The necessity of work

2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 SCC 9/7/14


            Paul faces a wrong attitude toward work in this text. It may result from a Jewish influence in this young church that elevated religious people to study the Scriptures or it may have been the Gentile mentality that says freemen don't work. Or it may have been the eschatological end time’s mentality that says Jesus is coming, we can't be doing work. We’ve got to be doing evangelism. Or it may have been some folks who just said, Hey, we're lazy we don't want to work. Whatever the reason, there were people who weren't working. Paul doesn't tell us the reason. It doesn't matter what the reason is. None of it is valid. The very fact that he makes no comment is a comment. We don't know why they wouldn't work. We don't know whether it was just laziness or eschatology. We don't know whether it was some lofty desire to spend all their time in Bible study or whether it was some passionate zeal to do all their time in evangelism, it didn't matter. Paul lays out incentives to go to work to get these believers who won't work to go to work.



1. First incentive is to avoid idleness. We command you, brethren...and then he adds in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the full name of the Lord, the Son of God, on Christ's authority, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, consistent with His person and work and will, the will of the sovereign Lord. We give you a military command not to be disobeyed that carries all the force and authority of the living Lord Jesus Christ in it. We tell you, keep separate from these people. Cut them off. The first time it's instruction 4:10. The second time it's exhortation 5:14. But the third time it's discipline 2 Thess 3:6. Verse 6 is really about discipline. He is commanding the church to keep aloof from these people who won't work. What we're talking about are the deadbeats, the people who could but won't.

2. The particular violation Paul has in mind is idleness (as described in v 8-11). So this could be translated to reflect that. Walking in an undisciplined way (“walking” is a common NT idiom for one’s way of life or conduct). You see our Christian faith has sanctified every occupation. There isn't any difference between the secular and the sacred. Remember that Jesus was a preacher for three years but a carpenter for at least 20.

3. Tradition is a term that sums up apostolic teaching. It was teaching that became a body of truth, or a tradition to be passed on. Tradition doesn't have to be unscriptural. Sometimes we talk about the Scripture plus tradition, but there is a scriptural tradition. There is a biblical tradition. There is an apostolic tradition that was passed on. That tradition in context is that God has commanded us to work. It keeps people from being busybodies. It keeps people from being unnecessary burdens to the rest of the church community.




1. Working to eat ought to be the pattern that characterizes our lives Verse 7

            The word follow is where we get mimic or imitate. Paul had set an example, a pattern in his own life and he wanted it to be the pattern they would follow. Paul did not always forego receiving money or food. There were many times when Paul's needs were met. When people gave him money. When people provided for his sustenance. And there were many occasions when he received kindnesses like that. And there were times in his ministry when he refused to receive anything gratis but he insisted on working. It wasn't that he didn't deserve it; he says in verse 9 that he had a right to it. But it was that he was trying to dignify work.

            Then he says we did not act out of line, in an unruly way. The word undisciplined means out of line. He's referring to loafers and idlers. We never marched out of step. We never disobeyed our orders from God. We were never unruly and out of line and you know that. You know what we did in front of you. You've seen our life. He's saying just follow the pattern we set. Just follow the model and example you personally witnessed from us.



2. Working to eat requires that we do so by the sweat of our own brow Verse 8

            And specifically what did he mean? They didn't eat at their expense. They paid for their food. Paying for their food meant that they had to work and they had to earn their own money to pay for their own food, we did not eat bread freely from anyone. But—a strong rebuttal—we kept working night and day. Instead of leeching we paid our own way. He's teaching, he's working, he's got to do this all and also carry provide for himself and his team. In addition, he found a church and it's a night and day operation and we did it so that we might not be a burden to any of you. We didn't want you to have to support us. We didn't want you to have to give the meager amount that you might have. We toiled working with our hands. In Acts 20 he said, I covet no man's silver or gold or clothing. He didn't want anything from anybody. Work by the sweat of your own brow.


3. Working to eat is what God expects us to do as a way to avoid presuming upon others Verse 9

            The truth is he had a right to being supported, he absolutely did. As an Apostle and a preacher, he was really entitled to full support. God has ordained that those who serve Him, who labor in the Word and doctrine be worthy of double pay. Pay the one who ministers. In Galatians the Apostle Paul says it as clearly as he could, chapter 6 verse 6, Let the one who is taught the Word share all good things with him who teaches. If you're being taught, then you need to give and share what you have with the one who is your teacher. So as an Apostle and a preacher, he had a right to full support.

NB: Presuming is not giving. When you presume upon someone to care for you, they are being forced to provide an illegitimate need. That is not giving in the NT sense.



            He's harking back now to one of the things he had been teaching them, ‘When we were with you, back then for the three Sabbaths and the two week in between period and then the following weeks that we stayed to get the church rolling, just a brief period of months at the most, when we were with you, we used to give you this order.’ In other words, we repeated it. We didn't give it once, it was a matter of course, and we told you this all the time If anyone won't work, don't let him eat. So you are idle and presuming upon others then you do not deserve to eat. That was a Pauline tradition. That was a divine authoritative revealed truth. If you don't work, you don't eat.

            First, ignorance was not their problem. They knew this. He had told it to them over and over. They knew this. Wrote about it in the first letter, chapter 4 verse 11, chapter 5 verse 14. They didn't have a problem of ignorance.

            Secondly, they did not have a problem of inability. They could work. He's not talking about people who can't work. And neither did they have a problem of opportunity. They did have the opportunity to work. They had information. They had capability. And they had opportunity. And when you have that and you don't work, you don't eat. That's it. That's the Christian view. If someone won't work, let him go hungry. So here were these Thessalonians and they wouldn't work. And so he says if they don't work, don't let them eat. That will help them get the message. That's survival.



1. The first thing that's going to stimulate one to work, assuming they are a committed believer, is that they're going to get cut off from fellowship. Keep aloof or stay away. The idea is alienate them and make them know there is a price for their indolence and their laziness and the price is they lose fellowship.

2. Don’t forego work. Undisciplined means they never went to work. Work with your hands and lead a quiet life in such a way your not leeching from others.

3.  Show others how they should work by how you work. Stoop to work with his hands. Work is honorable and Godhonoring and Godglorifying.

4. You eat because you work. That is an axiom that is a spiritual law. First Timothy 5 says that no one is to be unfaithful in the support of his family or if he is unfaithful in supporting his family, he is worse than an infidel...worse than an unbeliever.