"Stuck on Idle"
Some people like to work. Some people like to play. Some people are defined by an attitude of laziness. They are stuck on idle, and Paul gives them a warning.
Stuck On Idle
(2 Thes. 3:6-12)
A. I find myself looking at bumper stickers when I drive down the road. Here are two that made me smirk. My new favorite on is, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”
B. We all have seen statements like that that express a deep inward desire to relax. I look forward to vacations. I like having fun and little responsibility, but the truth is that is not life. I don’t live on vacation.
C. There are extremes in our culture. You have some who seem to make it in life with very little physical work and utilize programs that provide for much of their needs. To be honest, I don’t want to live that type of life. These people are often more content with the little they have and I struggle with my wants for more things. Then you have the opposite extreme where people work extreme hours, who spend little time with their family, God’s family, or anything that is not connected to work. I don’t want that life either. I can have lots of riches and little use for the money.
D. Then we come to texts like this one and we get nervous. There are verses in the Bible that teach about the topic of working, but most of them are connected to how slaves obey their master. The concept of being productive is taught in Christianity. Paul gives us some insight in two passages: Col. 3:23 and Eph. 4:28.
E. How valuable are you to your employer? That is a loaded question. Some people get paid more per hour than others not because of their value, but because of their degree or something that may have little to do with the person working. Is the CEO that much more valuable that the production workers? So step back from the idea of money for moment and let’s examine this passage in the context it was written.
I. The Right Example
A. There are words that cause us to stop when we read a passage. These words cause me to stop and ponder what is about to be said (Verse 6).
B. When the Bible specifically states that what is said is a command, take note. This command is not from Paul, but “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This invokes the power and authority that comes through Jesus. In fact, Paul emphatically states “our Lord Jesus Christ.” He puts a lot of weight behind this.
C. While we will get into the sinful brother next week, the topic of sin was idleness when a person could be working. The word that we translate “idle” has its root in the concept of “disorder.” What matter was “in the beginning” before God took the chaos and created order – when the earth was formless and void. It is strange that this word would end up with the concept of what we call “idleness” today. But follow the etymology. The Greeks used this word as “undisciplined.” The word was used to mean setting oneself outside of the order given. When applied to work, it does not lay emphasis on sloth but rather on an irresponsible attitude to the obligation to work. That irresponsible attitude is why we find most modern translations describing the problem as “idleness.” They were stuck on being irresponsible concerning the topic of earning a living.
D. So Paul places himself as an example of what Christians should be like (READ 2 Thes. 3:7-9). Paul doesn’t write this to show off or make himself better than, but to simply state that many people would think that an apostle ought to be paid by the local church. What we find is Paul is almost always funded by churches in his past, not the church is currently working with.
II. The Wrong Example
A. The understanding of what happened here is that some Christians stopped working for a living, but still expected others to take care of their needs and they did it with “Jesus is coming soon” on their lips.
B. While in Thessalonica Paul dealt with the topics of work and the coming of Jesus. In his first letter he dealt with the two topics, and in this second letter he again deals with the two topics. While it is true that Jesus is coming, being idle leads to harm not help within the body. These people who stopped working were idle and had become busybodies and gossips. (READ 2 Thes. 3:10-11).
C. Someone compared busybodies to mules: “When they are pulling, they cannot kick; when they are kicking they cannot pull.” A person who is working hard is generally not lashing out at those around him. The individual who is inflicting pain on others is usually not pulling her load. The action that Paul speaks about is to shame such people back into benefiting the body instead of hurting it.
D. One cure that some people don’t want to hear is that when things are not going the way you think they should in the local body, get up and do something instead of just complain. Some are quick to tell you the problem, but refuse to be a part of the solution. Paul says, “Here’s the solution” (READ verse 12).
A. What I love about Paul is his attitude towards those who need to make changes in their life. Paul might sound harsh at times, but he really wants to encourage us to think about God’s way of living.
B. When you work for someone, you don’t just represent you, you represent God. What type of reputation should children of the might God have in the community? A reputation of how little can I do to bless others, or a reputation of how much God has given me that I find joy in blessing others. Our work – our attitude about work – is a reflection of what God has done and is doing in us. Let us live as lights shinning in the dark world.
C. If you have a need that we as church can help, don’t let this lesson keep you from sharing your heart. If you need our prayer or guidance, please come as we stand and sing.