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Why this is important: This is something to think about. Paul is very strong in what he says. We must encourage believers in the Master Jesus to work. That is clear. That is straightforward.

  • Clear
  • Direct
  • Unambiguous

Our job and God’s goal for us is to work.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Master [Lord] Jesus the Messiah [Christ], that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Master [Lord] Jesus the Messiah [Christ] to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. [1]

2 Thessalonians 3:6-9

What authority did Paul have to issue this command, “If any is not willing to work, neither should he eat”? (2 Thes. 3:10, literal translation) He had the authority of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. At least twenty times in the Thessalonian letters, Paul used this complete title of the Savior. Jesus means “Savior” and is His human name. Christ is His divine title; it means “Messiah—the Anointed One.” Other persons could use the name Jesus (the Hebrew form is “Joshua”); and other persons could claim to be anointed, such as prophets, priests, and kings. But the two names, Jesus Christ, are further defined by the name LORD, “Jehovah God” and our Master.

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In the four Gospels and the Book of Acts, our Master is often simply called Jesus; but this single name is used very infrequently in the rest of the New Testament. That it is occasionally used should restrain us from criticizing those who call their Savior “Jesus”; but that its use is found mainly during His ministry on earth should encourage us to address Him and speak of Him with His name of exaltation—Master [Lord] Jesus the Messiah [Christ]. We no longer know “Christ after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16), but as the exalted Son of God and “Head over all things to the church.” His lordship includes our work and money management.

What does the Bible teach about manual (or mental) labor? For one thing, labor was a part of man’s life before sin entered the scene. God gave Adam the job of dressing and guarding the Garden. Though sin turned labor into almost hopeless toil, it must never be thought that the necessity for work is a result of sin. Man needs work for the fulfillment of his own person. God created him to work.

Have you noticed that God called people who were busy at work? Moses was caring for sheep. Joshua was Moses’ servant before he became Moses’ successor. Gideon was threshing wheat when God called him, and David was caring for his father’s sheep. Our Master called four fishermen to serve as His disciples, and He Himself had worked as a carpenter. Paul was a tentmaker and used his trade to support his own ministry.

The Jews honored honest labor and required all their rabbis to have a trade. But the Greeks despised manual labor and left it to their slaves. This Greek influence, plus their wrong ideas about the doctrine of the Master’s return, led these believers into an unchristian way of life.

  • Paul recognized the fact that some people could not work, perhaps because of physical handicaps or family responsibilities.
  • This is why he phrased the statement as he did: “If any man is not willing to work.”
  • It was not a question of ability but willingness.
  • When a believer cannot work and is in need, it is the privilege and duty of the church to help him (James 2:14–17; 1 John 3:16–18).[2]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Th 3:6–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 205–206). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.