Author Topic: If You Don't Work, You Don't Eat: Understanding 2 Thessalonians 3:10  (Read 95 times)

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2 Thessalonians 3:8 & 10 ? nor did we eat anyone?s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ?The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.?

What does this scripture mean? Many Christians use this scripture to justify working and seeking after worldly provisions, due to their lack of faith in God?s provision. Let's look into the context:

But Jesus said: John 6:27 ? Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, God the Father has placed his seal of approval.?

Living by faith and trusting in God the way Jesus has taught us to, can be hard to fathom. This is because in doing so, his instructions tell us not to worry about our lives or seek after basic needs such as food and clothing. Rather, by doing the work of God (preaching), God will provide for our needs.

Luke 12:22 & 23 & 30 ? Then Jesus said to his disciples: ?Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes....30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

In order to understand why the Apostle Paul said ?the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat?, we must place it in its proper context. Let?s take a further look.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 ? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

Paul is referring to people who are not doing the work of God by preaching the truth. Instead, they are going around gossiping and speaking things contrary to the word of God.

Paul is speaking of earning the ?food they eat? in the context of preaching the truth and not just gossiping, as we can see in:

1 Corinthians 9:3-12 & 18 ? 3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don?t we have the right to food and drink?

Jesus also stated:

Luke 10:7 ? Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

Paul is stating that preachers of the gospel have the right not to work for a living as the world does, since they are working through the preaching of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:7 ? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn?t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: ?Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.? Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn?t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

So now we understand the context of this statement; Paul is speaking of work as in the work of God, which is preaching and living the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 ? For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ?The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.?

We can see that the idea of ?work? is preaching and living the gospel (and not a worldly job), in the following scriptures:

1 Corinthians 15:58 ? Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

2 Timothy 2:15 ? Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

John 5:17 ? In his defense Jesus said to them, ?My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.?

The work of God is receiving and pursuing the Holy Spirit so that it fills our lives in all facets and also, preaching the gospel and encouraging believers. Paul is stating that if we are unwilling to do the Lord?s work, then we should not expect God?s provision. The same concept holds true in the kingdom of heaven: if you don?t work, then you don?t eat.

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Re: If You Don't Work, You Don't Eat: Understanding 2 Thessalonians 3:10
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2021, 11:59:44 AM »
2 Thessalonians 3:8 & 10 ? nor did we eat anyone?s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ?The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.?

What does this scripture mean? Many Christians use this scripture to justify working and seeking after worldly provisions, due to their lack of faith in God?s provision. Let's look into the context:

But Jesus said: John 6:27 ? Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, God the Father has placed his seal of approval.?

Living by faith and trusting in God the way Jesus has taught us to, can be hard to fathom. This is because in doing so, his instructions tell us not to worry about our lives or seek after basic needs such as food and clothing. Rather, by doing the work of God (preaching), God will provide for our needs.

Luke 12:22 & 23 & 30 ? Then Jesus said to his disciples: ?Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes....30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

In order to understand why the Apostle Paul said ?the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat?, we must place it in its proper context. Let?s take a further look.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 ? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

Paul is referring to people who are not doing the work of God by preaching the truth. Instead, they are going around gossiping and speaking things contrary to the word of God.
Your latter statement is clearly false. Evangelism is a gift limited to a few, whereas Paul laid down a geneal rule applicable to all. What you are saying is either that Paul's teaching in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 is in reality limited to a select few evangelists and teachers, or that all are called to be evangelists and preachers.

It is clear that not everyone is so gifted.

Eph 4:12 "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,"

The word is "some" not "all." And yet in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 Paul says "every believer who is idle" which would in your estimation include every believer who is not a full time preacher and evangelist.

Paul is speaking of earning the "food they eat" in the context of preaching the truth and not just gossiping, as we can see in:

1 Corinthians 9:3-12 & 18 ? 3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don't we have the right to food and drink?
Non-sequitur. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul is explaining why "he and Barnabas" have the right not to work, but in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 he defers to "every believer" without exception.

Luke 10:7 ? Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
The conditions in Luke 10:7 no longer apply. They were revoked by Christ's crucifixion.

Luke 10:4 "Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road."
Luke 22:36 "He said to them, ?But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don?t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Paul is stating that preachers of the gospel have the right not to work for a living as the world does, since they are working through the preaching of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:7 ? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn?t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: ?Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.? Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn?t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

So now we understand the context of this statement; Paul is speaking of work as in the work of God, which is preaching and living the gospel.
It is  not true that the only meaning of "work" in the NT is the preaching of the gospel. For there are different types of work. There are the works of the law, the work of faith and the work done for sustenance. If you earn money, some of which is contributed to advance the kingdom of God, is that not work for the Lord?

Another point of obvious disharmony in your thesis lies in the differing rewards for different kinds of work. For the work of faith, the expectation was, as in Luke 10:7, that it would include "eating and drinking [and sleeping]."

No mention of "income."

Yet in 1Co 16:2 "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

How can there be a regular income without secular work?

2 Thessalonians 3:10 ? For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ?The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.?

We can see that the idea of ?work? is preaching and living the gospel (and not a worldly job), in the following scriptures:

1 Corinthians 15:58 ? Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

2 Timothy 2:15 ? Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

John 5:17 ? In his defense Jesus said to them, ?My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.?

The work of God is receiving and pursuing the Holy Spirit so that it fills our lives in all facets and also, preaching the gospel and encouraging believers. Paul is stating that if we are unwilling to do the Lord?s work, then we should not expect God?s provision. The same concept holds true in the kingdom of heaven: if you don?t work, then you don?t eat.
Just an attempt to fuse contextually different bible verses using the word "work" in a way which allows you to mercilessly condemn anyone who does secular work for a living.

Mat 23:24 "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."

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