But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)
Worship To The Idle God
The New Testament Church had some tough problems. Two things were always the problem: man and Satan. The early church was made up of people and the devil tried his best to get the people within each congregation to cause trouble. Problems existed with the early disciples and Thessalonica was no exception. In his second letter to the church, Paul was very clear about the actions of some who were not behaving in a manner consistent with the will of God. As an apostle of Christ, Paul gave specific commands on dealing with those who troubled the Lord’s church. These admonitions were very clear, easily understood and radical to the thinking of most people.
Brethren who resisted the will of the Lord were to be punished. Withdrawing from every brother who walked disorderly was a punitive action intent on saving the soul. Society often takes a lenient view on correcting people leading to moral breakdown but not so in the church. The language is clear. If brethren refuse to obey the word of God and live in a manner that brings shame on the name of Christ, they were to be disciplined. Paul reminds the brethren how he taught them these important principles when he was with them. The example left by Paul and his fellow workers established a pattern of authority the church should follow and he reminded them they were without excuse.
The problem Paul addressed was the unwillingness of some to work. Benevolence was a large part of the early church and it would be easy to sit back and let the church take care of all the daily needs. Collections were taken, possessions shared and needs were being met with diligence. As with human nature, there were those who took advantage of the generosity of the church becoming idle and lazy. Paul reminded them of what he taught them while he was with them: if a person will not work, he should not be allowed to eat. Laziness has never been tolerated by the Lord. The wisdom of God was demonstrating the character of godly people who are examples of industry. When people do not work they become lazy and when they become lazy they become busybodies in other people’s affairs. This was sinful.
People of God should work with due diligence and be an example of hard work and benevolence. Paul would tell the Ephesian brethren that one purpose of working was to share with those who have need. Work is honorable. Christians who refuse to work are to be warned and then disciplined. There are not to be treated as an enemy but a brother or sister who is their own worst enemy bringing shame upon the name of Christ. Tough love comes in all forms. Serving the god of idleness is not in keeping with the honor given to the Lord God. Work for the night is coming. But work.
To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give Him glory too. He is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live. (Gerard Manley Hopkins; 1844-1889; An address on Ignatius)