2 Thessalonians 3:7-11

In 2 Thessalonians 3:7-11 Paul describes how we should live life following his example. “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” Paul sets an excellent example among the Thessalonians, in that he worked hard to support his own needs. This wasn’t because apostles like Paul didn’t have the right to request support. Instead, it was because he wanted to set a good example of hard work and prove false any accusation that he preached the Gospel for personal gain.

Paul encourages the Thessalonians to follow his example of both hard work and willingness to sacrifice to share and maintain the integrity of the Gospel. He knew that doing his ministry any other way might cause the believers to question why the team was serving them. And as a result, Paul did not ask for or receive support from them. He is clear that was a choice, not because they were not worthy of support, but because they were setting an example that he wanted the Christ Followers there to follow. “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”

Paul dives into the teaching he gave them around some specifics – the first being work. Simply put, Paul says that if anyone will not work (instead of can not work), neither shall he eat. God’s plan is to provide for our needs through our work. “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Note that he differentiates based on a willingness to work as not everyone is able. But since God is able to meet our needs in any way imaginable, it is important to recognize that He has chosen to meet our needs through work. This is part of God’s character and design.

Paul gets personal around this because the word on the street was that there were some in the group that were not really living up to God’s expectations around work. “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” The problem is that when we aren’t fulfilling God’s plan and engaging in meaningful work, we can allow that freedom to turn into sin. The problem was not only because of the work that they didn’t do, but also because of the harm they did do with their idle time. They might have thought that since Jesus was coming soon they didn’t need to work. Calvin explained “It is the inactive drones whom Paul is berating – those who live by the sweat of others while they themselves do nothing for the common good to help the human race, such as our monks and priests who acquire ample dimensions by their inactivity.” God designed us and the world we live in for work.

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