2 Thessalonians 3
Work; don’t slack off
Pray us out of this trouble1 Let me close this letter with a prayer request. Please pray that our message about the Lord will spread quickly, and that people will respect it—just as you did. 2 Also pray that we’ll be spared from folks who are downright evil and don’t care what’s right or wrong. 3 But know this: you can count on the Lord. He’ll protect you from evil and he’ll make you strong. 4 I have every bit of confidence in you, too. I know that you’re doing what we told you to do. And I know you’ll continue to do it. 5 Now may the Lord point you in the direction of God’s love and the Messiah’s strength.
If you don’t work, you don’t eat6 Dear family, there’s something we need you to do. We’re commanding this, with the authority of our leader Jesus, the Messiah. Stay away from any believer who doesn’t have the discipline to work or to follow the teachings we gave you. 7 You know you should follow the example we set when we were there. We didn’t slack off, goof off, and just hang around. 8 And we didn’t eat anyone’s food without paying for it. Instead, we worked in daylight and darkness, making the visit hard on ourselves so we wouldn’t make it hard on you.
9 We didn’t do this because we didn’t have the right to ask for your help. We did it to set an example for you to follow. 10 When we were there with you, we gave you this rule: “Anyone who won’t work shouldn’t eat.” 11 We’re reminding you about this for a reason. We’ve heard that all the work some of you are willing to do is to stick your nose in someone else’s business. 12 We’re commanding this, with the authority of our leader Jesus, the Messiah: stop talking and start working. Eat your own food, which you earn from your work.
Keep each other in line13 Dear family, do what you know is right. Never give up on that. 14 If anyone disagrees with what we’ve said in this letter, take down their names. Then shun them—to make them feel ashamed. Don’t have a thing to do with them. 15 Don’t go so far as to treat this person like an enemy. Instead, sternly warn the person as a family member.
Goodbye16 Now may the Lord of peace share his peace with you every day, wherever you go and whatever you do. The Lord be with you, each and every one. 17 I’m writing this note in my own handwriting, Paul. This is what I do with every letter I write, so people will know it’s really from me. 18 May the Lord Jesus Christ show his great kindness to every one of you.
“Great kindness” is often translated as “grace,” from the Greek word charis. The Greek word also means “life.”
Paul closes his letter with some seemingly strong-arm comments. “If anyone disagrees with what we’ve said in this letter, take down their names. Then shun them—to make them feel ashamed. Don’t have a thing to do with them. Don’t go so far as to treat this person like an enemy. Instead, sternly warn the person as a family member” (3:14-15). Why do you think he would say something like that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul was focused on spreading the story of Jesus as quickly and as widely as possible. He asked the people in Thessalonica to “Please pray that our message about the Lord will spread quickly, and that people will respect it” (3:1). Do you think the Christian movement has lost that sense of urgency about telling the story of Jesus to people who have never heard it?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul says that the Lord will “protect you from evil and he’ll make you strong” (3:3). Really? These are people who were facing a continual bombardment of persecution in their hometown. In another decade and a half, they and their fellow believers would start to feel the pressure increasing after Emperor Nero accused Christians of setting fire to the city of Rome in the summer of AD 64. Many Christians ended up as animal bait for the Coliseum. How is that protection?
LIFE APPLICATION. Frankly, Paul sounds like a cranky politician—at least when he’s talking about people needing to get off their fanny and get to work if they want to eat. After reading 3:6-12, how would you defend the idea of welfare, food stamps, and other programs intended to help people who have trouble helping themselves?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul complained to the people of Thessalonica that “all the work some of you are willing to do is to stick your nose in someone else’s business” (3:11). Why do we humans do that so much?