2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 - Now we command you, brothers, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
The church at Thessalonica had been grappling with some concerns that "the day of the Lord had come" (2 Thessalonians 2:2b). This was a big deal, and Paul earlier in this letter goes on at length to reiterate what he had told them previously—that things like a "rebellion" and the "man of lawlessness" and the "son of destruction" who proclaims "himself to be God" will all make their appearance before the coming of the Lord (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).
Notwithstanding Paul's earlier teaching, however, speculation that these things had already occurred had possibly led some to take advantage of the church's charity by unnecessarily drawing from its resources to support their idle behavior.
In regard to his instruction on end-time matters, Paul urges believers to "stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15b). On the wholly practical matter of day-to-day living, he advises them to "keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6b).
To all this, Paul gives some down-to-earth basics to the believers at Thessalonica: watch out for those who are idle; if they won't work, neither should they eat. Paul backs this up by telling them that even though he had the "right," so to speak, to receive food from them when he and his fellow evangelists were among them, he didn't exercise it. Instead, he reminded them how they toiled "night and day," so as not to be a "burden to any."
Paul knew that the Gospel he liberally proclaimed was life changing in its effects. If he could be turned from his life of extremism against the early church to embrace the salvation God offers in Christ, then surely those guilty of slacking in their work could be brought around.
How practical God is in His Word and provision to us! These ancient believers were on the front lines of first hearing the Good News of eternal life in Jesus and then combating wayward philosophies and attitudes that might disturb their faith. In their circumstance, God provided for them in Paul a man who shared both the divine Word of life and the practical truths of living out the Christian life.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, give us a yearning to know Your Word and the strength to live it out in our everyday lives. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.
1. How do people react or get unsettled when they hear "news" about end-time events?
2. Paul and his fellow evangelists were more interested in giving the Thessalonians an example to imitate than in tapping into their resources. Do you know of church leaders who do this today—either give good examples to imitate or tap into church resources?
3. Do you feel like your participation in your church's life and mission is all that it could/should be?
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