Wednesday: Working and Eating
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What unique type of problem does Paul face in the Thessalonian church? 2 Thess. 3:9-12.


Image © Frank Gampel from GoodSalt.com

In these verses Paul applies the tradition of what he did and said to a specific situation. A significant group of members were disorderly or out of order 2 Thess. 3:6-11). Paul had mentioned the problem in the previous letter, and addressed it gently there (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 5:14). But he uses much stronger language here.

As an apostle, Paul could have required the church to provide him with income, housing, and food. But in 1 Thessalonians he had set an example among them of “working night and day” in order not to be a burden on them (1 Thess. 2:9). This was an example of love. But according to 2 Thessalonians 3:8, he also worked “night and day” in order to create a model of how everyone should take care of their own needs, as much as possible.

If Paul had only set an example, some could have responded that the tradition was not clear. But Paul had also addressed this issue with words. During the short time he was with them in person, he often expressed (as the Greek imperfect tense implies) a popular saying as a command, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10 ESV).

In this passage Paul is not criticizing the efforts to care for those in need, those who can’t take care of themselves. After all, Jesus Himself left a powerful example of compassion toward those whose circumstances in life have left them helpless or destitute.

Instead, the target of Paul’s concern was a group of people in the church who were willfully idle. They were busybodies, minding everyone’s business except their own (2 Thess. 3:11). Like some of the popular philosophers in the ancient world, these believers preferred a life of ease over labor. Perhaps they spent their time discussing theology or criticizing the behavior of others instead of earning their way. Paul commands them “in the Lord Jesus Christ” to follow his example and earn the right to speak by caring for their own needs first (2 Thess. 3:12).

How amazing that, even so early in church history, Paul had to deal with so many problems among the members. How should this protect us (and especially new members) from the expectation that our churches are going to be filled with saintly people? More important, how can we be a positive force in our local church despite our own faults and weaknesses?

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Wednesday: Working and Eating — 12 Comments

  1. Today's topic reminds me of God's invitation (and Paul's message in this case), to be a good steward of the skills and abilities God has given us. They are to help in bringing the income to continue working for Him. Today's message, it would seem to me, calls for discipline, too, in the use of our time.

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  2. I do understand, with the Thessalonians, it may have been better for Paul and others--to set an example--and maybe also--not to give reason for others to critizise, BUT, I certainly won't like my Pastor to have to work--day and night--to support himself and family; Think it's intemperate; his health could suffer, also his time spent with his family. (Luckily Paul was not married) I hope no one studying this lesson, feels that like Paul, our Ministers should work day and night, to support themselves, while still carrying the burden of their Churches etc. But, I do hope that those of us who are idle, and who spend time minding other people's business will take Paul's admonition--which of course is God's word too.
    Blessings!
    Sincerely,
    Beverly.

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  3. Wednesdays lesson speaks directly to the political situation in our land and why in fact we are losing liberty. The polarization we see comes directly from situations like the Pigford case where government is now in the business of taking racial sides and promoting a class of people perfectly content to live on the dole and steal .. and on top of that .. promote living off others as a lifestyle. Freedom of conscience has become freedom from having one as the intrinsic link between accounting and.accountability cease to exist because we are now geared towards feelings faith rather than actions faith. This lesson should have had its correlation in James.

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  4. I am glad the note said--especially new members--because I think that sometimes the designated speakers, conducting crusades, or anyone sharing the 'Good News' should spend some time explaining that fact--that they won't find all 'saints'---in any church; they will meet all kinds; members grow, mature at different rates, others will be tempted and deviate at times, though still attending services; still others will creep in and try to deceive especially the new members; if we were all saints we won't need to attend church. We all need each other and our Pastors and Leaders, and I must add--our Quarterlies too--to shed more light on the scriptures and to help us all as we walk this pillgrim's pathway--preparing for our Lord's return. May we all be faithful, remain faithful, that whether we die before, or are alive when Jesus returns--we will be ready to meet Him in the air, and be forever with Him.
    May God's Richest Blessings be upon you always.
    Sincerely,
    Beverly.

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  5. Lets work for the Lord in a spiritual way, however, physical work is much needed for our own good as Paul and friends did working during day time ie preaching and during night time making tents as his own skill given from God. Paul was marvelous. Christians today let us emulate Paul's behaviour towards the Lord's work.

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  6. It is indeed so important to stick to the truth no matter what situation. This reminds me of what the Israelites did as written in Jeremiah 2:5-8.

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    • Thank you Goodwill Laineck for sharing Jeremiah 2:5-8. This sums up the whole point Paul is conveying to the Church. By my conduct I can discourage a Soul from advancing in Christ and my words will be of little or no effect to others. Lord help us to be Doers of the Word and not just Hearers only. Thank you Jesus.

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  7. Idleness. Why shouldn't our ministers work a part-time job? We could pay them half what they are being paid now to babysit spoiled congregations and send the rest of the money overseas. You can hire ten or twenty workers overseas for one North American salary. Pay low wages and only men of vision and calling would pursue the job.

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    • An interesting theory, but I doubt that you would agree that by paying your surgeon a very low wage, you would be sure of getting the best, most motivated surgeon. Why would you believe that about ministers?

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  8. If our ministers are motivated by money, then I would gladly see the back of the whole lot. I understand that my surgeon is so motivated, but if my minister has similar aspirations then he is no man of God, and he should go get himself a real job.

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    • Friend, I see this is a problematic point for you. Can you please explain to me your understanding of 1 Corinthians 9:14?

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  9. I did not say that all revenue should be removed from those who preach the gospel, but that their wages could be easily halved and they would still "eat". And many indeed (at half wages) would eat better than some in their congregations. "Eating" in this context could be considered a stipend as opposed to the healthy wages garnered by the ministry. I know of a man who works a hard stressful job and makes not quite half what his minister makes in wages. This man's wife works as well to pay the bills, the minister's wife does not. Then the working man takes ten percent of his salary and gives it to the church that is then used the pay his minister and others like him. Was that God's intent? Is that the oxen eating some fallen grain as they plow? And as far as "preaching the gospel" is concerned, our North American churches languish under the weight of apathy and inactivity. If these men were paid for the results of their labor then they should indeed go hungry. Churches are filled with the gray heads of yesteryear, and baptismal founts algae over from disuse. I think you quote Paul, but would not like it if we applied all his council to the lives of minister's or indeed the actions of the church.

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