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2 Thessalonians 3:6-12: Warning Against Idleness and Disorderliness

“This final injunction is stern. Paul was so concerned for the reputation of the church that he commanded withdrawal from any who brought a stain upon it. And it was in the name of Christ that he commanded it, for it was that that would be sullied. He could have used no stronger words. To command in a name put all the authority of that name behind the command. The command was basically from Christ Himself. ‘Disorderly’ refers to a failure to keep in rank. They were behaving wildly and foolishly. They were not following the ways that Paul and his companions had laid down. The following verses show that the particular failure in mind was the way in which they failed to work for their own living, tending rather to take advantage of the generosity of others, so that they could act as busybodies in the church, snooping into things, engaging in carping open criticism, and generally being a nuisance.” –Peter Pett

Verses 6,7: “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you…”

1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly…”

The Greek word for “disorderly” is ataktos (adverb ataktws), meaning, “confused; irregular; without proper order or disposition; tumultuous; lawless; inclined to break loose from restraint; unruly; out of ranks (as soldiers); deviating from the prescribed order or rule.” And when applied to behavior, it generally implied an unruliness, disruptiveness, and lack of submission to the established order. This is the word used to describe the persistent behavior of those from whom the Thessalonians were to withdraw.

1 Corinthians 14:33 NLT, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.”

2 Corinthians 12:20 NLT, “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.”

James 3:16 NLT, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”

“Paul had already told the Thessalonians to warn the unruly (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Apparently, the problem still remained in some measure, so he told them to now discipline the unruly ones in question.

1. The purpose in withdrawing from these disobedient was not so much punishment, but more so simply to deny these disobedient ones the aid and comfort of the fellowship of the body of Christ until they repented. It put them out of the church into the "domain" of Satan (the world), in hope that they might miss the fellowship of the church so much they would repent of their disobedience.

2. Paul echoed the same idea in 1 Corinthians 5:4-5. The purpose was to bring about repentance and salvation in the disobedient ones, not to condemn or damn them.

3. In an indirect way, Paul showed that his vision for the church was that it should be such a place of love and comfort that one would genuinely feel sad and sorry to be excluded from the church. Churches today should also fit that description.” –David Guzik

In my 50 plus years of ministry I have seen disorder many times. One church had disruptive teens, causing much consternation among other church people. We tried to alleviate the situation by reserving one section in our auditorium specifically for youth and their leaders. Did that solve the problem? No! But it did identify why there was a problem. The parents of these teens came to me in anger, demanding that I allow their children to sit wherever they wanted to sit. I suggesting the problem would be solved if their young people would sit with them, the parents. Well, this just caused an uproar again as to allowing their precious little demons J to sit (and be disorderly) anywhere they wanted.

I have seen, more times than I like to remember, church business meetings that became battlegrounds of angry, disruptive, shouting people making unreasonable demands. Christian love, respect for each other and the Bible’s counsel to “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40) is totally ignored.

Verses 8: “…nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you…”

That part of the apostolic behavior which Paul particularly stressed as an example to the Thessalonians was that of his working for a living, rather than living off the labors of others.

Paul is saying, “We were not supported in idleness at the expense of others. We gave a fair equivalent for all that we received, and, in fact, labored for our own support.” “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God’ (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

Is Paul saying that pastors must work rather than receive support from their congregation? Here is what the Scripture teaches.

“It is true that the apostle Paul supported himself as he ministered in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:12). He drew no salary from the Corinthians. But he made it clear that he did this as a voluntary sacrifice on their behalf, ‘that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel’ (verse 18). Paul did take wages from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8). His arrangement in Corinth was the exception, not the rule.

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (1 Timothy 5:17,18 NLT).

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

Three small boys were bragging about their dads. The first boy said, “My dad writes a few short lines on paper, calls it a poem, sends it away, and gets $25 for it.” “Well, my dad,” said the second boy, “makes dots on paper, calls it a song, sends it away, and gets $100 for it.” “That’s nothing,” declared the third boy. “My dad writes a sermon on sheets of paper, gets up in the pulpit and gives it, and it takes four men to bring in the money!”

“Following the principle of I Timothy 5:17-18, we can see that Scripture doesn't caution us against paying our minister too much, but it does caution against paying him too little. If we want to know how much to pay a pastor, the Bible seems to be telling us that anything up to double an ordinary wage is not too much and is pleasing to God.” –Christianity today

Verse 9: “…not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us…”

Paul was always careful to maintain his right of support, a right basically related to the right of all who labor in the gospel to live by the gospel. Paul was always careful to maintain his right of support, a right basically related to the right of all who labor in the gospel to live by the gospel. He takes great pain in expressing his rights as a preacher of the gospel:

“Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves? What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.”[d] Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ. Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it” ( 1Corintnians 9:6-14).

The Thessalonians should follow Paul in his example of both hard work and willingness to sacrifice for the furtherance and integrity of the Gospel.

Verse 10: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

There was much confusion and dismay for many in this church over whether the day of the Lord had arrived, so some of the Thessalonians had stopped working. They had just quit their jobs or stopped farming or whatever their work, and not only did they stop working but they were eating other people’s food. They were living off of others. Some had become like leeches…So we are not talking about people who have lost their jobs or who were incapable of working, we are talking about people who had become idle, and lazy.–Adapted and edited from:

Work has been a biblical principle from the very beginning. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground…” (Genesis 3:19).

“Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace” (Proverbs 10:4,5 NLT).

“A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense” (Proverbs 12:11).

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

“The Greek emphasizes the phrase “will not.” The issue is their obstinate attitude toward the subject of working for food. Laziness goes against many biblical principles. The question here is not refusing to give aid to those who cannot help themselves. He is not talking about people who cannot find a job or people who do not have the physical ability to work. The problem is people with capacity and opportunity to work live exclusively off the graciousness of other people.” –Grant Richison, versebyverse

In the spring of 1609, John Smith referred to this Scripture when he spoke to the colonists of Jamestown: “Countrymen, the long experience of our late miseries I hope is sufficient to persuade everyone to a present correction of himself, And think not that either my pains nor the adventurers' purses will ever maintain you in idleness and sloth...the greater part must be more industrious, or starve...You must obey this now for a law, that he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness he be disabled). For the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain a hundred and fifty idle loiterers.”

Verse 11: “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.”

“For we hear: ‘It is very likely that St. Paul kept up some sort of correspondence with the Thessalonian Church; for he had heard every thing that concerned their state, and it was from this information that he wrote his second epistle.’”– Adam Clarke

When Paul says, “We hear,” his use of the present tense implies that this is an ongoing problem that the church needed to address.


“A ‘disorderly walk’ denotes conduct that is in any way contrary to the rules of Christ. The proper idea of the word used here is that of soldiers who do not keep the ranks; who are regardless of order; and then who are irregular in any way. The word would include any violation of the rules of Christ on any subject.” – Albert Barnes

“Busybodies…” The Greek word periergazomai refers to meddling in other people’s affairs. People who, while doing none of their own business, yet overdoing in the business of others. Busy about everyone's business but their own.

“Anyone who volunteers their services (usually opinions) where they are neither asked nor needed ... They are meddlesome, intrusive, obtrusive, tactless, prying, annoying, exceeding the bounds of propriety in showing interest or curiosity or in offering advice, offering unwelcome attention, they are offensive, interfering, and/or inappropriately inquisitive.” –

We all know people who have to know everything about everybody, because it makes them feel important! These people spend their time finding out a lot of things about other people so they can repeat it to someone else! They love to hear themselves talk. They cannot keep confidences. Busybodies are gossips! And guess what…one who eagerly listens to gossip, is just as guilty as the person telling it.

“These people, who should be productive members of the local church, are instead hampering the work of the church as a whole. Doubtless their own assessment of their lives would have been one of rigorous support of and for the work of the church, the assessment of those who were actually doing that work was quite different. This, then, becomes a watch-point for all believers. Are we putting our noses into places where they do not belong? Are we meddling into the affairs of others where we have neither place nor right to be? Are we helping to advance the work of the gospel, or are we hampering it be actions or our lack of action?” –

1 Thessalonians 4:11, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you…”

1 Timothy 5:13, “And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.”

1 Peter 4:15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.”

Proverbs 20:3, “[It is] an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.”

A busybody is “The kind of person you just want to punch in the mouth for being so annoying. They have no life and way too much time on their hands. They frequently use their excessive amount of time to annoy and monitor others, tattletale for small meaningless stuff, butt into everybody's business except their own…Busybodies are usually self-righteous hypocrites that are quick to point out the faults in others but get defensive when you point out theirs.” –Edited from the Urban Dictionary

They meddled in the affairs of others. Those who spend much time talking about other people's lives need to get a life of their own.

“It is no sin in any case to marry, bear children, and take care of a family; but it is a sin in every case to be idle persons, gadders about, tattlers, busybodies, sifting out and detailing family secrets.” –Clarke

“Most of us major in minors and minor in majors. It’s so hard to keep the main thing the main thing isn’t it? Before you know it, we’re focused on the urgent instead of the important. What’s important? Knowing Christ. Philippians 3:8 says, ‘I Consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.’ We’re way too busy doing insignificant things instead of being about the Father’s business! Our #1 priority? It’s simple: ‘seek ye first the kingdom of heaven.’” Mark Batterson,

MYOB! Mind Your Own Business!

Verse 12: “Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”

“We command…” This is the fourth time “command” has been used in this chapter. This should be viewed as an order, like the military. But Paul immediately appeals with, “exhort” which implies, “strongly encourage.” He rests his appeal on the Lord Jesus Christ, commanding in the name of Christ and encouraging for the sake of Christ.

“Work in quietness…”

Less noise and more work! Things were in a mess at Thessalonica. Moffatt analyzed the trouble: “The three causes of the trouble in Thessalonica were: 1) The tension caused by the thought of Jesus coming; 2) The disturbing effect of persecution; and 3) irregularity and social disorganization in the community. The antidote for all these problems was simple, direct and effective. Shut up, and go to work! There are a great many congregational situations in all ages that would have been healed and improved by compliance with the apostle's directive.” –Coffman (edited by me)

“…eat their own bread.”

A Jewish Rabbi said: “When a man eats his own bread, he has quietness and composure of mind; but when he eats the bread of his parents or of his children—not to speak of the bread of strangers—he loses this quietness of mind.”

But the quietness Paul refers to is opposed to the restless, meddlesome life of some of the Thessalonians. He strongly condemns meddlesome busybodies who were hampering the work of Christ in the church.

“If there be anything true, it is this: that, for the greater part of men, the most favorable discipline of holiness will be found exactly to coincide with the ordinary path of duty; and that it will be most surely promoted by repressing the wanderings of imagination, in which we frame to ourselves states of life and habits of devotion remote from our actual lot, and by spending all our strength in those things, great or small, pleasing or unpalatable, which belong to our calling and position’.” –Manning

“By eating their own bread the apostle means, maintaining themselves and families, for bread is taken in Scripture for all things that maintain the natural life: and the apostle here insinuates a blessing upon honest labor, that thereby men shall have bread of their own; and doth assert property against that community which some have pleaded for, the civil right that men have to what they honestly get and possess; but hereby condemns oppressors, pirates, robbers, cheaters, usurpers, yea, and tyrannical princes, who maintain themselves upon the spoil of others, and take their bread out of others’ mouths; and why not also such as are not quiet and contented with their own portion, but either envy others, or murmur against providence?” –Matthew Poole

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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