How would you define idleness? My first thoughts go to when my Skype account status becomes “idle”, after not having touched my computer in a while. As a self-professed lazy person, I might even label my life as idle. I fall in to the same pattern of going to uni, coming home and studying, watching the same TV shows, cooking/eating the same food, meeting the same friends…the list goes on.
What exactly is idleness, in the context of being a Christian?
- Not working at all, doing nothing
- Being slack in your work (Proverbs 18:9)
- Pretending that the liberty Christ gave us freed us from our callings and employment in the world.
- Relying solely on the charity of the church
- Being a “busybody” (v 11) – possibly meaning “spending your time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). In other words, being a gossip chasing after news.
In this chapter, Paul reminds us to “keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive, and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In fact, this command has been repeated many times in the New Testament. According to Titus 3:10, “warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” It is hoped that by disassociating a person that is idle, they will snap back in to reality and stop their idleness.
Paul tells us to wisely withdraw from being idle, and from those who are too lazy to work. Those who can work should work, so that they are self-supporting and not burdensome to the church. This is because idleness leads to mischief and it breeds trouble. Those who evade work often spend their time on unworthy and unwholesome pursuits.
The main takeaway points from this chapter are:
- Ensure that you are not slack in your work. This applies to actual employment as well as spreading the gospel and serving God.
- Withdraw from those who are idle, so that they may become aware of their ways.
- Finally, in verse 13, Paul emphasises that “we should never tire of doing good.”