Thessalonians – Hope
The first church Randy pastored after leaving full time teaching was in Oklahoma. This church was located on the border of Oklahoma City, Spencer and Midwest City, so the highway that ran parallel to our church was greatly traveled. Being highly visible to this busy road brought many who needed help to get from point A to point B, “find work in another town”, “need new tires to get down the road”, “need food for my family”, and “need money so I can get to California”. Many came knocking at the door with all kinds of stories.
Randy stopped giving money early on in this ministry because he quickly became a target for freeloaders. With wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit, God used Randy’s gift as a teacher to show the needy how to solve their problems. He stopped giving money and showed them how to fix a tire at the local tire and junk yard, how to buy enough groceries to go farther and still be healthy, and generally how to use what they already have to get where they are going.
I think of those days as I read the last passage of our study of Thessalonians. Paul writes to this loving group of people with a warning about placating to freeloaders in the church. When we pool our resources, there will always be someone who sits back with excuses of why they cannot do the work and/or bring in resources. Instead of being resentful towards them, Paul tells us to lovingly sit them down and “talk to them as someone who cares.” We do not help the needy with handouts. We help them with reaching our hand out with a hand up.
Our local rescue mission is driven by “Real Change, not spare change”. The devoted and dedicated leader of God readily speaks the message of Paul tenaciously. Don’t hand out money, bring them to the mission where we will guide them to God, find work for them to do and teach them how to manage as good stewards. This is what Paul is talking about when he says to lovingly sit the needy down and really care about them.
Handing out money consistently does not help those who fall into depending solely on hand outs. Don’t look away but care enough to point them to real change.
Does this happen in the church? Yes. “You can feed a man a fish and feed him for only a day. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him forever.” Care enough to take the time to teach. Is it easier to just hand out money and walk away? Yes…but it seems this is not God’s way.
2 Thessalonians 3, The Message
Those Who Are Lazy
1-3 One more thing, friends: Pray for us. Pray that the Master’s Word will simply take off and race through the country to a groundswell of response, just as it did among you. And pray that we’ll be rescued from these scoundrels who are trying to do us in. I’m finding that not all “believers” are believers. But the Master never lets us down. He’ll stick by you and protect you from evil.
4-5 Because of the Master, we have great confidence in you. We know you’re doing everything we told you and will continue doing it. May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God’s love and Christ’s endurance.
6-9 Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.
10-13 Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.
14-15 If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don’t let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he’ll think twice. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares.
16 May the Master of Peace himself give you the gift of getting along with each other at all times, in all ways. May the Master be truly among you!
17 I, Paul, bid you good-bye in my own handwriting. I do this in all my letters, so examine my signature as proof that the letter is genuine.
18 The incredible grace of our Master, Jesus Christ, be with all of you!
What do we learn?
–Freeloading is not permitted. Permitting freeloading hurts them more than you.
–Care enough to teach others what they CAN do to help instead of letting people slide by who concentrate only on what they can’t do. Everyone can do something to help themselves and others.
–Love enough to lead them to Christ who saves us, leads us to God’s best and strengthens all of us with every step we take toward the Almighty Father.
–Leaders lead by example.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Makes holy and worthy of our calling to help others find and follow you. Give us wisdom, insight and understanding so that we might live our lives in the most excellent way, full of Your love and care for each other on this brief journey on earth. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, Amen