What is the “Christian Work Ethic?”
And, What is “Disorderly?“
© 2023 by C. O, Bishop
2nd Thessalonians 3:6-9
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. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought (worked) with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
We noted in the past that Paul and his entourage worked to support their ministry. They did so for several reasons, two of which are listed here:
- “That we might not be chargeable to any of you.” No one had any leverage against his walk with Jesus. (Unlike some politicians who find themselves indebted to their financial supporters.) They could not be “squeezed” to do something other than God directed.
- “To make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.” Paul and his entourage demonstrated the lifestyle the new believers were expected to emulate.
A third is listed in 1st Thessalonians 2:6-9
- 5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Think this through: When we send missionaries, we pay their way, as best we can, (other churches and individuals also helping.) But the people to whom they are sent contribute nothing! Paul was that kind of missionary. He did not preach with a hidden agenda of covetousness, or greed. He had a single goal: to preach the Gospel, as Jesus had commanded.
Paul and his entourage sought temporary work whenever they stayed in an area long enough to do so. (They were in Corinth for eighteen months. Two years in Ephesus…but only three weeks or so in Thessalonica. But evidently they had worked there, as well.) They were not looking for a handout, and they commanded the people they taught to follow that example!
The whole context in verses 6-18 has to do with the Christian Work-Ethic. These first four verses include how Paul and his co-laborers demonstrated this ethic. But it also introduces the fact that this is part of the Christian Testimony, that we are not to be freeloaders.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes, as a matter of fact, there are! If we look ahead to verse ten, we see that, in this context, the command is that those who will not work were not to receive support from those who chose to work. It had nothing to do with those who were disabled in some way, or too old to work. Those are laid out in other passages, where care of ailing family members and the elderly is named.
The primary thrust is to show the example that Paul and his co-laborers had demonstrated. False teachers seeking a profit, and lazy men seeking an easy way of life are not to be rewarded for their wrong motives.
I have known people who sought to enter the ministry specifically because “it was an easy job that paid well.” They had zero heart for the work. They cared nothing for the flock. This is exactly the kind of “bad shepherd” that God condemns in Ezekiel 34:1-10.
Paul and his fellow servants were demonstrating what it meant to care for the flock without charge, for the sake of the Gospel.
What about the Support of Pastors?
In verse 9, Paul pointed out that it was not because he lacked the authority to receive support, but because he chose to go without. (The word “power” in that verse is the Greek word “exousia,” meaning “authority.”)
He used the same word that Jesus did in the Great Commission, where He said “All power is given unto me in Heavan and in Earth…” All authority belongs to Jesus! Paul had the authority as an apostle to require support, but he absolutely avoided such questionable use of his authority. Because he asked nothing, no one could accuse him of wrong motives. No one could say, regarding his service, “He’s only in it for the money!” It obviously could not be true. He served without charge.
In 1st Corinthians 9:18, he said, “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”
Paul said that it would be an abuse of authority for him to “charge money” for people to hear the Gospel of Christ. That is why all of our sermons are on a free podcast in audible form, and all of our sermon notes are available on our website as a free download in written form.
But Paul commanded, in 1st Timothy 5:17, 18 that elders who served well be counted worthy of good support: especially those who labor in the Word, and in Teaching. He supported that concept from the Old Testament passage in Deuteronomy 25:4 where it says that the ox you are using to thresh grain is not to be muzzled while he works.
Paul served without pay: he received funds as people were moved to support his work. The church at Philippi was one of the very few who regularly supported him.
Does that mean that all God’s servants should always work without pay? Obviously not, as Paul commanded the churches to support their teachers and elders well. But, if a pastor is capable of serving without pay, and chooses to do so, it is good! He is just following Paul’s example.
That is one end of the spectrum. The other end includes the people we mentioned earlier, who simply saw it as a gravy-train job, with great security. And God condemns such behavior.
So, What is “Disorderly?”
Notice that the command…(specifically, a “command in the name of Jesus”) was to withdraw from “every brother “…believers…who “walk disorderly.” Don’t fellowship with people who behave in that manner…(whatever it is.)
But, we can’t very well obey commands we don’t understand. (We can try, but it frequently results in confusion.) The infant church in Ethiopia, in 1937, having only small portions of the New Testament in their language when Mussolini expelled the missionaries, decided they should not keep goats, pigs or dogs! Why? Because they read a verse that said “beware of dogs,” and other verses that made negative comparisons regarding goats and still others about pigs. But none of those passages were about animals: in every case, the passages were talking about people. Did their mistake do any real harm? No, but it caused them to miss the real intent of all those passages!
What does it mean?
So, what does it mean, when it says “disorderly,” in the case of believers? What were they doing wrong in this case? Perhaps many things, but, in this context, one issue was certainly slothfulness and “feeding on the work of others” rather than working so as to not only meet the needs of your own family but also to have enough to share with others.
Could it include other kinds of disorderly behavior? Absolutely, it could! In our legal system, there is a legal charge of “Drunk and Disorderly.” Could it include that? Certainly. But the warning here is potentially much broader, as he specifically says it means “not after the tradition which he received of us. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
Ignoring sound Bible teaching regarding “bad moral behavior” or bad social behavior of any kind could fall under this command. We are commanded to withdraw from believers who rebel against God and His Word. Does that mean anyone who disagrees with how we understand the Written Word? Nope. This has to do with behavior. A man may completely disagree with my understanding of a passage, and still be a wonderful, Godly believer.
But I have known of churches in our geographic area who have encouraged their members to “become relevant to the world” by joining them in their social framework. They specifically meant in bars, and nightclubs. They were not just talking about watching football, or going fishing, or some other harmless thing.
That is an irresponsible teaching:
- In the first place, it does not make you “relevant” to the World: it makes you a hypocrite, in their eyes, because they know their behavior is wrong. When you join them in their behavior, it assures them that you are no different than they are, therefore the Gospel must have had no effect in your life! The only thing you have accomplished is the ruin of your testimony!
- In the second place, it is a potential trap for any believers who attempt to follow it. God says believers can be trapped by sin. They can permanently ruin their testimony, through debauchery of some sort. They can lose their family to adulterous affairs, or their liberty to some unlawful behavior that crept in. Sometimes they have even lost their lives to violence in a bad relationship. And I have known examples of each of these.
We are going to try to teach sound Biblical understanding and application, here in this assembly., We will urge every believer to mold his or her life around God’s Word.
How Does God Change Lives?
Romans 12:2 commands us to allow God to transform us through the renewing of our minds. That is accomplished from the inside, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He uses the Written Word of God to do it.
Psalm 119:9 says that the only way humans can cleanse their lives before God, is by the application of the Word of God to their lives. (“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word!”) God does not list any other way for us to avoid the traps of sin that surround us. We are to apply God’s Word.
He also says, in 2nd Peter 1:19-21, “ 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
He specifically tells us that our primary light-source in this dark world is to be the Written Word of God.
And in Philippians 2:15, 16, he says “15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”
How Should We then Live?
We are to shine as lights in the World, and we are to constantly be offering others the Word of Life. (That is the Gospel!)
When we join with the world in their “disorderly ways” we take on the patina of that behavior and the light burning within us cannot be seen, just as the burning light in a dirty headlamp cannot be seen through the mud on the outer lens. Don’t allow your light to be dimmed by disorderly behavior, nor by constant association with others who behave that way.
Lord Jesus, convict our hearts of our need for Your Written Word, applied to our daily lives. Lead us to learn Your Word, so that the Holy Spirit has the tools to transform our lives.