V66Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.. Paul still has something more to say. The issue that he now raises is not that flattering for the Thessalonians. Still it is necessary that he speaks to them on this issue. What is the matter? Among them there were believers who were living an unruly life. They ignored the traditions of the apostle concerning the normal life of a Christian. What could be the cause of that?
It may have something to do with his teaching on the coming of the Lord Jesus, to which they have listened carefully. It could be that they had drawn the wrong conclusion from that. They may have thought: ‘The Lord is coming soon, isn’t it? Well, then it is no use to rush for your daily bread.’ Therefore they stopped working and were sitting with their arms crossed staring at heaven. Anyway, with their attitude of unemployment they could not count on Paul’s approval.
They may have thought that they were spiritual, for the earthly things did not matter much to them anymore. They after all had to leave behind everything if the Lord would come. Heaven was the only thing that counted. That looked very godly, but it is still completely wrong. Paul calls their way of life “unruly”. He commands the Thessalonians to correct their conduct. And they absolutely should not think that this command is not that serious. He relates to it the full authority of the Name of the Lord Jesus.
It may have scared them a little bit when they heard this. Isn’t it loveless to withdraw yourself from a brother, not to be involved with him anymore? Did not Paul just talk about the love of God? And not to mention the way he does that. One would rather feel to be pressured by that!
That often is the (human) response whenever chastisement is needed. That’s what it is all about here. How could you show someone any kindness if you in that way, support his laziness? True love towards those who are erring, is not supporting their error, but rather remain faithful to the Lord Jesus.
There must be mention of discipline if there is evil in the church. Discipline always has the goal to get rid from the wrong so that the church becomes pure again and in that way the Lord will feel at home again. The evil that had entered Thessalonica was caused by some brothers who were a disgrace for the Christian testimony. Their walk was not like that of the most believers in Thessalonica who on the contrary had a good testimony.
The ‘unruly ones’ were consciously disobedient to an apostolic commandment. ‘Unruly’ is related to the marching out of step of a soldier in the midst of soldiers that are marching in a line. Such a soldier does not respect the set order of the battle. He behaves himself anti-socially towards his fellow soldiers and he is disobedient to his commander. Whoever walks unruly in the church, does the same towards his fellow believer and the Lord.
Such a person must be persuaded to comply with the rules again that apply to Christians. For, although the Christian is not under the law but under grace, it does not mean that he can do as he wants. He who loves the Lord will keep the commandments of the Lord (Jn 14:2121He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”). If you love the Lord, you will submit yourself to everything that He says. A Christian has obligations and a sense of responsibility. He who lacks of that, has to learn that.
The method that Paul prescribes here is that the church withdraws itself from such a person. By withdrawing herself from him the church makes clear to him that his behavior is inappropriate. In his first letter Paul already has given a general admonition with a view to the unruly ones (1Thes 5:1414We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.). Apparently they did not heed it and Paul therefore has to be more specific about that here and instruct them how to deal with the unruly ones.
‘To withdraw’ is to avoid, which causes such a person to end up in an isolated position. Misplaced hospitality would cause him to continue his undisciplined life of not working. By the way, such a person is allowed to take part in the Lord’s Supper. He is not a wicked man one who has to be removed from themselves.
V77For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,. The deviation of the unruly ones becomes clear when you compare their behavior to that of Paul’s. He did not behave unruly. They themselves have observed that when he was with them. He showed them how he was supposed to be followed. His example does not imply a request but a command. They had the ability to act exactly in the same way like he had shown. They could as it were copy his behavior. The Thessalonians did not need any catalogue with prescriptions; they had an example before their eyes that lived like that. Paul does not say ‘do as I say’ (which he could as an apostle), but ‘do like I did.’
In paganism there is the thought that saints do not work. It is also a pagan thought that believers who have quitted their job in the society, in order to be involved with spiritual matters, are a higher kind of Christians. It is for purely practical reasons because there is so much to do on the spiritual field. One is allowed to do that only when the Lord makes that clear. Such Christians therefore do not stop working, but devote themselves with double diligence to the task that the Lord has ordered them to. He will therefore reward them.
V88nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we [kept] working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;. The normal situation for the Christian is that he has a job in society, in order to provide for himself by his own efforts. Paul is the great example of hard working, whereby he is often engaged with normal handiwork in order to provide for himself and his companions (Acts 18:33and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.; 20:3434You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my [own] needs and to the men who were with me.). He wanted to prevent that there would be any suspicion that he was seeking financial profit (Act 20:34; 1Cor 9:12-1912If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.13Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the [food] of the temple, [and] those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?14So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.15But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.16For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.17For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.18What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.19For though I am free from all [men], I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.; 4:1212and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;). He was not looking for their goods, but he sought the good for them. Paul by the way, also knows how to value what the believers are sending for him for his livelihood (Phil 4:14-2014Nevertheless, you have done well to share [with me] in my affliction.15You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;16for even in Thessalonica you sent [a gift] more than once for my needs.17Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.18But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.19And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.20Now to our God and Father [be] the glory forever and ever. Amen.).
V99not because we do not have the right [to this], but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.. He knows that each servant that has been sent by the Lord, is entitled to support (1Cor 9:1414So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.). The Lord Himself has said that the laborer is worthy of his wages (Lk 10:77Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.). But one is not supposed to make use of each right. It is an exercise in the presence of the Lord whether you accept or do not accept something. The servant will, regarding himself, have to examine whether he is not being led by greed. Regarding the giver, the servant will have to examine whether this person gives according to the instruction of the Lord and not for exerting power on him. He is not to be manipulated by money.
Paul’s motive is clear. He himself wanted to serve as an example, without this clarity of his example to become cloudy because of money. You see how much Paul makes his own interests subject to the well-being of the believers. He presents himself as an example because he knew that they would in reality follow the Lord Jesus when they follow him (1Cor 11:11Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.). And it was all about His honor.
V1010For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.. Besides pointing them to the example that he had given when he was with them, he also reminds them of a command that he had given them when he was with them. He quotes for the forgetful ones: “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” So it refers to somebody who is not willing to work. Everyone who is involuntarily unemployed must go on making effort to find a job. The stimulus to do that may quite disappear after many disappointing attempts. What also may happen is, that a job is being offered to which a reduction in income is related. Then the risk is great that this job is being refused.
When the determination has been made that a person is not willing to work, then such a person must not be helped with food. Such persons very easily make use of the kindness of others. They often go that far that they claim that others are obliged to provide them with food. He who morally has deviated in such a way, has really lost his way. He doesn’t want to take his own responsibilities, while he exaggerates the extent of other people’s responsibilities for his own benefit.
The quote is clear: if you don’t want to work, then you will not eat either. That is not a command to the undisciplined ones. Those ones will absolutely not care about that and will eat everything they are being offered. It is a command to the believers, not to let their charitable heart speak when such a person comes to them and wants to eat with them. When they refuse him, he will get hungry and get started to work in order to satisfy his hunger (Pro 16:2626A worker’s appetite works for him,
For his hunger urges him [on].).
Now read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 again.
Reflection: How do you think that the people in your environment know you: as a diligent person or as one who cuts the corners?