“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 NKJV)
It was a practice of the early church to support fellow believers who were going through difficult times – especially if those came because of their faith. People were willing to sacrifice to help their brothers and sisters in need. Then, a problem arose. Some among the family decided that they would be taken care of, so they stopped working and expected their brothers and sisters to take care of them. Some may have stopped because of their belief in the imminent coming of the return of Christ. Others may have seen an opportunity to get taken care of without working. Whatever the reason, not only had they stopped working for pay, they apparently showed an unwillingness to work in the church, or even help other church members. In addition, they had become disorderly, which probably means that they were sowing discord in the church. Paul had no sympathy for that and noted that the church shouldn’t care for people like that, even if they claimed to follow Jesus.
There is no doubt that Christians are called to care for church members in need. The early church cared for widows, especially. Women were vulnerable back then in ways we can’t even imagine. Widows were taken advantage of after their husbands died. They couldn’t get jobs that would pay enough to help support their families. Sometimes, they were widows, or like widows, because of persecution. The early church helped. Deacons were picked to help care for the widows. The early church cared for others who suffered due to persecution. The early church was known for ministering to others outside the church who were in need as well. That being said, physical resources to do that were limited and Paul made it clear that people who refused to work and expected others to take care of them should be cut off. Perhaps we need to be reminded of that today. People in need who are unemployed or underemployed because of various involuntary situations should be helped, all Christians should agree to that and be willing to sacrifice to make that happen. At the same time, those who are able to work and refuse to do so, even to the point of refusing to help others, should get no help. If they aren’t going to work, neither should they eat.
Lord, You created us to work. You gave Adam and Eve the job of working in the Garden of Eden. We’re fulfilled as we do our work unto You rather than men. There are many who aren’t able to work for various reasons. Make me, make Your church open to supporting those people who would rather fulfill their God-given purpose than not work. At the same time, Lord, work in the hearts of those people who refuse to work, refuse to fulfill Your purpose in life and expect others to care for them. Make them know Your will and fulfill Your purpose for their lives.