World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

3. Warning Against Idleness

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you; 2and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; for all have not faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from the evil one. 4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command. 5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ. 6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us. 7For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8neither did we eat bread for nought at any man's hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you: 9not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us. 10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. 11For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies. 12Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing. 14And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. 15And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all. 17The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Select a resource above

He now proceeds to the correcting of a particular fault. As there were some indolent, and at the same time curious and prattling persons, who, in order that they might scrape together a living at the expense of others, wandered about from house to house, he forbids that their indolence should be encouraged by indulgence, 700700     “Il defend aux Thessaloniciens d’entretenir par leur liberalite ou dissimulation l’oisiuete de telles gens;” — “He prohibits the Thessalonians from encouraging by their liberality or dissimulation the indolence of such persons.” and teaches that those live holily who procure for themselves the necessaries of life by honorable and useful labor. And in the first place, he applies the appellation of disorderly persons, not to those that are of a dissolute life, or to those whose characters are stained by flagrant crimes, but to indolent and worthless persons, who employ themselves in no honorable and useful occupation. For this truly is ἀταξία, (disorder, 701701     “Desordre et grande confusion;” — “Disorder and great confusion.” ) — not considering for what purpose we were made, and regulating our life with a view to that end, while it is only when we live according to the rule prescribed to us by God that this life is duly regulated. Let this order be set aside, and there is nothing but confusion in human life. This, also, is worthy to be noticed, lest any one should take pleasure in exercising himself apart from a legitimate call from God: for God has distinguished in such a manner the life of men, in order that every one may lay himself out for the advantage of others. He, therefore, who lives to himself alone, so as to be profitable in no way to the human race, nay more, is a burden to others, giving help to no one, is on good grounds reckoned to be ἄτακτος, (disorderly.) Hence Paul declares that such persons must be put away from the society of believers, that they may not bring dishonor upon the Church.

6 Now we command you in the name. Erasmus renders it — “by the name,” as if it were an adjuration. While I do not altogether reject this rendering, I, at the same time, am rather of opinion that the particle in is redundant, as in very many other passages, and that in accordance with the Hebrew idiom. Thus the meaning will be, that this commandment ought to be received with reverence, not as from a mortal man, but as from Christ himself; and Chrysostom explains it in this manner. This withdrawment, 702702     “Ceste separation ou retirement;” — “This separation or withdrawment.” however of which he speaks, relates — not to public excommunication but to private intercourse. For he simply forbids believers to have any familiar intercourse with drones of this sort, who have no honorable means of life, in which they may exercise themselves. He says, however, expressly — from every brother, because if they profess themselves to be Christians they are above all others intolerable, inasmuch as they are, in a manner, the pests and stains of religion.

Not according to the injunction — namely, that which we shall find him shortly afterwards adding — that food should not be given to the man that refuses to labor. Before coming to this, however, he states what example he has given them in his own person. For doctrine obtains much more of credit and authority, when we impose upon others no other burden than we take upon ourselves. Now he mentions that he himself was engaged in working with his hands night and day, that he might not burden any one with expense. He had, also, touched somewhat on this point in the preceding Epistle — to which my readers must have recourse 703703     See Calvin on I Thessalonians; 2:9-12. — fj. for a fuller explanation of this point.

As to his saying, that he had not eaten any one’s bread for naught, he assuredly would not have done this, though he had not labored with his hands. For that which is due in the way of right, is not a thing that is gratuitous, and the price of the labor which teachers 704704     “Les Docteurs et Ministres;” — “Teachers and ministers.” lay out in behalf of the Church, is much greater than the food which they receive from it. But Paul had here in his eye inconsiderate persons, for all have not so much equity and judgment as to consider what remuneration is due to the ministers of the word. Nay more, such is the niggardliness of some, that, though they contribute nothing of their own, they, envy them their living, as if they were idle men. 705705     “Comme s’ils viuoyent inutiles et oiseux;” — “As if they lived uselessly and idly.” He, also, immediately afterwards declares that he waived his right, when he refrained from taking any remuneration, by which he intimates, that it is much less to be endured, that those, who do nothing, shall live on what belongs to others. 706706     “Viuent du labeur et bien d’autruy;” — “Should live on the labor and substance of others.” When he says, that they know how they ought to imitate, he does not simply mean that his example should be regarded by them as a law, but the meaning is, that they knew what they had seen in him that was worthy of imitation, nay more, that the very thing of which he is at present speaking, has been set before them for imitation.

9 Not because we have not. As Paul wished by his laboring to set an example, that idle persons might not like drones 707707     “Ainsi que les bourdons entre abeilles ne font point de miel, et neantmoins viuent de celuy des autres;” — “As drones among bees do not make any honey, and yet live on that of others.” eat the bread of others, so he was not willing that this very thing 708708     “Son exemple;” — “His example.” should do injury to the ministers of the word, so that the Churches should defraud them of their proper livelihood. In this we may see his singular moderation and humanity, and how far removed he was from the ambition of those who abuse their powers, so as to infringe upon the rights of their brethren. There was a danger, lest the Thessalonians, having had from the beginning the preaching of the gospel from Paul’s mouth gratuitously, 709709     “Gratuitement et sans luy bailler aucuns gages;” — “Gratuitously, and without giving him any remuneration.” should lay it down as a law for the future as to other ministers; the disposition of mankind being so niggardly. Paul, accordingly, anticipates this danger, and teaches that he had a right to more than he had made use of, that others may retain their liberty unimpaired. He designed by this means to inflict the greater disgrace, as I have already noticed above, on those that do nothing, for it is an argument from, the greater to the less.

10 He that will not labor. From its being written in Psalm 128:2

Thou art blessed, eating of the labor of thy hands,

also in Proverbs 10:4,

The blessing of the Lord is upon the hands of him that laboreth,

it is certain that indolence and idleness are accursed of God. Besides, we know that man was created with this view, that he might do something. Not only does Scripture testify this to us, but nature itself taught it to the heathen. Hence it is reasonable, that those, who wish to exempt themselves from the common law, 710710     “De la loy et regle commune;” — “From the common law and rule.” should also be deprived of food, the reward of labor. When, however, the Apostle commanded that such persons should not eat, he does not mean that he gave commandment to those persons, but forbade that the Thessalonians should encourage their indolence by supplying them with food.

It is also to be observed, that there are different ways of laboring. For whoever aids 711711     “Aide et porte proufit;” — “Aids and brings advantage.” the society of men by his industry, either by ruling his family, or by administering public or private affairs, or by counseling, or by teaching, 712712     “En enseignant les autres;” — “By instructing others.” or in any other way, is not to be reckoned among the idle. For Paul censures those lazy drones who lived by the sweat of others, while they contribute no service in common for aiding the human race. Of this sort are our monks and priests who are largely pampered by doing nothing, excepting that they chant in the temples, for the sake of preventing weariness. This truly is, (as Plautus speaks,) 713713     The passage alluded to is as follows: “Musice, Hercle, agitis aetatem“ —(“By Hercules, you pass life musically”) Plaut. Mostellariae, Act in. Sc. 2, 40. — Ed. to “live musically.” 714714     “Plaute poete Latin ancien, quand il vent parler de gens qui viuent a leur aise, il dit qu’ils viuent musicalement, c’est a dire, en chantres. Mais a la verite on pent bien dire de ceux-ci, en tout sens qu’on le voudra prendre, qu’ils viuent musicalement;” — “Plautus, the ancient Latin poet, when he has it in view to speak of persons who live at their ease, says that they live musically, that is to say, like singers. But truly it may be well said of those persons, in every sense in which one might choose to take it, that they live musically.”