Let’s read 2nd Thessalonians 3:10-12 from the New King James Version: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat (verse 10). For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies (verse 11). Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread (verse 12).”

There was a real problem existing in the church at Thessalonica; some were refusing to work! The apostle Paul had addressed this issue in his first letter to the church by saying, “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, WARN THOSE WHO ARE IDLE AND DISRUPTIVE” (1st Thessalonians 5:14…NIV). Even then there were those who were lazy and disorderly, but with the passing of time the problem had gotten worse. Now instead of admonishing the saints to “warn those who are idle,” he tells them “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” (2ND Thessalonians 3:6…NIV). The words “keep away” mean “avoid socially,” so if they saw a brother refusing to work they were to show their disapproval of this behavior by refusing to have social fellowship with them. This wasn’t as serious as “excommunication,” which is “putting one out of church fellowship,” but it was still a serious form of discipline that was intended to make the lazy brother feel guilty for his disorderly walk.

In verse 10 of our portion we learn that when the apostle Paul had been with them he had commanded them, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” In verses 7-9 the apostle used himself and other apostles as an example of how we should work for our own food, for he reminds them how they “worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” And then he added, “we did this….in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.” Yet in spite of the example of the apostles there were still those who refused to work. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they were also “busybodies,” which means they were guilty of meddling into the affairs of others. How ironic! They weren’t attending to their own business, but they were busy attending to everybody else’s business! The fact is, when one doesn’t work, they are usually bored and their boredom leads to no good. Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop.” This saying was illustrated perfectly in those who were idle in Thessalonica, for they were doing the Devil’s work by “minding everybody’s business but their own.”

It has been stated by many Bible commentators that those saints who had stopped working had done so because they thought the Lord’s Coming was imminent. I suppose they thought, “Why should we waste time working when the Lord is coming at any minute?” But Paul’s example rebukes this line of thinking, for as we saw he “worked night and day.” He knew the Lord could come at any minute, but he also realized it could be a long way off. Now in fairness to those who had quit working, we can at least commend them for looking for the Lord’s return; that is a good thing that should characterize every believer, but it still didn’t excuse their idleness and being busybodies. Mr. William MacDonald makes a sad and salient point concerning the church today. He says, “We have gone to the opposite extreme. We are so taken up with business and money-making that we have lost the freshness and thrill of the hope of His imminent coming.” May this not be true of us, dear fellow-believers. May we look earnestly for our Lord’s return and at the same time may we “work quietly and eat our own bread.” (244.7) (DO)