2Th 3:10-12 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”
While there are many ways to “walk disorderly,” Paul had his sights on a particular situation in the church at Thessalonica. Apparently, there were some in the church there who were not willing to work. The apostle had a particular injunction for these brethren; if you don’t work then you don’t eat.
Based on the many examples in the scripture of our responsibility to help those who are in need, we can be sure that Paul was not talking about those who were not able to work due to age, affliction, or social status (such as widows indeed – 1Ti 5:16). This command applied to those who were able to work and provide for themselves and their household, but refused to do so. According to some scholars, this may have been due to an attitude of “The Lord’s on His way, so why should I bother myself about worldly things.” If that was the case, then they were hiding their lack of industry under a cloak of seeming spirituality.
While there are arguments that can be made about the impact this has on our political and societal structure today, there is definitely a spiritual side to this that we need to examine. If we are not willing to labor in the kingdom of God here, then we will not eat of the kingdom of God here. We (the church, not just the preachers) need to study to show ourselves approved unto God. The church has a God-given responsibility to look to the welfare of her members and to supply when there is a clear need that is not being met. We have instruction that tells us that the laborer is worthy of his hire.
We can certainly rest on the truth that the Lord will provide. However, we must realize that He provides us with a plow, seed, and wisdom to know when to plant and grace to be able to harvest. It is folly for us to think that God is going to spread His bounty before us and reward our apathy toward His holy word. There are certainly times when He has bread and fish cooking on the coals in spite of the failing of our labors, but the scripture also plainly tells us that we enter into His rest when we cease from our own labors.
We cannot ignore the injunction that we are to labor to enter into rest. Our rest in God comes not from a cessation of work, but from ceasing to labor according to our understanding and instead look to Him for guidance (Heb 4:11). To suppose that we can enter into the rest of God without any labor is to walk in unbelief. One of the outward manifestations of walking in unbelief is the penchant for being a busybody.
Most of us have had the experience of working with someone who could not get their own work done for trying to tell everyone else how they should be doing their job. They might appear very industrious on the surface but were, in reality, accomplishing little if anything other than stirring confusion and causing upheaval. Sadly, we see this same thing occurring in our congregations when we have those who will not work according to the teaching of God’s word.
Every one of us is charged and entreated by our Lord Jesus Christ to work. More than that, we are not to create a big show with our labor. We should work with quietness, not seeking the approbation of men. When we are seeing to our own labor, we will not have time to be poking our nose in what others are doing. Moreover, we will not go hungry, but by God’s grace will have our own bread to eat.
May God bless us to labor in quietness and eat our bread with joy in the Lord!