When My Compassion Becomes Enablement
2 Thessalonians 3:6-14
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
You’ve heard it said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I’ll bet Paul was wishing the church at Thessalonica had thought of this. An ugly problem had raised its head among the ranks of the regular attenders. Some members who were able-bodied yet unwilling to work were living off the charity of others. Instead of being busy caring for their own needs, they used their ‘free’ time to be in everyone else’s business. Their meddling had created a toxic environment.
Tough love was going to be the answer. The graciousness of those wanting to help others created an atmosphere for idleness to take hold. In this passage, Paul was calling for reform. “Keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us,” he commanded them. Their well-intentioned ‘help’ was not helping. His solution— “command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.” His instruction was not about denying help to someone in legitimate need. It was about refusing to let someone remain in their neediness brought on by unnecessary idleness. When we look at the Greek term for idle we find a word which means unruly or undisciplined, not submissive, ungovernable. The Christian life calls for the opposite of all these descriptions. Paul commanded the members of the Thessalonian church to follow his example of how a Christian should live and work. In turn, these followers should also urge others to walk in Christian maturity and responsible living. The most compassionate thing they could do for these people was to hold them accountable to the instructions they had all received from Paul. This would create a life based on God’s standards that would carry them for lifetime.
In what ways could you compassionately urge others toward Christian maturity when you see them falling into ungodly idleness?