2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-3:18, PSALM 106


The fourth of the famous ten commandments tells us to work six days and rest on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11). If U.S. Christians play fast and loose with the importance of any of those famous commands today, I believe we do with this Sabbath command. Note this command, which is better called a “word”, is actually two commands: work and rest. Some of our difficulties with work and rest comes from trying to comprehend the Sabbath's significance after Jesus' fulfillment of the law through obedient life, sacrificial death, and destroying death's power. The New Testament, as we will see, teaches that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath law by giving us perfect rest. Many Christians in church history, like me, don't believe that someone is now compelled to rest from their work on the actual sabbath day. However, I also believe our God-given gift of one-day rest from productive work is a glorious discipline to be maintained for all times. The flip side of this command is that we should actually be working enough so that such rest is significant! Paul insists upon this at the end of 2 Thessalonians when he chastises the “busybodies” who should be “busy” at their work (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Though we cannot be certain exactly how they busied their bodies, it seems they bided time being mostly unproductive and even mischievous. As a model to them, Paul refused to take money for his own work. Paul also insisted on the need to work by devising a rule Thessalonians unwilling to work shouldn't eat. That doesn't sound gracious to us. Consider, however, if work is part of how we are made to glorify God, the opposite of grace would be to teach by word or deed that remaining idle is of no consequence. Experience, and scripture teaches us that refusing to work has devastating consequences. Perhaps we are uncomfortable with calling idleness sin or at least addressing it personally with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. However, as Paul concludes this second letter to Thessalonians, we also must conclude that the early church leadership had zero tolerance for able-bodied people not working at something important for family and community. May our people have a similar posture.