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3. Warning Against Idleness

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. 4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. 5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for 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 he received of us. 7For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12Now them that are such we command and exhort by our 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 obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

17The salutation of 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. Amen.

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.


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