COMMENTARY ON SECOND THESSALONIANS
2 Thess 3:11 “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” KJV (2 Thess 3:11-13)
Living by faith does not exclude being industrious and consistent in matters “pertaining to this life” (1 Cor 6:3). There is such a thing as “necessary uses,” or “daily necessities,” NIV for which we are to “maintain good works” (Tit 3:14). It is in the process of doing this that the Father supplies our needs, blessing and establishing “the work of our hands” (Psa 90:17). It is possible to work hard, earn wages, and then put them in a bag with holes, unable to keep them (Haggai 1:6). Ultimately, it is said of the wicked man, “The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath” (Job 20:28). Were it not for the mercy of the Lord, this pronouncement would be made upon all of our labors: they would all be vain and profitless. For those in Christ Jesus, quietly working is a work of faith – an activity in which we depend upon the Lord to bless the work of our hands. We do not trust men to honor our labors, but the Living God, who can move a landowner to notice the work of a young Joseph, a prison keeper to give charge over the prisoners, and a national ruler to make him second in command. However, those who refuse to work have thereby revealed a corrupted heart and a lack of faith. They have thrust themselves into the very place where Satan is invincible – idleness. Man was not made to be idle, and when he gives himself over to that frame of mind, all Christian virtues begin to die: to name a few, contentment, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit, and a living hope. Faith is made to thrive in the crucible of activity, where body, heart, soul, mind, and strength are all engaged.
THERE ARE SOME WHO ARE DISORDERLY
“ 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” How tragic that an evil report could be made of any church, or any individuals within it! Good reports can be given of a church. The faith of the brethren in Rome was spoken of throughout the world (Rom 1:8). Paul heard of the Ephesians’ faith in the Lord Jesus, and their love for all the saints (Eph 1:15). He also heard of the faith and love of the Colossian brethren (Col 1:4). The faith of the Thessalonians had been “spread abroad,” so no one had to speak of their reputation (1 Thess 1:8). However, sad reports can also be given concerning a congregation. Paul had heard there were contentions and divisions in the church at Corinth (1 Cor 1:11; 11:18). There was a common report about the congregation there “that there is fornication among you” (1 Cor 5:1). Diotrephes had the reputation of casting out of the church those who wanted to receive “the brethren” (3 John 1:9). Such reports have not ceased. To this very day, some churches are known for firing preachers, forbidding prayer meetings and Sunday night services, and allowing immorality in their presence. All such reports bring great dishonor to the Lord of glory.
WALKING DISORDERLY. The Thessalonians had some among them who were walking “disorderly.” The word had traveled from Thessalonica to Athens (over 200 miles away), from which this Epistle was probably written. The whole congregation was not living disorderly, but only “some” among them. Yet, the word got out, because those “some” were living in contradiction of the thrust of that fellowship. Those individuals actually gained a reputation for being out of the ranks, and for living in a manner that contradicted the profession of the congregation. Among other things, that reveals the seriousness of the brethren in Thessalonica. Disorderly people were the exception, not the rule. It appears to me that we are living in a time when those walking in the light and by faith are the exception to the religious rule. Such “things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
Walking. The word “walk” is a Scriptural word for deliberate living. It is a manner of life that is chosen, and toward which one devotes himself. Thus believers are said to “walk in the steps of our father Abraham” (Rom 4:12), “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4), and “walk after the Spirit” (Rom 8:1,4). We are admonished to “walk honestly” (Rom 13:13), “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16), and “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph 4:1). We are exhorted to “walk in love” (Eph 5:2), “walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8), and “walk circumspectly” (Eph 5:15). The word “walk” refers to our general manner of life. It views our life as a single focused journey, like journeying from Egypt to Canaan (Ex 12:25), or from the East to Jerusalem, as the wise men did to see the Holy Child (Matt 2:1). Life is called a “walk” because it is deliberate, and not generally brief in length. It is of sufficient duration that it must be lived with some focus of attention, patience, and expectation. It is brief enough that we must regularly make progress, lest our lives be in vain.
Disorderly. Walking “disorderly” is straying form the appointed path. It is living in contradiction of the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). Such deluded souls have wandered into the broad road “that leads to destruction” (Matt 7:13). They may be in the congregation, but they are not on their way to heaven. They are running the wrong way. They are out of the ranks, have gone AWOL, and are involved in an unblessed and unsanctioned way of living. The particular sin of these people was they were “working not at all.” They were not fulfilling their earthly duties, and were not industrious to work with their own hands, that they might “have to give to him that needeth” (Eph 4:28).
BUSYBODIES. Here is a play on words, as though he had written, They are busy only with things that are not their own business. Rather than tending to their own affairs, they had become involved in the affairs of others. Peter referred to such as “a busybody in other men's matters” (1 Pet 4:15). Elsewhere Paul classed such among those who are “not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Tim 5:13).
A “busybody” is someone who works in everyone’s field but his own. He does not seek to bring advantage to others, but only to meddle in their business. Such bustle about uselessly, using a lot of fuel, but going nowhere. They spend their time in things that are of no consequence – trifling, needless, and useless matters. No bread can be obtained from their efforts. They do not provide for their own, or for their own house. Unlike the slothful person, they do not simply devote themselves to sleep, but engage in much activity that has nothing whatsoever to do with them. They have left profitable and blessed work to stir up dust and make it more difficult for others to live unto the Lord. Such are busily inspecting the sawdust speck in the eyes of others, unaware that a log is hanging out of their own eye (Matt 7:3).
COMMANDING AND EXHORTING THE WAYWARD
“ 12a Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. ” Those who insist on departing from the path of life must be addressed. They are not to be ignored in the hope their situation will improve on its own. There is a reason for this. It is not simply that believers are to be critical of others, or that we are merely fulfilling a heartless duty in speaking to the wayward. Such people are exercising influence among the saints. A deviate soul is used by the devil to draw weak and unlearned souls off of the path that leads to life. Everyone is living under the direction of someone. It is either the Lord Jesus or Satan, the Prince of Life or the prince of the power of the air. No one charts their own path. Each one receives it from another. It comes from either heaven or hell, above or beneath. There are ultimately only two kinds of wisdom: the “wisdom that is from above” and that which is “earthly, sensual, and devilish (demonic)” (James 15-17). Those who insist on pursuing the lower path must be exposed to the wisdom that is from above. They must not be allowed to blunder on with no warning. We are to “warn the unruly” (1 Thess 5:14), as our text confirms.
COMMAND AND EXHORT. When the case is bad, we must both command and exhort. To command is to apprise the wayward soul of what the Lord requires. To exhort is to urge that soul to obey the Lord, not continuing in their self-willed manner of life. It is not enough to “command” without exhorting the individual to obey. Nor, indeed, is it proper to advocate a change of conduct without declaring what the Lord has demanded. When Peter had commanded the guilty Jews to “Repent and be baptized,” he then exhorted them to save themselves from their wayward generation (Acts 2:38-40). Along the same lines, Paul admonished Timothy to “command and teach” (1 Tim 4:11).
It makes a difference to God whether people respond to His Word or not. It should also make a difference to us. One of the dreadful effects of an academic approach to the things of God is that it does not move the individual to press the hearers to do something with the truth. Jesus spoke of compelling people to come in (Luke 14:23). If Jacob could urge Esau to receive a gift from him (Gen 33:11), ought not we to urge wayward souls to “make straight paths for their feet,” lest they suffer the consequences of their conduct (Heb 12:13)?
BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. The secret to effective admonition is to make the hearer aware of the Source of the demand. Already Paul has spoken in this manner to the Thessalonians. In his First Epistle, he exhorted them by the Lord Jesus (4:1), giving them commandments by Him (4:2). He revealed how the Lord’s coming would effect the believers, “by the word of the Lord” (4:15). On the same basis, He also charged them to read his Epistle to all of the brethren (5:27). In this Second Epistle, he besought them “by the coming of the Lord, and our gathering together unto Him” (2:1). Now he commands and exhorts in the same way. This word comes from Jesus Himself. It reflects His mind and God’s purpose. It blends with the nature of salvation, faith, and the hope set before us.
God’s people must learn not to reason with people with human reasoning. There must be an obvious correlation of the requirement with the Lord of glory, His word, and His salvation. The greater weight of the appeal is found right here – “by our Lord Jesus Christ.” That word is what brings godly pressure to bear upon the heart.
WORKING WITH QUIETNESS. Other versions read, “work in quiet fashion,” NASB and “settle down and get to work.” NLT Quietness is here contrasted with being a busybody. You might say that flesh is noisy, drawing attention away from the Lord. To “work quietly” is to devote ourselves to daily toil without murmuring, disputing, and complaining. It means to labor with a calm spirit, and free from fleshly agitation. A contrasting view is seen in Israel who gathered and ate their manna with complaint, while meddling in the affairs of their leader Moses (Num 21:5). Solomon chronicled the blessedness of a morsel that could be eaten in quietness (Prov 17:1; Eccl 4:6). We learn from this that refusing to work, and meddling in the affairs of others disquiets and agitates the human spirit.
EAT THEIR OWN BREAD. Even though the loving Lord supplies our “daily bread,” yet it is called our “own.” It is not our “own” because we are its source, or because it came into existence because of our labors. It is our “own” because we have appropriated it lawfully, and to the glory of God. We have expended our own energies to obtain it, as He commanded. One who steals bread does not eat his own bread, but the bread for whom someone else has labored. The person who refuses to work, intruding into others men’s affairs, and showing up, as it were, at mealtime, does not eat his own bread, but the bread of another. Far better to earn a living, than to be a busybody in other men’s affairs
BE NOT WEARY IN WELL DOING
“ 13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” Other versions read, “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good,” NASB “And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right,” NIV and “And I say to the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.” NLT
BRETHREN. This is a word to the rest of the brethren – those who were not busybodies. While those who were not working may be generally included, the word is specifically to those who were not in that category. The strong implication is that they could be evil-effected by the unacceptable conduct of those who were out of the way. A little “leaven of malice and wickedness” can spread throughout the entire congregation (1 Cor 5:6). It is unfortunate that words of exhortation must frequently be addressed to the whole church because of the deficiencies of a few. But even then, they are not spoken until the offenders have first been faced with their sin and exhorted to bring it to an abrupt conclusion.
BE NOT WEARY. To be “weary” is to faint, or cease from the required diligence. On one occasion, certain men of Israel were constrained to return to their homes because they were fainthearted. Their presence tended to make others fainthearted, or disheartened, also. “And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart” (Jer 2:24). Isaiah spoke of trying times when even those in the vigor of youth would “faint and be weary” (Isa 40:30). Weariness, or growing tired and discouraged, precedes fainting, or altogether ceasing to labor. It is possible to become “wearied” and “faint” in our “minds” – giving up because of the contradictions of this world (Heb 12:3). It is no wonder the saints are admonished, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9). Not being weary in well doing is the same as being “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).
We are exhorted to not be weary because that is a liability we face in this world. In this case, it not only comes because we are simply in a world that is hostile toward us. It also comes when there are brethren among us living in an opposite direction. “Evil communications” do corrupt “good manners” (1 Cor 15:33). Speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul does not wait until brethren are weary in well doing, but delivers a stirring word of exhortation to stop such a condition from occurring. It is difficult to imagine what a godly impact such exhortations have upon the saints of God. When men place the emphasis upon solving humanly assessed problems, or merely increasing the number of the saints, such exhortations are frequently never even uttered. Thus souls can actually remain in a state of spiritual dulness, unprotected from the devices of the evil one.
If it is true that only those who “faint not” will reap the harvest (Gal 6:9), then such exhortations are certainly in order. They are like a “plentiful rain, whereby” the Lord confirms His “inheritance, when it was weary” (Psa 68:9). Such words help to clear our vision, renew our hope, and confirm the absurdity of wandering from the path leading to life.
WELL DOING. While we are not saved by works which we have done (Tit 3:5), nevertheless, there are things to be done. Whatever one may think about “doing,” the promise of God is received “after ye have done the will of God” (Heb 10:36). The Lord makes it clear that seeking for glory and honor and immortality is done “by patient continuance in well doing” (Rom 2:7). When we face the irritating “ignorance of foolish men,” it is by “well doing” that they can be put to silence (1 Pet 2:15). In fact, while we are suffering for the name of Jesus, and by the will of God, we “commit the keeping” of our “souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19).
If, indeed, we have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10), then we must not become weary or fatigued in the doing of them. Words of exhortation are to fall upon believers’ ears, moving them to “learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives” NIV (Tit 3:14).
It is unfortunate that a trend toward religious entertainment is common in our time. While it is not my intent to condemn all such things, it is necessary to point out that anything that encourages idleness and a lack of productivity in the name of the Lord, is dangerous. It introduces the temptation become weary in aggressively living for the Lord. While each person must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, they must also see to it that they do not become “weary in well doing.” The saved of the Lord are not spectators in their salvation, but participants – workers together with God (1 Cor 3:9).