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.”
Explanation and Commentary of 2 Thessalonians 3:10
It seems that there were those in Thessalonica who were refusing to work, assuming that since Jesus would return at any minute, they didn’t need to. Paul dispels the nonsense as laziness and reminds them of their previous policy when he was present. No work, no food.
God created man on the sixth day with two basic purposes by which he would fulfill his primary purpose to glorify God as a bearer of the Divine Image: working and multiplying. Perhaps multiplying could be left off in the New Testament Age based on Paul’s teaching concerning singleness (1 Cor 7:7), and based on the fact that there seems to be no reproduction in eternity (Mt 22:30). But working will be a part of our eternal existence. It is what we were made for, not only in this life but also in the next.
Each man and woman has been given a deposit of talent, energy, and resources. God will return and demand an account for our usage. Furthermore, he has promised that throughout our lives we are to live by the principle of stewardship and faithfulness, and we will be added increase as we prove capable. To refuse to work is an affront to the Creator and should not be rewarded or tolerated in the church.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of 2 Thessalonians 3:10
#1 “For even when we were with you,”
Paul seems to have been in Thessalonica for a short time compared to other places he ministered. Estimates range between three weeks (unlikely) to six months, but he had been effective and a church was planted. This is a question that had apparently been addressed during his visit.
#2 “we gave you this rule:”
The Gospel, unlike the Old Covenant, is not about rules, per se. It is about the grace of God that transforms a heart into a lover of God and his Kingdom and righteousness. But the apostles did sometimes give “rules” when necessary, and only those which accorded with grace and the Gospel. In this case, the problem of laziness was so prevalent, it had to be addressed as a rule.
#3 “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
There are certainly instances when a Christian is unable to work, whether because of a depressed economy, or a disability. But it is often the case that what is called inability is really an excuse for unwillingness. At nearly all costs, a human, an image-bearer of God, should make themselves useful and add value to their society. It is a great sin to abstain from this responsibility, especially if you have mouths to feed, even your own. Our Christian communities can be charitable if and only if the members understand their individual responsibility to be self-reliant. Learning to take good care of oneself is the first responsibility of one who would seek to help others.
Bible Study on 2 Thessalonians 3:10
Expert Overview of 2 Thessalonians
Biblical Translations of 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.”
Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, “That if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.