6 Brothers and sisters, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to stay away from every brother or sister who lives an undisciplined life that is not in line with the traditions that you received from us. 7 You yourselves know how you need to imitate us because we were not undisciplined when we were with you. 8 We didn’t eat anyone’s food without paying for it. Instead, we worked night and day with effort and hard work so that we would not impose on you. 9 We did this to give you an example to imitate, not because we didn’t have a right to insist on financial support. 10 Even when we were with you we were giving you this command: “If anyone doesn’t want to work, they shouldn’t eat.” 11 We hear that some of you are living an undisciplined life. They aren’t working, but they are meddling in other people’s business. 12 By the Lord Jesus Christ, we command and encourage such people to work quietly and put their own food on the table. 13 Brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged in doing what is right.
Have you ever felt discouraged because you felt like you were doing all the work and everyone around you was taking it easy? We feel discouraged when we put our all into the task and feel like others aren’t doing their fair share. This can lead us to become discouraged and give up.
The early church established by Paul in Thessaloniki was experiencing frustration and discouragement. Some in the church began following false teachings, not the faith that Paul had established. Divisions formed within the church, some became idle, refused to work and expected to be fed by the church. Some idle members led undisciplined lives and gossiped sowing dissension that harmed the church. Those who were living their lives after the example of Jesus were working to provide food for themselves and others. They became discouraged because they were doing good works while others were idle. They felt taken advantage of and felt their efforts didn’t seem to be making a difference. But Paul offered them encouragement by saying they aren’t to be discouraged by doing what is right. Just as Paul works to feed himself and others, to set an example, those who are idle are commanded to work. Paul wants those who have been working to not give up, but to continue to set an example by doing what is right.
Paul sees there are two dangers here. First there are those who are idle and aren’t contributing to the body of Christ, they are only taking. And second, those who are following the example of Jesus, are discouraged and may give up. So, if the idle who are able to work, start working, and the faithful who have been working continue to work and don’t give up, then the church will be able to provide food for everyone. We need to be careful that we don’t use this scripture to do harm to those who suffer from unjust systems. Jesus calls all of us in the church to do our part to be the body of Christ in the world.
Earlier in this chapter, Paul commends the faithful, “We are confident about you in the Lord-that you are doing and will keep doing what we tell you to do (v.4).” By following Jesus, by doing good works, even though it is difficult and at times seems unfair, we can come together in Christ and work for the transformation of the world.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Where are you in your faith journey? Are you standing idly by or are you working and discouraged? Be encouraged, don’t give up! God has equipped each of us in the community of faith with unique talents and spiritual gifts to serve those in need. God will give us strength to not give up.
Prayer: Holy Loving God, give us strength when we get discouraged. Give us your grace to continue to do good works when the task seems overwhelming. Unite us in your love to be the body of Christ in the world. Amen.