In this last passage of 2 Thessalonians, Paul was addressing a problem in the newly planted church in Thessalonica. Some of the believers who were convinced that the second coming of Christ was happening soon stopped working, expecting the wealthy believers to support them. Paul rebuked these young believers and told them if they didn’t work, they shouldn’t eat.
“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition received from us. For you yourselves know how you must imitate us: We were not irresponsible among you; we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and struggled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-8)
This summer, I’m leading a summer mission project, and 58 students from around the country are coming to Charleston to grow in their relationships with God and share Christ with others. Each student is required to work a 40 week job (most of them will be working at the McDonald’s restaurants around town), and this morning I’m giving a devotional and encouraging them to work hard in the workplace. I’m sure it’s no accident that this passage was the one I was studying in my personal time with God this morning.
These verses remind me that we need to work hard at whatever we do and have a good attitude. Others will be watching us, and if we are not responsible, we will be a poor reflection of Christ and will fail to give him a good reputation. These verses are also a reminder to all of us that we should never pervert Scripture to get our way (the way that the Thessalonians used Paul’s teaching on sharing to convince wealthy believers to support them).
What is God telling you in this passage? In what ways are you not “walking responsibly”? In what ways are you not wholeheartedly following God? Spend some time in prayer confessing any sin these verses reveal in your life and thanking God for the gospel – the good news that Jesus died for us when we didn’t deserve his forgiveness. Praise God for giving us eternal life! One day when Christ returns, our work will no longer be a hard labor. There will be no more tears, no more sorrow. One day, we will live in eternal joy with the God who created us.