2 Thessalonians 3 Christian Work Ethic

This lesson is part of a series of lessons on the book of 2 Thessalonians. In this lesson I’m going to look at chapter three and talk about the Christian work ethic.

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Hi, thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This lesson is part of a series of lessons on the book of 2 Thessalonians. In this lesson I’m going to read chapter three and talk about a Christian work ethic. 

The first chapter of 2 Thessalonians was basically the introduction. Paul acknowledged the fact that the Thessalonians were being persecuted. He assured them that someday Jesus will come back and judge those who were persecuting them. 

Chapter Two is the main message Paul wanted to communicate in this letter. The Thessalonians had heard that the Day of the Lord had already come, but that was not true. Paul wrote to reassure them it was not true. He listed some events that have to happen before the Day of the Lord can come.

That brings us to chapter three. Let’s start reading at verse one. 

2Th. 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him and his companions. 

2Th. 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

Paul told the Thessalonians to stay away from any brother, or so called brother, who was leading an unruly life. One of the false ideas we have in American Christianity is that unity trumps everything. For some reason, we’ve developed this mentality that unity is the greatest command. Because of that, there is a mentality to overlook sin and not confront sin because people erroneously think that the most important goal as a Christian is to get along with everybody else. 

That is not true. Unity does not trump everything. We need to confront sin. We see in verse six that if one of the Christians in Thessalonica was leading an unruly life, than the rest of the Thessalonian Christians were supposed to stay away from him. There are things that are more important than pretending that there are no conflicts between Christians.

2Th. 3:7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

Paul pointed out that while he had been with the Thessalonians, he had worked to earn his own living. He acknowledged in verse nine that, as an apostle, as someone preaching the gospel, he had the right to receive free food from the Christians. However, he chose not to exercise that right because he wanted to set a good example for the Thessalonians. Therefore, he worked and earned his own bread.

2Th. 3:10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

We see here a very strong statement about the Christian work ethic. Christians need to work. We need to eat our own bread. If we don’t work, then we should not eat. 

2Th. 3:11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

Paul expounded on this a little bit. The reason he wrote this was because there were people in the church in Thessalonica who were not working. They were busybodies. They were undisciplined. Paul commanded them very clearly that they were supposed to work and eat their own bread. Again, this is a clear statement of the Christian work ethic. 

2Th. 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

We see here a repeat of this idea that if any Thessalonian Christian, or so-called Christian, was not obeying Paul’s instructions, then the other Christians were not supposed to associate with him. This reinforces the fact that unity is not the greatest command. Unity does not trump everything. There are times when we need to pursue obedience and righteousness, even if that means disassociating ourselves from other Christians or so-called Christians.

2Th. 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

2Th. 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

There are two big takeaways from this chapter. First, as Christians, we need to work. Anyone who does not work should not eat. Second, unity does not trump everything. As Paul stated very specifically here in chapter three, if somebody was not working, then the other Christians were not to associate with him. There are times when pursuing obedience and righteousness is more important than getting along with everybody.

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“All Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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