“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 worded night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8
This was one of the passages I was planning to use as part of my sermon yesterday, but unfortunately the information I discerned from this passage ended up “on the cutting room floor.” In other words, I didn’t use it. But that works out as I will use it here for my blog!
This is Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica. It is a short letter and should be read out loud in order to hear the tone of anger that can be found throughout the letter as Paul talks about a number of issues these early Christians are facing. It is the passage almost at the end of the letter that I will mention in my blog. The entire section is from chapter 3, verse 6 through verse 13 and revolves around those who, as Paul states, “are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” OUCH! I certainly would not want to be them.
The thing we need to delve into, is what specifically is Paul saying to us today? Because this is a letter, it is written to a specific church about an issue that specific church is facing. Which means we need to do a little research in order to understand what exactly Paul means.
First from reading the entire passage, which I encourage you to do for yourselves, we see there are those who have deliberately withdrawn from self-support. In other words, they have willfully chosen not to work but to let others support them. Paul reminds the church that when they were there with them, they worked in order to support themselves even though they were entitled to the church supporting them. Since they were in essence working for the church as well as plying their trade of tent-making. Paul says they did this to set an example for them to follow. Everyone who is able should contribute to the community and work for what they need and will use.
WARNING: It is important to distinguish between those who are willfully choosing not to work and those who can’t or who can’t make enough to support themselves. Not everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else and some have disabilities that prevent them from working or working as much as they might like to in order to fully support themselves. There is a big difference between the two.
The other piece here is the part about living in idleness or living in disorder. There are many people we see that live in a way that spreads disorder and disruption wherever they go. In fact, I believe it is safe to say that we all know someone who throw fits whenever they don’t get what they want or when their expectations are not met. Paul in this section of his letter, is letting people know that being disruptive is not a healthy lifestyle choice and not ok to the overall health of a community. Instead of meddling in the lives of others, something they need to stop doing, they need to tend to what needs work in their own lives.