Helping others to take responsibility 

2 Thessalonians 3:11-17 SCC 9/14/14


When freeloaders fail to work they can distract others from doing their work as well 11

1. There is a play on words: ‘working at nothing’; ‘working around’, ‘not keeping busy’ but ‘being busybodies.’ Their "work" had become interfering with everyone else's business (work). To bustle about uselessly, to busy one's self about trifling, needless, useless matters. They were just moving around all over the place to no particular good. They just wandered around interfering in the lives of others and meddling.

PT: A person who is “not doing their job” (or not doing any job) is probably hindering one or more people who are seeking to do their job well. When people are not busy with their own work they may tend to meddle in the business of others. They may become busybodies rather than busy, neglecting their own business to mind other people’s, even minding everybody’s business but their own. For a believer, this activity is unacceptable. Within the gates of Christianity is the work ethic. This is the third time this particular issue is addressed with this group of believers. So what is to be done? 


Live a vocationally quiet life as the means of taking care of your own personal business 12

1. Here we have a new train of thought based upon the previous information. Again he commands (cp. v 6) and additionally exhorts those busybodies on behalf of their union with Christ. Settle down, he says. That's what work and quiet fashion means. Stop running around meddling, moving uselessly, go to work. Begin an ordered life of quiet consistent work. He says go to work. Shut your mouth. Mind your own business and do your work. He just says quietly get your life in line and go to work.

2. Withquietness’ is emphatic by its forward position in the text and points to the quality of mind that is to be associated with their working. It denotes a condition of inward peace and tranquility, reflecting itself in outward calmness; it is the opposite of their fussy activity as busybodies. Calm down. Settle down. Get some discipline in your life. Be productive. You don't need idle time and you don't need to be doing these kinds of enterprises, which assume you don't need to work. God says work. That's all part of the very basic command of God for us. Why? So you can earn the bread you eat and you won't be a burden to the community and you won't be a burden to the church.

3. ‘Eat your own bread’ is an idiom, which means to support yourself with your own labor. His negative reaction to their actions implies that their wrong conduct could be the result of a perversion of his teaching (v 6 and 10). Contrary to their possible understanding that the impending rapture meant work was optional, Paul did not equate ‘imminent’ with ‘soon’ and think, therefore, that work was unnecessary. Earn your own bread and not sponge off of others. Now this same command had been given and written to them months ago 4:11. Yet a sterner warning was warranted this time.


Work should never become an option for you just because others are freeloading around you 13

1. Again we have another train of thought based on the previous material. Do not grow weary of doing good. This refers to the church's quiet, gentle, daily living. The obedient majority he counseled to endure this added affliction patiently and to continue doing right in spite of its presence.

2. The assumption is they were weary of taking care of these people who should have been taking care of themselves and he says don't let your weariness translate over to weariness in doing what you really should do. Continue in doing what you know to be right and good.

PT: When other believers, either misguided or deliberate, take easy paths of irresponsibility, do not get discouraged by this due too their free loading ways imposed upon you and even possibly being tempted to join them in this misguided mindset. Though one may tire in doing what is right, do not tire of doing what is right.

3. So he says don't you get weary in doing what is really good for people who genuinely have need nor tire of working just because others around you are being irresponsible to work themselves—ambiguous enough to include both thoughts. So what is to be the response of the greater Christian community as a group who are personally associated with the freeloader?

Idle believers should face social pressure designed to bring shame for their behavior and repent 14

1. Social pressure is to promote shame 14

a. This counsel is regarded as authoritative ‘if anyone does not obey our instruction’. They were to be obeyed because of his apostleship and these inspired words were literally the Word of God. There is no other instruction given. This is it. It is regrettable that in our day social pressure often has very little influence on erring brethren. Rather than submit to spiritual discipline many Christians simply change churches. This is why spiritual discipline can usually impact only individually or in smaller networks of relationships. Institutionalizing spiritual discipline has rendered it ineffective.

PT: We should police ourselves. Who is in your network of faith? Are there freeloaders there? Then Paul says ‘take special note of that man’. Once the idle one is identified, then ‘do not associate with him’. So the faithful were not to have social contact with an idle believer. It literally means ‘Don’t mix yourselves up with him’.

b. The purpose for social pressure is so that he will be put to shame’. The purpose of spiritual discipline is redemptive as well as disciplinary. Watch him so that you can avoid him. Put on the pressure of isolation. You take note, you watch the pattern and you avoid the man in order that he may be put to shame. Now you've gone beyond just his isolation, you want him to feel shame. That's a distasteful word. We refuse to want others to experience shame for anything today. ‘Shame’ is a concept that society wants to write out of the dictionary. So does the church.

PT: Stronger measures may be necessary in some cases so the offender feels the need to repent and to live in harmony with the will of God.

2. Shame is to protect workers and change freeloaders 15

a. However, Paul warned against overreacting. The church should always treat the offender as a brother, not an enemy. We warn brothers, but we denounce and condemn enemies. The aim of all spiritual discipline must be repentance followed by restoration.

b. Instead in strongest terms possible the church is instructed to admonish the idler while still regarding the freeloading saint as a brother in the faith. If anything, this means one does not go as far in withdrawing social contact as we find in Matthew 18 (treat him as an unbeliever) or 1 Corinthians 5 (hand him over to Satan). If this rebuke is rejected, then believers withdraw fellowship, but the form of this withdrawal may have various degrees of intensity. Only the most flagrant sin and rebellion would result in turning the sinner over to Satan, and/or treating the sinner as a tax gatherer. In the case of the freeloader, a somewhat less dramatic course of correction would take place, but something drastic enough to get his attention.

c. You're not alienating him as an enemy. You’re still calling to him as a brother. He is still in the family of God. Treat him with love like you would a brother. Treat him with affection like you would a brother or sister, like Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Galatians 6 says. Restore such a one in love.

PT: Paul concluded this epistle with an emphasis on unity in the church to motivate his readers to work out their problems and reestablish peaceful conditions that would glorify God 16-18. The final benediction is the same as the one that ends 1 Thessalonians except for the addition of the word “all” here. Perhaps Paul asked for Christ’s grace even on those who were not holding to the Christian pattern of behavior regarding work. Working hard and doing a good job should characterize every Christian, and it should likewise put us in good standing with men.

So What?

1. Working with your hands is the way one takes financial responsibility for his/her family, meeting legitimate needs, and supporting those who teach God’s Word. God commands us to work.

2. Work as toil is part of the male penalty for his role in the fall of mankind. Adam had duties prior to the fall that became toil after it. Work is a gracious penalty that minimizes mischief. Mischief increases with the lack of work—look at ghettos or the welfare communist states of the past producing  busybodies and the recalcitrant.

3. Stealing, fraud, cheating, bribes, and welfare, are attempts to not work. God strictly forbids these in the scriptures. This is a form or freeloading. Freeloading aggravates the human condition and violates God’s standard of work for his people.