Monday, December 07, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

V6-12 – 6In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching [or tradition] you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ 11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.

Paul issues a command “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…to keep away from every brother who…does not live according to the teaching” (Matthew 18:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 3:10-11). He’s speaking of idle individuals who refused to work and instead went house to house as “busybodies” (v11), meddling in others’ business and relying on others for food and sustenance. Calvin says that Paul “forbids that their indolence should be encouraged by indulgence.” In other words, “keep away from” such professing Christians, because they were literally “disorderly;” their lifestyle did not conform to sound doctrine. Perhaps by avoiding them, they will be shamed into repentance and orderly lives, as well as prevented from further dishonoring the church. If not, their profession would be called into question.

In v7-9, Paul repeats the example given in his previous letter (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12), that of his hard work while in Thessalonica, and he urges his audience to follow his model behavior.

From v10, we see that the Thessalonian Christians were tending toward idleness even while Paul was there with them; thus, he gave them the command to keep food from those who don’t work (Psalm 128:2; Proverbs 10:4). As noted earlier, Paul calls these people, not busy, but busybodies (v11), as they were probably nosy, getting into others’ business, instead of tending to their own. Calvin notes, “In the Greek participles there is, an elegant play upon words, which I have attempted in some manner to imitate, by rendering it as meaning that they do nothing, but have enough to do in the way of curiosity… Idle persons are, for the most part, chargeable, that, by unseasonably bustling about, they give trouble to themselves and to others. For we see, that those who have nothing to do are much more fatigued by doing nothing, than if they were employing themselves in some very important work; they run hither and thither; wherever they go, they have the appearance of great fatigue; they gather all sorts of reports, and they put them in a confused way into circulation. You would say that they bore the weight of a kingdom upon their shoulders.” He also suggests that in saying “he shall not eat,” the apostle Paul “does not mean that he gave commandment to those persons, but forbade that the Thessalonians should encourage their indolence by supplying them with food.” This command would have significant impact on welfare in our nation. Those disorderly needed “to settle down and earn” their food.

Vincent Cheung says, “Paul had said, ‘warn those who are idle’ in his first letter (1 Thessalonians 5:14), but apparently that did not eradicate the problem. So when he receives report that some of them remain idle (2 Thessalonians 3:11), he brings up the matter again in this second letter. This time he takes on a more urgent tone, first appealing to ‘the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ and then issuing a ‘command’ to compel the brothers to take decisive action against those who persist in idleness. Rather than earning their own food, they live on the charity of others – they are loafers and freeloaders. And not being busy with meaningful labor, they meddle in other people’s business.” And it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t issue a command to the actual people who are idle. I wonder if he thinks that they are false brothers. He issues commands to those brothers who are not idle regarding how to deal who those professing brothers who are idle. Paul’s written example here serves as illustration of how to deal with the problem.

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