2 Thessalonians 3 Prayer and Idleness
Paul has already told the Christians in Thessalonica how he thanks God for them (1:3, 2:13), and prays for them constantly (1:11-12). Now, in 3:1-2, he asks them to pray for him. Paul, apostle though he was, relied on the prayers of others. Any power or ability he possessed had come to him as a gift from the God of sufficient grace, whose power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). He asks them to pray that the Lord’s message ‘may spread rapidly and be honoured’, and that he may be ‘delivered from wicked and evil people’.
Prayer was a central feature of Paul’s life and ministry, not primarily because he was an apostle, but because he was a Christian. We first come to Christ by calling out to God for forgiveness and salvation, and that calling out to God should be a continuing and increasing feature of our lives. It’s not something we grow out of; rather we grow into it!
v6-15 are a warning against those who ‘walk in idleness’. Paul uses here a military term which suggests a soldier who breaks ranks or deserts their post. It seems some in Thessalonica were failing in their Christian responsibilities in their daily work. This was perhaps tied in with the expectation that Jesus would return at any moment (ch.2). Some had apparently given up their daily jobs because, they thought, Jesus was going to return soon. Perhaps they felt that it might be unspiritual, when Jesus returned, to be found washing up in McDonald’s or mucking out the donkeys. Now this attitude may have sounded very spiritual, but they were actually shirking their duty and responsibility, expecting other, less ‘spiritual’ Christians who still had jobs to provide them with food, imposing upon the generosity of others.
Paul speaks quite firmly about these idle and disruptive busybodies (v11). He tells other Christians to keep away from them (v6), and remember the example he set them of ‘labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you’ (v8), never tiring of doing what is good (v13).
On occasions it may be necessary for the body of the church to at some level withdraw from an individual who has in some way fallen into sin (v14, 15). If a Christian sins in some way, then depending on nature of that sin, it may be necessary for the body of the church to in some way distance themselves from that person. Such discipline should of course always flow from love and compassion, reflecting how our heavenly Father disciplines his children (see Hebrews 12:3-13).
Paul closes this wonderful little letter by reminding us about the peace, the presence and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Spend a few moments thanking him for the reality of this in our lives.