdom work? Yes, there are. But I thank You that when I repent from those preferences and choose to walk in Your ways, there is grace available to help in my weakness. My desire is to be a good and faithful servant, so I submit fully to You and Your work… until I die, or until You return and catch me up to be with You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.