Summary: Year C. twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost November 18, 2001 Heavenly Father thank you for teaching us that Christian charity is doing for others what they cannot do for themselves or cannot do at the time. It is not enabling others to be dependen
Year C. twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost November 18, 2001
Heavenly Father thank you for teaching us that Christian charity is doing for others what they cannot do for themselves or cannot do at the time. It is not enabling others to be dependent or lazy or idle or be busybodies because they have too much time on their hands. Amen.
Title: “Christians are not patsies to be sponged off of,” or “What is my responsibility as a Christian towards people who refuse to help themselves and ask me to do for them what they could and should do for themselves?”
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
(Here ends the 2nd, reading.)
In the previous chapter, chapter two, Paul warned his readers about misconceptions regarding the Parousia, this is, the Second Coming. Then he changed focus and addressed God and Christ in prayer, fluctuating between addressing God and addressing his readers, encouraging them to be true. In verse six, Paul gives a summary statement about what he will say in the remainder of the letter verses seven to fifteen, most of it in our present text. He says that brothers and sisters, who are idle, lazy, disorderly, who do not live according to the traditions Paul passed on to them are to be shunned, ostracized from the community, denied donations of food until and unless they change their behavior, work quietly and productively for the good of the community and their own support, and get with the program.
In verse seven and eight, imitate us; if Paul and his colleagues have a right to be supported by the community because of their “work,” for the community and spread of the gospel in accordance with the teaching of Christ himself “The laborer deserves his keep and his wages.” Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7, but they do not exercise that right, working for their food and keep instead, then the Thessalonians can work for their food. After all, they do not fit into the category of “special ministers of the gospel,” as do Paul and his colleagues. Elsewhere Paul’s formula is “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Here, it is: “Imitate me as I work for my bread.” Paul did not eat food in any community without working for it. Those who live in the community should not expect their brothers and sisters to support them unless they cannot support themselves. Paul is speaking only about those who refuse to work, not those who cannot find work or are unable to work. We can only presume that Paul would exercise his right to be supported by the community if that would enhance and promote the spread of the gospel, but, so far, such has been unnecessary. Paul was all too well aware of the dangers of being beholden to someone. Such dependency could compromise the purity of his preaching. He would have to consider the impact his words would have on his physical comfort and security. He was not prepared to risk that, so he worked as well as preached. If he can work under those conditions, other Christians can work as well. The idea that the Parousia, Second Coming, was coming soon and they, the idlers, were waiting for it and saw no need to work, given its imminence, was merely a pious ruse for their laziness.
In verse nine, give you an example to imitate; Paul was well aware of the power of “good example.” He not only preached it, he lived it. People who work long and hard can show those less inclined that they, the idlers, have drawn the lines and limits of human energy too narrowly.
In verse ten, when we were with you, we gave you this command; this laziness on the part of some was not a new problem. Paul encountered it before while actually in Thessalonica. He laid down the basic principle then and it still applies; no workey no foodey; no loaf to the loafer. Being charitable, sharing what we have with others, helping others in need, does not include helping those who can and should help themselves. That is not charity but an deviation of charity.