Idleness and Industriousness   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)


2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you.  May the Lord turn your hearts toward the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition we passed on to you.

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone’s table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you.  This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you:  not to let anyone have any food if he refused to do any work.  Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s.  In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.

My brothers, never grow tired of doing what is right.  If anyone refuses to obey what I have written in this letter, take note of him and have nothing to do with him, so that he will feel that he is in the wrong; though you are not to regard him as an enemy but as a brother in need of correction.

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace all the time in every way.  The Lord be with with you all.

From me, PAUL, these greetings in my own handwriting, which is the mark of genuineness in very letter; this is my own writing.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.


In real estate, I hear, the three most important features of property are location, location, and location.  Likewise, with regard to the Bible, we need to stress the three most important aspects of any text:  context, context, and context.  Too often (to my great annoyance), I have heard people quote the “if a man will not work, he should not eat” rule out of context.  They have made the passage seem almost, if not out right, Social Darwinian in nature.

When we read the New Testament epistles we eavesdrop on one side of ancient correspondence.  There was no need for any writer to rehash every aspect of local circumstances, for the intended audience knew those well.  If any epistle author had rehashed every such aspect, the result would have been a letter written with the clunkiness and gracelessness style of dialogue from any 1970s SuperFriends episode.  Fortunately, there exist Bible scholars who have write and have written useful commentaries.  (I could not write these posts without commentaries.)  Many early Christians, we know, expected the return of Jesus any day or week or month or year.  Most of these continued with their private and public lives, as they should have done.  Yet some believers devoted themselves full-time to preparing for the return of Jesus, dropped out of the workforce, and made nuisances of themselves.  They did not just drop out; they interfered with others.  The message of 2 Thessalonians 3:9 is clear:  Be both heavenly-minded and of earthly good.

Indeed, one can be both contemplative and productive.  Monks and nuns have modeled this fact for nearly two thousand years.  They have done nothing less than to preserve civilization itself.  They have also provided health care as well as pharmaceutical products, offered education, given shelter to orphans and to children whose parents could not care for them properly, and modeled lives of single-minded devotion to God.  Their work continues; may their numbers increase.

As for the rest of us, may we go about doing the work God has assigned to us.  And may we not think mistakenly that all idleness is bad.  The human body requires sleep, and Jesus needed quiet time alone.  The brain is not wired for multitasking; some brains do it better than others, we cannot do too much simultaneously and well.  We need to slow down, move at a proper and sustainable pace, and remain focused on our own goal:  To enjoy and glorify God.






Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 10, 2011

Adapted from this post:


Posted October 10, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 3

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One response to “Idleness and Industriousness

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 16: Wednesday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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