“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2Thessalonians 3:10 KJV)
When reading the Apostle Paul’s words in the Bible, I sometimes have a split moment where I feel he contradicts Jesus. Paul’s words to the churches sometimes seem very abrupt in nature; he certainly seemed to intimidate them into submission from where I am sitting, so I will often ask the Holy Spirit to guide my understanding. There are verses I have come across where I’ve sensed a deeper meaning existed than what was apparent. Such is the case with the verse above from 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
Paul was addressing those in the church at Thessalonica who had been wobbly in their walks and in their labor for Christ. (Mind you, these people were still new in their walks when he re-addressed them.) In fact, Paul commands individuals in the church twice in chapter 3, once in verse 3 and again in verse 6, to do as they (Paul, Silvanus, Timotheus [and Luke]) say, in the name of Jesus. Verse 3 states, “…that ye both do and will do the things which we command you” and in verse 6, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”
As I sat pondering all of this and meditated deeper on the meaning of verse 10, it came into my spirit that this verse is more than about food in God’s eyes, it is about receiving spiritual food (fulfillment). It’s about receiving the Holy Spirit fully, which one cannot accomplish if they aren’t walking uprightly. The church at Thessalonica was to be the “ensample”, or model, for the other churches at that time. They had turned from worshipping idols to serving the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). They were also the wealthiest among the churches planted by Paul.
Paul reminds the church in 1 Thessalonians 2, how much of their own souls he and his fellow servants of Christ poured into them, in gentleness and as godly examples, like spiritual fathers to them. And, the church received it…they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and they came together to share the gospel, growing in faith, while Timotheus was left behind to mentor them. However, it appears something happened after Timotheus left, and word of their decline reached Paul’s ears.
Paul spends the better part of 2 Thessalonians reminding the Thessalonians how they were chosen by God to be set apart, to work to expand the kingdom, asking them to remember the Lord Jesus in all things and not fall asunder, to prevent them from looking like those near them who remained of the world. So that they too might continue to grow in faith and love, even showing it to those who do not submit to God’s ways. Yet warning them not revert back to their old ways or they would be left hungry!
The Greek word for “eat” in 2 Th 3:10 is esthio and can be translated as one of the following: devour, eat, live. Live…to eat of the fruit of the spirit, to walk in the Spirit means to live in Christ and having Christ alive in you. The more hungry we are for Jesus and the Word, the more fulfilled we are. We require less outside substance and influence to fill us up – less of whatever it is we turn to in times of stress, less of any substance we depend on to numb us, less of what the world offers as fulfillment (sex, television, shopping, food, entertainment) – if we are fulfilled in God’s promises and are dependent upon HIM. This, I believe, is the crux of Paul’s message, especially of this verse and those around it where he warns them about not working.
Faith without works (works here is working to expand the kingdom of God by sharing His love and grace, along with the good news of Jesus Christ and making ) we know is like death to our souls (See James 2). Did they heed Paul’s urgent message? Do you? We have all hopefully had at least one person who has come along side us in our walk to hold us accountable, keep us straight and be an example of how to seek God in and through all things and who mentored us in discipleship. I certainly have benefited greatly in my walk from the strong spiritual mentors who took me under their wings as a babe!
We don’t really know exactly the outcome for the church at Thessalonica but we pray Paul’s guidance put them back on the narrow path. Have you had a “Paul” come to you out of concern for your walk; someone who loves you enough to want you to work to the end to stay on par for the sake of your soul.
Who loves you enough to speak to you in truth, and speak Truth into your life?
Have you thanked them lately?
Do you pray fervently for them as they probably do for you?
Thank God (literally) for those who aren’t afraid to step out in faith to keep the sheep from straying from the flock and teach us how to have an effective walk!