Good Morning Brothers…
Last week we talked about our responsibility with the freeloaders around us. Should we feed them, pay their bills, etc. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, makes the statement that “if they don’t work, they don’t eat”. We also understand that Paul is not referring to those UNABLE to work…but to those to lazy to work. Paul refers to the lazy freeloaders as undisciplined. The question we ended last week’s discussion with was, “Is Paul saying we should cut them off and let them starve?”
To answer this, lets go back to 2 Thessalonians Chapter 3 and pick up the passage in verse 11, reading through verse 15, “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. 14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
We are told not to associate with him, but, to admonish him as a brother…not an enemy. As my mind tries to wrap itself around that, I am struggling with how to admonish, if I have already disassociated myself. (I am going to talk out loud here and try to organize my thoughts.) If I have already disassociated myself from the undisciplined freeloader…then I no longer have contact with him…I do not see him…I do not talk with him…I do not even think about him…which means, I do not even pray for him. (H’mm…a little twinge of guilt there.) How do these things bring him shame? Meaning…Paul wants the undisciplined to feel shame, in order for repentance to occur. If I just cut him off, without prayer, then I’m not sure my actions are contributing to shame…in fact, my actions are probably contributing to the cold-hearted judgmental perception of the church. I’m starting to wonder if disassociate means “cut him off”. There is a passage over in Colossians (hold on, let me find it)………………..here we go, Colossians 3:15-17, which uses the same verbage “admonishing one another”.
“15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
OK…in the 2 Thessalonians passage, Paul says to admonish him as a brother, not an enemy. In the Colossians passage, Paul says to admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and the songs of the Spirit. So, clearly, disassociate doesn’t mean to cut off completely, because I am still worshiping, still studying, still singing, still seeking the Spirit’s lead with him. OK, so what gives here (fingers following the words across the page back in 2 Thessalonians)
11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. (OK…to act like a busy body and to do no work means…that guy on the jobsite who walks around all over but never really engages in any of the activities. He looks like he is working at first glance, but a close inspection will show he is just putting in his time.)
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. (
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
I’m starting to think that the ‘undisciplined’ Paul is referring to is more than physical, meaning he is talking about the lazy spiritual person as well. (This is getting deeper the more I think about it.) If my buddy stops reading Scripture, neglects his prayer time, and still tries to lead others…where is he leading them to? He is leading them toward death (at worst) or toward an undisciplined lazy freeloading lifestyle (at best). My responsibility is to admonish him with psalms (the texts used for spiritual formation) and hymns (the songs used to praise our God) and spiritual songs (the leading of the Spirit through prayer, study, and fasting). Part of the admonishment is removing all responsibility of leading others until his ‘undisciplined’ life becomes a ‘disciplined’ life. That certainly addresses the spiritual part, but what about the physical part?
This culture tries to prove that ‘beggars can be choosers’. We are the only society with starving people that have food in their freezer. Most society’s with starving people don’t have freezers. How do we address that undisciplined lifestyle, especially when the prevailing attitude is ‘give me a fish, but I don’t want to learn how to fish”. Again, I think it is important that we look closely at the words used by Paul. In verse 15 of the 2 Thessalonians passage, Paul refers to them as ‘brothers’. Meaning…they have a knowledge of the truth. With prayer, with admonishment, with community, they will see the error of their ways…and come around. In the meantime, however, let them go hungry. Sometimes the only way to learn the lesson is through discomfort. It is important here to understand that Paul is talking about ‘brothers’ not ‘unbelievers’. The efforts of the Church to reach the lost and fallen do not include the words, “if they don’t work, they don’t eat.”
It takes effort and work to provide for the family, the family is the Body of our Lord. We all have a responsibility to do our due diligence. May we all continue to dig in and remember, “Nothing Happens with a Dull Sword.”