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2 Thessalonians 3:11-13

11. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

11. Audimus enim quosdam versantes inter vos inordinate nihil operis agentes, sed curiose satagentes.

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.

12. Talibus autem praecipimus, et obsecramus 715715     “Prions, ou, exhortons;” — “We pray, or, we exhort.” per Dominum nos trum Iesum Christum, ut cum quiete operantes suum ipsorum panem edant.

13. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

13. Vos autem fratres, ne defatigemini benefaciendo.


11 We hear that there are some among you. It is probable that this kind of drones were, as it were, the seed of idle monkhood. For, from the very beginning, there were some who, under pretext of religion, either made free with the tables of others, or craftily drew to themselves the substance of the simple. They had also, even in the time of Augustine, come to prevail so much, that he was constrained to write a book expressly against idle monks, where he complains with good reason of their pride, because, despising the admonition of the Apostle, they not only excuse themselves on the ground of infirmity, but they wish to appear holier than all others, on the ground that they are exempt from labors. He inveighs, with good reason, against this unseemliness, that, while the senators are laborious, the workman, or person in humble life, does not merely live in idleness, 716716     “Les senateurs et les nobles ayent la main a la besogne, et cependant les manouuriers et mechaniques, non seulement viuront en oisiuete;” — “The senators and the nobles have their hand in the work, and in the mean time the workmen and mechanics will not only live in idleness.” but would fain have his indolence pass for sanctity. Such are his views. 717717     “Voyla que dit S. Augustin;” — “There you have what St. Augustine says.” In the mean time, however, the evil has increased to such an extent, that idle bellies occupy nearly the tenth part of the world, whose only religion is to be well stuffed, and to have exemption from all annoyance 718718     “Et solicitude;” — “And anxiety.” of labor. And this manner of life they dignify, sometimes with the name of the Order, sometimes with that of the Rule, of this or that personage. 719719     “D’vn tel sainct, ou d’vn tel;” — “Of this saint, or that.”

But what does the Spirit say, on the other hand, by the mouth of Paul? He pronounces them all to be irregular and disorderly, by whatever name of distinction they may be dignified. It is not necessary to relate here how much the idle life of monks has invariably displeased persons of sounder judgment. That is a memorable saying of an old monk, which is recorded by Socrates in the Eighth Book of the Tripartite History — that he who does not labor with his hands is like a plunderer. 720720     “Vn vagabond qui va pillant;” — “A vagabond that goes a-plundering.” I do not mention other instances, nor is it necessary. Let this statement of the Apostle suffice us, in which he declares that they are dissolute, and in a manner lawless.

Doing nothing. In the Greek participles there is, an elegant (προσωνομασία) play upon words, which I have attempted in some manner to imitate, by rendering it as meaning that they do nothing, but have enough to do in the way of curiosity. 721721     “Nihil eos agere operis, sed curiose satagere.” He censures, however, a fault with which idle persons are, for the most part, chargeable, that, by unseasonably bustling about, they give trouble to themselves and to others. For we see, that those who have nothing to do are much more fatigued by doing nothing, than if they were employing themselves in some very important work; they run hither and thither; wherever they go, they have the appearance of great fatigue; they gather all sorts of reports, and they put them in a confused way into circulation. You would say that they bore the weight of a kingdom upon their shoulders. Could there be a more remarkable exemplification of this than there is in the monks? For what class of men have less repose? Where does curiosity reign more extensively? Now, as this disease has a ruinous effect upon the public, Paul admonishes that it ought not to be encouraged by idleness.

12 Now we command such. He corrects both of the faults of which he had made mention — a blustering restlessness, and retirement from useful employment. He accordingly exhorts them, in the first place, to cultivate repose — that is, to keep themselves quietly within the limits of their calling, or, as we commonly say, “sans faire bruit,” (without making a noise.) For the truth is this: those are the most peaceable of all, that exercise themselves in lawful employments; 722722     “Ceux qui s’exercent a bon escient en quelque labeur licite;” — “Those that exercise themselves in good earnest in any lawful employment.” while those that have nothing to do give trouble both to themselves and to others. Further, he subjoins another precept — that they should labor, that is, that they should be intent upon their calling, and devote themselves to lawful and honorable employments, without which the life of man is of a wandering nature. Hence, also, there follows this third injunction — that they should eat their own bread; by which he means, that they should be satisfied with what belongs to them, that they may not be oppressive or unreasonable to others.

Drink water, says Solomon, from thine own fountains, and let the streams flow down to neighbors. (Proverbs 5:15.)

This is the first law of equity, that no one make use of what belongs to another, but only use what he can properly call his own. The second is, that no one swallow up, like some abyss, what belongs to him, but that he be beneficent to neighbors, and that he may relieve their indigence by his abundance. 723723     See Calvin on the Corinthians; vol. 2, p. 286. In the same manner, the Apostle exhorts those who had been formerly idle to labor, not merely that they may gain for themselves a livelihood, but that they may also be helpful to the necessities of their brethren, as he also teaches elsewhere. (Ephesians 4:28.)

13 And you, brethren. Ambrose is of opinion that this is added lest the rich should, in a niggardly spirit, refuse to lend their aid to the poor, because he had exhorted them to eat every one his own bread. And, unquestionably, we see how many are unbefittingly ingenious in catching at a pretext for inhumanity. 724724     “Enuers les poures;” — “Towards the poor.” Chrysostom explains it thus — that indolent persons, however justly they may be condemned, must nevertheless be assisted when in want. I am simply of opinion, that Paul had it in view to provide against an occasion of offense, which might arise from the indolence of a few. For it usually happens, that those that are otherwise particularly ready and on the alert for beneficence, become cool on seeing that they have thrown away their favors by misdirecting them. Hence Paul admonishes us, that, although there are many that are undeserving, 725725     “Ne meritent point qu’on leur face du bien;” — “Do not deserve that any should do them good.” while others abuse our liberality, we must not on this account leave off helping those that need our aid. Here we have a statement worthy of being observed — that however ingratitude, moroseness, pride, arrogance, and other unseemly dispositions on the part of the poor, may have a tendency to annoy us, or to dispirit us, from a feeling of weariness, we must strive, nevertheless, never to leave off aiming at doing good.

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