2 Thessalonians 3:6-12
Yes, Idleness Is Sin
Paul’s letter hastens to the end but not before he addresses a matter he had previously dealt with in his first letter (4:11-12) but which apparently was not heeded by some in the church. Indeed, it seems that much of the second letter is an amplification of the first—and why not? We are such people who generally have to hear something several times before we finally catch on—our minds being so dulled by the fall.
But this time, the Apostle really hits the matter hard. That matter, that sin, was idleness. And idleness is sin. We must remember that, our nature being what it is, our minds, hands, and feet, left to fidget among themselves, will take us places we don’t want to go. And so work is really a blessing from the Lord. Work gives us the opportunity to be creative and productive and thereby come along side our Lord (so to speak) in His work of creation. This is one way that we show that we are indeed made in His image. Work also keeps our minds occupied, which is indeed a blessing when trials come. Remember that we were required to manage the garden before we sinned, sin only making work a drudgery as now the fruit of our labors are accompanied by the “thorns and thistles” that hinder our reward.
But in the church in Thessalonica, they were not obeying the word of the Apostle—a word for their own good. He refers to his own example when he was among them. Paul was a tentmaker by trade. And though he might have insisted on provision by preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3ff), he preferred to set the believers in each place he ministered an example of how Christians should behave in this world before outsiders: by working hard, making their own living, and living a “quiet” life by minding their own affairs and showing the calm assurance of a believer in Christ.
The consequences Paul lays out of living in idleness are severe. To begin, if one does not work, he should not eat. This is just common sense. Granted, there are those who are genuinely disabled, but there are many who are not. If these be within a congregation, they must be admonished, especially if they are given to asking alms of those who do work. Paul even commands them (commands them!) to shun such a one, that is, to let him know that his behavior is breaking fellowship with his brothers and sisters in Christ. But in the end, Paul encourages these as fellow-believers to earn their own living. They will be happier people if they will, good citizens, and best of all, witnesses before the world that Christians are diligent, hard-working people.