2 Thessalonians Lesson 7: Importance of a Good Work Ethic
“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
I pray that all is well with you as you are reading this. God continues to be good to my family, my churches, and me. Things do not always go as planned, but God is good all the time. Last week we looked at the Patience of Christ. None of us likes to or wants to be patient. But it is an essential part of growth as a person, even more so as a child of God. We learn to operate at God’s pace and in God’s time and to accept His decisions. Today we will look at the importance of a good work ethic, and as we journey here in this chapter, we will learn how to assess if we need to stop temporary fellowship with a brother or sister.
- Withdraw from those that walk disorderly, verse 6-7
Notice that Paul tells us that this command is from the Lord Jesus. So, we are to understand that there are times when a withdrawal is essential for the sake of the individual and for the collective church. We often seem more concerned about offending man than God in some of these cases. Sometimes we can allow someone to remain in a leadership position even when we know that they are not teaching the Biblical truths. This is one of the ‘traditions’ that Paul is referring to in verse 6.
We need to find out what the Apostolic teachings were as far as doctrines. The word for ‘walks’ is a word that implies a deliberate course of action. This brother is not making a mistake that is correctable with a discussion over a coffee and a clearer understanding of the Bible; rather, he is making a deliberate and calculated decision to teach something that is not true.
When we withdraw our fellowship, we are not taking their salvation; rather, we are denying them the comforts that come with being a part of the local church. In 1 Corinthians 5: 4-5, the same Paul tells us that this withdrawal is to hopefully bring about repentance and the immediate return to fellowship. This is not supposed to be some banishment and punishment, rather another tool for restoration. Now, doctrines are important, but did you also live out your doctrines in a practical manner before the people that you served as a spiritual leader?
Paul tells us in verse 7 that their manner of living was the example to be followed. They were disciplined in the scriptures, but they were also disciplined in how they lived. This disciplined living is often made fun of by the people outside and sadly inside the church. Vice President Mike Pence has a rule that he does not meet in closed-door meetings with a woman that is not his wife. Even before that, Billy Graham’s entire traveling team had similar rules and guidelines. It is just too easy for a man of God to be found in a compromising situation, and it may even be that he was set up. Sadly, all too often, we just test the limits of our flesh too far, and we fail.
Paul, in particular, was talking about working for a living. He, Paul, worked hard to meet the needs that he and some of his traveling companions had. Paul had the right, as do all pastors, to be paid for the ministry that he was doing. But, so that no one could accuse him of doing it for the money, Paul paid his own way most often by working a secular job.
I know many Pastors today that have a secular job as well. They serve a local church, and they also work at a local store or business. They are able to have things like medical benefits and drug plans for their families. As well, like my wife, many Pastors’ wives are not stay-at-home moms; they work jobs as well, even if it is just part-time. I know a lot of Pastors that served their churches for years and retired with nothing, or they could not retire when the time came. A lot of churches in the past had the idea that if you keep the Pastor poor, he will be more spiritual. Paul set an example for all the men; in particular, it was that they should be hard workers.
- No work, no eating, verse 10
This is a real principle; if a man does not work, he should not eat. Men need work. This has been known for millennia, but in the last 50 or so years, we have made it so that men do not have to work. They could father babies, and the state would take care of them; this is happening. I was listening to Thomas Sowell talk about how when he was a boy, about 80% of babies born even in Black families were born into 2-person families, a mom and a dad. Today, if the stats can be trusted, only about 25% of black babies are born into 2-person families. The state pays for men not to take care of the children they fathered.
But there is a principle, a Biblical one and a necessary societal one; if a man is not willing to work, he should not eat. Pastors need to be setting the example of this and be diligent workers amongst the churchmen. When there is work to be done, the Pastor does not need to lead every endeavor, but he should work along competent men to get the job done. This is one of the very important lessons for Pastors to learn as well; leadership often means helping other men to work you out a job, so to speak. But Pastors need to remember that they always leave either by U-Haul or by a hearse. They need to have men who will follow in these Biblical traditions for the younger men coming up.
What happens to men who don’t work for their keep? In verses 11-13, we find out that they become ‘busybodies.’ The word is a Greek play on words; it means that they are actually busy but not doing work. They are busy doing anything but work. Rather, they intruded into the life of others and maybe even took advantage of the Christian generosity, which leads to more laziness. They had mastered the art of living off someone else’s work. We see a lot of that today, grown men who are not working, living off their parents, and not even contributing to the home they live in; they are leeches. Yet, their lives are busy but busy doing nothing constructive. Sadly, these kinds of men have crept into the Lord’s churches. They just take and take, never ready to give of themselves to the work of the Kingdom.
- Deal with this; it is contagious, verse 12-14
We are to lovingly but firmly confront these brothers. This is not a small issue; this kind of laziness is contagious, and soon a few men will be paying the way for the lazy ones and even asking themselves why they are not lazy too. Help these men to get off their butts and get meaningful work. They need to contribute, take care of someone other than themselves, and earn their food and keep. This is how godly men behave. They take responsibility for themselves and others. Young men need to be married and fathers; this will inspire them to work hard. For some reason, even among the Lord’s churches, we have decided to keep young men as boys for a long time. Sometimes we view them as boys until they are 25 years old or more when about one-third of their life is over. What a waste.
More than a dozen of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence in the US were under 35 years of age. The average age of the men who invaded Europe on D-day was 26 years old. If we look at when the Apostles died and compare the life span at that time, it would seem that these men who turned the world upside down were young. David was anointed king of Israel by Samuel at age 17; he did not take the right place until he was 30, but look at the 13 years that he worked before he ascended the throne of Israel. We need to be careful that we are not keeping our boys as boys for too long such that they become comfortable as boys and dread being men.
Everything we do, though harsh, should be done in love. It is essential for us to get these boys to maturity, to be working and being contributors, helping themselves and others. If they will not grow up, we need to stop fellowshipping with them. Don’t be mean and don’t be nasty; the goal is to gain them and help, not cut them off and lose them. Remember, these are our brothers in the Lord. Treat them right and treat them lovingly, but treat them right. All too often, we have substituted love for tolerance. We love this brother, so we will just let him go on living a life of rebellion and disobedience to God because we love him. We do not. We are fooling ourselves.
Jesus would not tolerate this kind of behavior, and He for sure loves all of His children. We need to stop using love as an excuse to do nothing, to allow total disregard for God’s laws and principles and say nothing. We are not helping anyone, and in fact, we are hurting many around us who are looking for guidance from God’s people in a world that has lost its anchors. Let us do right, live right, and encourage others to live right as well.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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