How to understand properly the apostle Paul’s exhortation in his second epistle to the thessalonians: ” Do not grow weary of doing good”?
The Bible encourages us to be kind and to seek for the interests of others. This exhortation,however, appears rather as a contrast in the context of the verses above and below. Why? The apostle Paul advises the thessalonians not to give material support to those who do not serve the church anymore, who act as if they do great work in the vineyard of the Lord, but, actually, are busybodies.The apostle noticed this problem while he was among them and for this reason, he refused any material support from this church, a support that he deserved (We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, says the apostle in 2 Thessalnonians 3:9). He refused the support from them to teach them a lesson, a worthy model to follow. When he was among them, he spoke to those who were not working with their hands and urged them to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:11). Then, in his first epistle he spoke to them again about this subject and exhorted those in question to get to work:
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
(1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)
From the way the apostle Paul wrote, it seems that these people sought to show that they worked, but, in fact, they were meddlesome and that is not decent. About them Paul writes that they are idle and disruptive. These are people from church, who do not only do nothing, but obstruct others, especilly the leaders of the church, from doing their job. They pretend to be Gospel workers and seek for material support from church, and some of them even manage to receive material support from a group of people from church, in the context when even the pastors do not benefit any stable support from the church they minister to. In his first epistle to the thessalonians the apostle Paul urges the church (the church leadership) to admonish the unruly:
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
(1 Thessalonians 5:14)
In his second epistle, the apostle Paul clearly explains what it means to be unruly:
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
(2 Thessalonians 3:11)
Because these people, who were leading an undisciplined life, did not accept the warning from the apostle Paul and did not get to work, in his second epistle the apostle urges the saints from church to keep away from such brothers and not to have any deals with them: not regard them as enemies, but admonish them as brothers, and to those who lead an undisciplined life he commands to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread:
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. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 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; 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. 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. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. 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. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as abrother.
(2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)
In verses 12 and 13 there are two exhortations addressed to two different categories of people: in verse 12 the apostle urges those who were leading an undisciplined life and were financially supported by the church members, and verse 13 addresses those from church who give material support to those who were leading an undisciplined life:
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
(2 Thessalonians 3:11-13)
Further the apostle Paul exhorts the members of the church to mark those who will continue to lead an undisciplined life (who will not accept the warning of this letter) and not have any dealings with them. The apostle warns them not to regard them as enemies (it is not the same situation as in 1 Corinthians 5), but to admonish them as brothers, so that they be ashamed and get to work.
The advice for the church is to continue to help materially the church ministers, those who really need their financial support and not to be offended when some people profit from their kindness. It might happen that after you have two or three experiences like that, when somebody gained profit of your goodness, you close your heart to those who really need your help.
Therefore, we need to spot those who lead an undisciplined life and not to encourage them to continue this way, by giving them material support, and at the same time, be sensible to the needs of those who really need our help: ministers, widows, orphans, ill people, strangers.
Translated by Marcela Tasca