If you’ve ever spent any time in the workforce, then I’m willing to bet that you’re well-acquainted with the idler and the meddler. Some people work harder at avoiding work than they do in actually performing their job. Paul calls them idlers, while we may know them more as slackers. Then there’s the meddlers. These are the gossipers, the busybodies, who are so involved in others’ affairs that they neglect their own. If you’ve ever wondered how Scripture addresses these two groups of people, then check out these notes on Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians from the NLT Life Application Study Bible.

Overview of 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15

Some people in the Thessalonian church were falsely teaching that because Christ would return any day, people should set aside their responsibilities, quit work, do no future planning, and just wait for the Lord. But their lack of activity only led them into sin. They became a burden to the church, which was supporting them, they wasted time that could have been used for helping others, and they became meddlers. These church members may have thought that they were being more spiritual by not working, but Paul tells them to be responsible and get back to work. Being ready for Christ means obeying him in every area of life. Because we know that Christ is coming, we must live in such a way that our faith and our daily practices will please him when he arrives.

Correcting the Idlers

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. Just as we worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-10

3:6-10 Paul was writing here about idle, unproductive, irresponsible people who refuse to work. Paul explained that when he and his companions were in Thessalonica, they worked hard, buying what they needed rather than becoming a burden to any of the believers. The rule they followed was “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” There’s a difference between leisure and laziness. Relaxation and recreation provide necessary and much-needed balance to our lives; when the time comes to work, however, Christians should jump right in. We should make the most of our talents and time, doing all we can to provide for ourselves and our dependents. Rest when you should be resting, and work when you should be working.

Correcting the Meddlers

Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.”

2 Thessalonians 3:11–15

3:11-12 An idle person who doesn’t work ends up filling his or her time with less than helpful activities, like gossip. Rumors and hearsay are tantalizing, exciting to hear, and make us feel like insiders, but they tear people down. If you often find your nose in other people’s business, you may be underemployed. Look for a task to do for Christ or for your family, and get to work.

3:14-15 Paul counseled the church to stop supporting financially those who persisted in idleness. Paul was not talking about those who were not able to make a living or were experiencing difficult times in their lives. He was talking about people who were lazy and took advantage of the kindness of others. Paul was not advising coldness or cruelty but tough love with the purpose of helping people become responsible.

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