Year 3 Day 4
Read - 2 Thessalonians 3v6-18
Message - Scott Woodburn
Do you know how many days you have left before you can retire? I once knew a man who could tell you almost to the second the day of his retirement - he couldn't wait! Equally a good friend of mine has retired and he would love nothing more than to be back at work - he laments growing old! In Thessalonica there were some who retired early from their work. They hadn't reached the age of retirement (such a thing didn't exist in the ancient world) instead they had grown idle, perhaps seeing work as irrelevant in light of Christ's return.
Paul was clear in his rebuke for such individuals. The brother who was idle and refusing to follow Apostolic teaching was to be avoided (v6). That doesn't sound very gracious does it? Perhaps not, but we will see later that it had a gracious purpose. Idleness was not an option for the Thessalonians. Paul urged them to imitate his own work ethic (v7). Paul had not been idle in Thessalonica but worked night and day so that he would not be a burden to any of his brothers and sisters (v8).
The Apostle by virtue of his office certainly had the right to be waited upon by the church (v9a) but he didn't demand the right. Instead he worked hard among the Thessalonians to set an example to be followed (v9b). While the church was waiting for the return of Christ they were to be engaged in their daily work. An individual who wasn't prepared to work, shouldn't have expected to eat (v10). Those who weren't busy at their work tended to be busybodies, sticking their nose into business that didn't concern them (v11) and so, Paul couldn't have been clearer, the idle Christian should do their work quietly and earn their own living (v12).
The rest of the church were to keep on doing good and working hard (v13) and if they came across and idle brother or sister, they were to take note of that individual and have nothing to do with them (v14). What was Paul's goal in such teaching? A lazy individual who experienced isolation from his church should feel ashamed (v14b). They weren't an enemy of the church but as the church family shunned the lazy brother, that individual would be moved to repentance (v15).
Times have certainly changed since Paul wrote this genuine letter with his own hand (v17). We can't imagine withholding food from a fellow Christian in 2022 so how should we apply this teaching to the modern church? Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? In most organisations 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. If this is true of the local church then we have failed to heed God's Word. Why do some church members carry great responsibility while others are happy to do nothing? Why do some Christians keep busy while others are busybodies? Why do modern Christians need to be begged into service? A colleague once remarked "I'm tired of having to fight with Christians to get them to do Christian things."
In answer to these questions and my colleague's statement I humbly suggest that modern Christianity has replaced its zeal with self-centred laziness. Professing Christians treat the church like Tesco, expecting service on demand and their needs to be put first but never, ever will they stack the shelves. Brothers and sisters it wasn't supposed to be this way! The church is a body and if 80% of it refuses to work then no wonder our fellowships are weak.
Paul speaks to our modern ears and compels us to receive his teaching. We are to carry our weight in the local church, we are to excel in doing good and if we have grown idle then we are to repent. Why? Because as the Thessalonians well knew - Christ is coming. When the Lord pierces the sky, may we be found alert rather than idle.
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." (v16&18)
Q12 What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created? When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.