Monday, July 19, 2010

“God's Own Faithfulness” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 25, 2010

Purpose: To learn how God's faithfulness to us requires that we live faithfully

Scripture Text: 2nd Thessalonians 3:1-15 (NRSV)

2 Thessalonians 3:1-15
(1)Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, (2)and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. (3)But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. (4)And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. (5)May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

(6) Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. (7)For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, (8)and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. (9)This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.

(10)For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. (11)For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. (12)Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (13)Brothers and sisters do not be weary in doing what is right. (14) Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. (15)Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week's lesson concludes Paul's final words to the Thessalonian community of believers. Paul encourages the church to pray for him and the work that he is involved in, mainly spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul also expresses concern about his own well being, and those that are opposing the work and trying to destroy the progress that is being made in all of the communities of “the faith”.

God's faithfulness is not questioned and it should not be a concern for the Thessalonian's or us. God has proved His faithfulness over and over again. God has proven that He can be trusted; the question is, can we? Will those within the Thessalonian church continue being faithful when Paul is not there encouraging them?

For me this highlights the importance of those that have been called to minister to our congregations as well as the congregations. Paul both encourages and admonishes them to be steadfast in their love toward God and each other, but also to stay away from those who are not committed to work for the glory of God, or even to work for their own well being. It appears that, as in most churches, in the Thessalonian church we had the doers and the talkers. The only other topic that Paul devotes more verses to than the slackers within the church is the second coming of Christ. Paul is very direct, “no work, no eat”. It appears some were just sitting back and waiting for the return of Christ, and saw no need to earn a living or support themselves or their family. The old hymn says “Work, for the night is coming” some Thessalonians said “Why work, the night is coming?”

I will go one step further in my interpretation of Paul's admonishment, since he used himself as the example, I think we can also apply this to those that are suppose to lead us, mainly the leaders of our denominations and our local staffs. Many of the people employed by headquarters are just busybody positions given to people who have failed in other positions; unfortunately we have a lot of busybodies who only create paperwork and idle labor for the real workers. While most positions may seem necessary, in the present economic times I would encourage all of us to evaluate those that we are supporting and ask the tough questions. Paul was certainly deserving of support, but chose to work for his keep and set the example to follow.

Another area that Paul addressed was how do we treat and counsel those that choose to live off of others labors? Paul calls them brothers and sisters and as such we should lovingly guide them as we would family members, we are not to just ignore them, but we are to “command” and “exhort” them to work, without grumbling and complaining. When that fails we should cut them off from our fellowship or support, so that they will become ashamed, but they will continue to be part of the larger family.

I think it bears pointing out, Paul's letter concerns supporting those within the congregation that are able to work, but choose not to. This is not about unemployment compensation that is paid into a fund and redistributed as needed to the temporarily unemployed. That remains the Christian thing to do, but as a church we should not be supporting busybodies, just my thoughts.

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