Physical And Spiritual Idleness: Getting To The Root Of Gossip

kozzi-praying-people-at-the-church-1774-x-1183“Now we charge you, brethren, in the name and on the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ that you withdraw and keep away from every one who is slack in the performance of duty and is disorderly, living as a shirker and not walking in accord with the traditions and instructions that you have received from us. For you yourselves know how it is necessary to imitate our example, for we were not disorderly or shirking of duty when we were with you [we were not idle]. Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and struggle we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden or impose on any of you. Not because we do not have a right [to such support as ministers], but [we wished] to make ourselves an example for you to follow. For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. Indeed, we hear that some among you are disorderly [that they are passing their lives in idleness, neglectful of duty], being busy with other people’s affairs instead of their own and doing no work. Now we charge and exhort such persons [as ministers in Him exhorting those] in the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) that they work in quietness and earn their own food and other necessities. And as for you, brethren, do not become weary or lose heart in doing right [but continue in well-doing without weakening]. But if anyone [in the church] refuses to obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:7-14 AMP

This passage is often quoted for the well known verse it contains which states, “if you don’t work, you don’t eat”. It’s usually used in the context of expressing God’s disdain for laziness or an entitlement mind set that would cause someone to selfishly use people, eating up the fruit of the labors of others rather then seeing to and taking care of their own needs. While this is an accurate interpretation of a point being made here and elsewhere in scripture, as the bible is very clear that God hates this kind of character (Proverbs 6:6). However there is so much more to be gleaned from this passage that is often over looked for the obvious. That being of God’s displeasure with spiritual idleness as well.

The context of this message was that of the Apostle Paul writing an instructional letter to the Thessalonian church regarding their members. Their were many good and faithful believers among this church and Paul spends much of the letter commending and encouraging them. However, there were others among them that were causing problems. These people were not only disobeying the teachings and instructions of the Apostles causing disorder, but they were also using up the good people of the church. They were feeding on the charitable character of the faithful laborers of God so that they would not have to do any physical work, while at the same time twisting the teachings of Christ’s return to justify their lack of spiritual work as well. They implied that there was no need to labor for a living or for The Lord, since Jesus was coming soon to take them all away. They were idle, lazy, selfish, and disobedient to the leadership of the church and it was discouraging the good, faithful, and true Christians of this congregation as is evidenced by Paul’s encouragement to them to not grow weary in well doing immediately after addressing how they should handle the problematic imposers.

Paul explains that as a minister, he has the right to be supported by the work of the ministry. Therefor, when among them, he could have expected to be fed and cared for by them, but he did not. He says that he labored day and night that he might be able to do God’s work ministering and tending to the people, and also worked to earn money on the side that he could provide his own living. Paul tells them that he ate no mans bread without paying for it so that he could set an example. He worked and supplied his own needs physically, while also working to supply the people’s needs spiritually (though he didn’t have to), so to be an example, leaving these congregants no excuse for either their physical, or spiritual idleness.

There is an old saying that states, “idle hands are the devils workshop”, but I would say also that idle mouths are the devils choir. This point is echoed through out scripture where we see verse after verse connecting the idle, selfish, and lazy to gossipers, slanders, talebearers, and liars who are more concerned with the affairs of others then of their own. Uncaring and unmindful of the damage and hurt it causes to others or to the kingdom of God, ultimately, they are selfish, caring only for themselves. This is why Paul encourages the good people of the church of Thessalonia to have nothing to do with them.

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great destroyer.” – Proverbs 18:8-9

Paul continually drives home the point that God does not approve of idleness, neither in the physical or the spiritual. We must always labor to do good or else the devil will busy us with doing evil. These people’s lack of work for either their food or for their faith had left them to busying themselves with gossip. The devil had slipped in and was beginning to contaminate the flock, poisoning once fertile ground, and turning the good fruit of others, bad. Because of this Paul gives clear instructions. He instructs them to hold no bitterness, loving them and praying for them as a brother, but have nothing to do with them that they not cause any further damage and hopefully, in their shame, they will see the error of their ways and repent.

“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” – 1 Timothy 5:1

When looked at in its full context this passage provides a great deal of insight into the ungodly nature of an all too common character trait. It reveals the source root of the problem of gossip found in many congregations, God’s view on laziness, imposing and entitlement mentalities, and both physical and spiritual idleness, as well as a scriptural basis for how to deal with it all. Yet perhaps one of the greatest revelations revealed in this passage is that of the devils intent for using these tactics in the first place, and that is simply to discourage and weary the good and faithful from well doing. Recognize the tactic, and don’t allow it to work.

“Now we charge you, brethren, in the name and on the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ that you withdraw and keep away from every one who is slack in the performance of duty and is disorderly, living as a shirker and not walking in accord with the traditions and instructions that you have received from us. For you yourselves know how it is necessary to imitate our example, for we were not disorderly or shirking of duty when we were with you [we were not idle]. Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and struggle we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden or impose on any of you. Not because we do not have a right [to such support as ministers], but [we wished] to make ourselves an example for you to follow. For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. Indeed, we hear that some among you are disorderly [that they are passing their lives in idleness, neglectful of duty], being busy with other people’s affairs instead of their own and doing no work. Now we charge and exhort such persons [as ministers in Him exhorting those] in the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) that they work in quietness and earn their own food and other necessities. And as for you, brethren, do not become weary or lose heart in doing right [but continue in well-doing without weakening]. But if anyone [in the church] refuses to obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:7-14 AMP

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