2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even while we were with you, we gave you this command: "If anyone is unwilling to work, he shall not eat."
How to Deal with BeggarsJ. L. Nye.2 Thessalonians 3:10
IdlersH. O. Mackay.2 Thessalonians 3:10
No Work, no PayR. S. Barrett.2 Thessalonians 3:10
Pauperizing CharityW.F. Adeney 2 Thessalonians 3:10
The Cure for IdlenessH. O. Mackay.2 Thessalonians 3:10
The Danger of IdlenessC. H. Spurgeon.2 Thessalonians 3:10
The Law of LabourDean Close.2 Thessalonians 3:10
Work Necessary for Man2 Thessalonians 3:10
Duty of Withdrawing from a Disorderly BrotherR. Finlayson 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
The Importance of the Common Duties of Daily Life ShownB.C. Caffin 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
The Example of the Apostle Himself as a Support to His CommandT. Croskery 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

There appear to have been idle, talkative persons in the Thessalonian Church who neglected their trades while they made themselves very prominent in the Christian assemblies, expecting to be supported out of the common funds. St. Paul justly rebukes their disgraceful conduct. He points to his own example. Even he, an apostle, devoted to the work of the Churches, did not draw from the funds of the Churches, but supported himself by his own labour. The wholesome direction which he gives has a certain grim humour about it. Here is his remedy for the tiresome, loquacious idlers: starve them into industry. That process will bring them to their senses. It would have been well if the same wise, manly counsel had always prevailed in the Church. A weak and foolish administration of Christian charity has too often fostered the poverty it aimed at curing. Some of the reasons which make it positively wrong for the charitable to support the idle should be well weighed by those persons who are more kind hearted than reflective.

I. IT INJURES THE RECIPIENT. Thus paupers are bred and multiplied.

1. The sin of idleness is encouraged; for idleness is a sin. Those who encourage it will have to bear part of the guilt of it.

2. The indolent are tempted to many vices. The idle members of the Church gave to the Thessalonians the greatest trouble. Work is a moral antiseptic.

3. Independence is destroyed. The able-bodied pauper is quite unmanned by the loss of his independence. There was some sense in those stern old Elizabethan laws against sturdy beggars and vagrants.


1. Where public funds are thus misappropriated, an injustice is done to those who contribute to them. We do not pay poor rates in order to encourage idleness, nor do we give communion offerings for that unworthy object. District visitors who have the administration of moneys subscribed by other people should remember this, and not permit soft-heartedness to oust justice.

2. Where only private benevolence is concerned, the heart is hardened in the end by the sight of the abuse of charity.

III. IT INJURES THE TRULY NEEDY. We take the children's bread and give it to dogs, and the children starve. The idlers are the most clamorous for assistance, while the deserving are the most backward to make their wants known. Suffering in silence, they are often neglected, because greedy, worthless persons step in first and ravage the small heritage of the poor.


1. It discourages industry generally. Not only are the idle encouraged in their discreditable way of living, but a tax is put upon industry, and men do not feel so strongly inclined to work honestly for their daily bread.

2. It propagates the worst class of society. The idle part of the population of great cities are the canker of civilization. There vice and crime breed most freely. It is the law of England that no man need starve. But it is right and necessary that when the state gives bread it should compel labour - i.e., of course, if there is health for work. Idleness is the curse of the East; Syrian felahin will sit to reap their corn. Wise Christians will ever protest against this fatal vice, and all who administer Church funds should feel a heavy responsibility resting upon them to guard against increasing it by well meant but foolish doles of charity. - W.F.A.

We commanded you that if any man would not work, neither should he eat
It is a curious circumstance that the first subject that disturbed the apostolic church was not of a profound character. It was the question of temporal relief — the early budding of a poor law. From that time forth the mode and measure of the administration of charity has been a vexed question in church and state. Here St. Paul lays down the grand principle which is applicable to all relief. We have here a common law to guide all our alms, national and individual. It is a law against wilful idleness. This is plain from the context. But we are not to withhold the hand from the necessitous (ver. 13). Let us apply this law that labour is life and life is labour to —


1. The inanimate creation is God's great chemical laboratory.

2. His animated creation is one enormous factory where the law of labour is rigidly enforced, from the royal eagle to the meanest reptile. The swallows skimming round us seem to be only sporting in the air. In reality they are working for their food, opening their beaks as they fly, and carrying home insects to their young. How many miles daily does a sheep walk to get its living? Look into the insect world (Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 30:24) at the ant hills, spider's webs, coral reefs, marvels of scientific, artistic, and laborious industry. The law everywhere is — no work, no life.


1. Here we might imagine that another great law meets us in opposition — the law of grace. Scripture teaches us that we are saved not by our own endeavours but by God's free and unmerited mercy. May we then lie down in antinomian security? That moment we cease to live. Antinomianism is spiritual suicide. Hear the word of God: "Agonize to enter into the strait gate." "Labour for the meat which endureth," etc. How is a Christian described? As a soldier, husbandman, pilgrim, and by other figures, every one of which implies exertion of the most strenuous character. Every promise is held out to the energetic; and not only so, but the result is proportionate. "The diligent soul shall be made fat." The more we pray and toil, the richer will be our present harvest in peace of conscience, the sense of pardoning love, and in the world to come eternal glory.

2. And if this be true individually in what we have to do in working out our own salvation, how much more in our labours of love. Here nothing is done without toil. You need but look at all the benevolent institutions of the country to see that no real good is done without trouble.

III. MAN IN HIS NATURAL STATE. Work was the law of Paradise; it only became a painful one after the fail. From the moment of its utterance, "By the sweat of thy brow," this law has ruled all human life. There is not a man who has attained to eminence save in obedience to it. In our country, whose distinction is that the paths of fame and wealth are open to the meanest, it is a fact that the vast majority of our greatest men in Parliament, the army, science, the law, the Church, have sprung from the lower or middle classes. It is not the poor mechanic only, but all must work or die. But what about the born wealthy? Well, that is the result of their ancestor's labour. It did not originally come by chance or fortune. And even those who are under no obligation to toil for their daily bread are obliged to have recourse either to it or to artificial labour in travel or sport to maintain their health and save their life.

(Dean Close.)

In writing to his step-brother Johnston, who had requested a loan of money, Abraham Lincoln says: "The great defect in your conduct is, not that you are lazy, but that you are an idler. This habit of uselessly wasting time is the whole difficulty, and it is vastly important to you and to your children that you should break the habit. Go to work for the best money wages you can get, and for every dollar that you will get for your own labour I will give you another one. If you will do this you will soon be out of debt, and what is better you will have gained a habit that will keep you from getting in debt again."

(H. O. Mackay.)

Here is a large vineyard. Many men and maidens are busy on the hillside. They are coming and going, and singing the vintage songs. Here is the master. He sees that the rules are kept. There must be no disorder, no profanity. Each must keep his place. The baskets must be clean. The master is counting the baskets that are brought to the vats. After each name he writes the number of baskets brought. At last the week is ended, and the men and maidens come to receive their pay. Here among them is a man whom the master has been watching day by day. He kept his basket clean; he kept his place; he used no profane language; he enjoyed the companionship of the others; he joined merrily in the vintage songs. But in all this time he gathered no grapes. "What is your name?" says the master. "Menalque," says the man. "I find your name upon the book," replies the master, "but I do not find that you gathered a single cluster; there is therefore no pay for you." "No pay?" says the man. "What have I done wrong? I have kept my place, used no improper language, kept my basket clean, and joined heartily in the songs." "You did no wrong," says the master, "but you did no work. There is nothing for you." "No pay for me!" exclaimed the man. "Why, that is the one thing I came in the vineyard for. The pay constituted my chief interest in it." Is not this the history of thousands in the Lord's vineyard? They come, their names are upon the book. They do no special wrong; they do not swear, or steal, or commit adultery. They break no rule. They sing the vintage songs. They hear sermons, if they are entertaining. They attend church, if it is quite convenient. But are they in any true sense labourers in God's vineyard? Have they done any honest work for Christ and His Church? Have they performed one hard task, done one unpleasant duty, spoken one brave word, lifted one fallen sinner, lightened one heavy burden, crucified one loved comfort, or done any one thing or series of things that would justly entitle them to the name of labourer, or the hope of reward when the great day of reckoning comes?

(R. S. Barrett.)

John the Dwarf wanted to be "without care like the angels, doing nothing but praise God." So he threw away his cloak, left his brothers and the Abbot, and went into the desert. But after seven days he came back and knocked at the door. "Who is there?" asked the Abbot. "John." "John is turned into an angel, and is no more among men." So he left him outside all night, and in the morning gave him to understand that if he was a man he must work, but that if he was an angel he had no need to live in a cell.

Notice the invention used by country people to catch wasps. They will put a little sweet liquor into a long and narrow-necked phial. The do nothing wasp comes by, smells the sweet liquor, plunges in and is drowned. But the bee comes by, and if she does stop for a moment to smell, yet she enters not, because she has honey of her own to make; she is too busy in the work of the commonwealth to indulge herself with the tempting sweets. Master Greenham, a Puritan divine, was once waited upon by a woman who was greatly tempted. Upon making inquiries into her way of life, he found she had little to do, and Greenham said, "That is the secret of your being so much tempted. Sister, if you are very busy, Satan may tempt you, but he will not easily prevail, and he will soon give up the attempt." Idle Christians are not tempted of the devil so much as they tempt the devil to tempt them.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The wife of a certain chieftain who had fallen on idle habits, one day lifted the dish cover at dinner, and revealed a pair of spurs; a sign that he must ride and hunt for his next meal.

(H. O. Mackay.)

Oberlin was distinguished by his benevolence and charity; hence he was beset with beggars. "Why do you not work?" said he to a man one day. "Because no one will employ me." "Well, then, I will employ you; there, carry those planks; break these stones; fill that bucket with water, and I will repay you for your trouble." Such was his usual mode, and idle beggars were taught to come there no more.

(J. L. Nye.)

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