Good Morning Brothers…
Turkey season is in full swing as the trees begin to green up and the south winds begin to blow. I don’t know about you, but sitting in a blind with sweat rolling down my back isn’t very enjoyable. Wading through poison ivy and checking my pants for ticks every 5 minutes aren’t real high on my priority list. Usually, once the weather turns toward summer, I’m done hunting. This spring turkey season, while the air was still crisp, my 10 year old boy bagged his first couple Tom’s. He told me that he finally feels like a hunter because he provided meat for the family table. I grinned in that way only a father can because I realized my youngest learned a valuable lesson. To provide for your family, it takes effort and work, which only makes the success that much sweeter.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 says, “6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”
It seems the Apostle Paul and the others with him, even while ministering full time, worked as well. It is impossible to read through the Book of Acts, which recounts the growth of the early apostolic church, without noticing the work and effort of the faithful. As I look around at our society, I can’t help but notice the sense of entitlement by this culture. I have trouble understanding the mentality of accepting food, money, help of all kinds without any effort or work on their part. It’s almost like the mindset is, “I am comfortable with doing nothing while others do everything.” Now, please understand, I am not talking about the poor souls who are afflicted with debilitating injuries or suffer from birth defects which cause them to need full time care. I am talking about the lazy freeloaders which are like cholesterol in the blood stream of society. Without digressing into a socioeconomic rant, I want to talk about the Christian’s responsibility to this problem. Paul lays it out in the latter part of verse 10 when he writes, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either“.
That seems pretty harsh. Is there more to it than that? I can’t help but think of the passage from James 2:15-16 which says, “15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” At first glance, it may seem like these two passages contradict each other, however, they do not. To better illustrate it, I want to introduce a common saying to the discussion, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” While this saying certainly is true and looks like it backs up the passage in 2 Thessalonians and not the passage from James, we need to dig a little deeper. Lets dig with this question, “What happens if the man starves to death while being taught how to fish?” As the fishing teacher, would we not be remiss to feed the man while teaching him? I think so…which belies James point. So, how can Paul declare that “no work equals no food”?
Sometimes it takes a modern day commentary to bring out the application in today’s world. Lets look at the passage from 2 Thessalonians again, this time from The Message:
“6-9 Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious. 10-13 Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.”
The key to the Christian’s responsibility is in the first line, “refuse to work the way we taught you“. It isn’t that they aren’t capable of working, it is that they don’t want to. Paul calls this “disciplined versus undisciplined” back in the Biblical account of this passage. It has to do with learning lessons. The undisciplined haven’t learned their lessons and don’t seem to care…so is Paul saying we should cut them off and let them starve?