For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 13, 2007
Paul begins this chapter with a word of encouragement, and then gives them a warning about laziness:
"Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 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. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." (3:6-12)
As is common for Paul, he starts his admonishment by telling them to live like they saw him live. This is a powerful statement in and of itself, and tells us a lot about Paul. The fact that he could confidently say that his people should live like he lived is proof that Paul was more than an evangelist who swoops in and no one sees him during the day, besides maybe the pastor, and then swoops out after a few days. Paul lived among these people, in some cases for years.
Laziness is an easy temptation for most people; I know it is for me. Our flesh tells us that it is fine if we don't do anything, that someone else will take care of things. This is not God's plan. God wants us to earn our keep. More than that, he wants us to be faithful to Him. The old saying that "idle hands are the devil's workshop" applies here, in fact Paul almost says as much. When we aren't doing constructive things, we look for things to do, and those things we find to do usually aren't good things. Paul talks specifically about people who sit at home and gossip and worry about what everyone else is doing instead of minding their own business. The problem is, in most cases, they don't have any business of their own to mind. If we are busy taking care of our own affairs, we won't have the time to worry about others'.
"As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." (3:13-15, ESV)
Paul has a lot to say about fellowship. In many of his epistles he includes a similar warning to this one: that we are not to eat or have fellowship with someone in the church who is living in sin. Most of us spend absolutely zero time in church talking about spiritual things. We may teach a Sunday School class or we may do all sorts of things when we are supposed to, but when was the last time you had a spontaneous conversation at church with a fellow believer about a spiritual topic? 99 percent of the conversations you hear at church are the same conversations you would hear at a barber shop, in the break room at work, or anywhere else in the world.
This is mostly what Paul is aiming at here. We are to confront someone who is in sin, and, if necessary, do it publicly. It is easy to be silent and talk about someone's sin behind their back and yet act like they are still beloved members of the assembly when they are around. But this is not what Paul wants us to do here. Instead we are to personally address the issue, offer to help, and continue to pray for the person.