Again...Don't be Idle or Disruptive!
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
1. Recognize the Context:
Previous Context: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
After praying for the Thessalonian community, Paul asked them to pray for him and his ministry companions. He asked for them to pray that the message of the Lord might spread rapidly (literally “run” see Psalm 147:15 for this image) and be honored, just as it was with the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:8). Paul desired the gospel message to advance and be openly received within this community (1 Thess. 2:13).
In verse 2, Paul’s prayer request was for deliverance from evil and evil people, using the same vocabulary Jesus used in Matt. 6:13, the Lord’s prayer.
Paul knew not everyone responded in faith to the message he proclaimed, as he experienced firsthand from those who openly resisted the gospel, even in Thessalonica (Acts 17). In verse 3, Paul provided a contrast between faithless evil people and God, who is faithful and trustworthy, and a protector against evil.
Paul was confident they would continue in the teaching they received. He then returned to prayer for them. In verse 5, his prayer concentrated on God’s love for them and the example of Christ’s perseverance.
2. Read the Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
3. Reflect on the Scripture::
Paul had already addressed the issue of being idle and disruptive in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. He instructed them to "warn those who are idle and disruptive.” It appears this continued to be an issue in the Thessalonian church, perhaps becoming even worse. Therefore, here in verse 6, his intensified instruction was to keep away from people living an idle and disruptive life. Paul called for this avoidance because these individuals were not living by the teachings they received.
In verses 7-10, Paul reminded the Thessalonian church of the example he and his co-laborers set for them. Paul and his team were not idle or disruptive while ministering in Thessalonica. Instead, they worked diligently in order not to be a burden to the church. So then, Paul wanted the Thessalonians to see this as a behavior model for the church to imitate.
In verse 11, Paul indicated the behavior of some had been reported to him. Using a play on words, he said some were not active. Rather, they were active in other people’s business. Paul again urged them most emphatically to work appropriately and, in doing so, never tire of doing the right thing.
Finally, they should take note of those who were rejecting this instruction. Again, they were encouraged to disassociate from them. The goal of this rejection was redemptive. The shame experienced in this temporary rejection should move them to repentance and a change in behavior.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, pray for those in your church community or family, who you personally know might be idle or disruptive, or in another way struggling to live up to the teaching they have received. This is not meant to be judgmental of those people. It is simply a prayer out of love and compassion for their well-being.
Today, prayerfully reflect on the idea of imitation. Ask God to help you imitate Christ and help you live a life worthy of imitation.
Today, prayerfully consider what this passage says about church discipline. How does your church apply these principles today?
Today, pray for yourself and your family, that you “never tire of doing what is good.”
To do: (with the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, what can you incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers. Be specific.
Today, ask God how you can encourage the person for whom you have prayed.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the passages).
Read and study these passages on imitation-1 Cor. 4:16, Eph. 5:1, Phil. 2:5-11, 3:17, 4:9.