Dealing with freeloaders
2Thessalonians 3: If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
Having dealt with the issue concerning the Second Coming Paul turns his attention to a more immediate concern. From the establishment of the Church years earlier, Christians have been wonderfully generous. That’s true concerning their relationship with outsiders but even truer of their relationship with one another. The Church is like a family with each person valued, loved, and cared for. Some are more materially blessed than others but in blessing some the Lord has blessed all. However, that mutuality has drawn some to their number who come to get rather than to share. This, apparently, has been a problem from the beginning. Paul reminds them that twenty years earlier when he was their pastor that he set an example of pulling his share of the load and also had a rule in place that everyone else did the same. This was such an important concept that Paul sat an example: working his fingers to the bone for the church and then moonlighting to help with the expenses of the church. It’s a balancing act in which those who have genuine needs are cared for but at the same time those who won’t do their part are encouraged to do so. It’s a challenge for the Thessalonians and it’s a change for the church today. On one hand, we have “no work, no eat.” On the other hand we have the instruction to not “treat him as an enemy.” The Apostle tells them to sit down with such a person and explain to them that we may not all be able to contribute an equal amount but we can all do whatever it is that we can do. Allowing people to be freeloaders in the church (and, I think in society as well) isn’t doing them a favor.
Take Away: We need the wisdom of the Lord to show compassion to those who need a helping hand and at the same time insist people do what they are capable of doing to care for themselves.
The Antichrist and the last days
2Thessalonians 2: Don’t let anyone shake you up or get you excited over some breathless report or rumored letter.
The congregation at Thessalonica is, in the words of Elvis, “All shook up,” over some gossip that Paul says Jesus has already returned and they’ve missed it. Paul reminds them of what he told them about this topic while he was with them. The events surrounding the Second Coming will be too big to miss. Two huge, worldwide events will dominate all else: a great Apostasy and the rise of a very bad person who’ll pretend to be God Almighty. The spirit of this personification of evil is already evident in the world, so they already have an idea of what it will be like but when the real deal comes no one will be left wondering whether or not “this is it.” The Apostle hurries to reassure them that everything’s going to be okay. Just when it seems all is lost Jesus will appear and without any difficulty at all, will handle this bad guy. Paul tells his readers he’s not all that concerned about this stuff. After all, he has bigger fish to fry. Just what is that? Why, it’s putting his time and energy into thanking God for what he’s doing and is going to do in their lives. So, what am I to do with “end days” concerns? I’m to be aware that some bad things are coming to the world. I’m to remember that Jesus is coming back and he’ll handle it all with ease. Especially, I’m to keep my eyes on the Lord and use my energies in living for him and in him and not let myself get worked up over stuff I barely understand in the first place.
Take Away: I trust the Lord, not my knowledge about how everything will happen at the end of time.
No one will wonder whether or not it’s the Second Coming
2Thessalonians 1: He will be exalted by his followers and celebrated by all who believe.
The second letter to the church at Thessalonica picks up right where the first left off. Paul’s friends there have some questions about the Second Coming of Jesus and the events associated with it. In fact, his first letter may have been misunderstood resulting in the writing of this second, shorter, more to the point letter. One thing Paul wants to make perfectly clear: Jesus is coming back and when he does there’ll be no doubt that “this is it.” Twenty years earlier Jesus warned his followers that people would panic, causing some of them to rush here and there, trying to be at the right place for his return. Now, Paul deals with this same topic. Jesus will appear “in a blaze of fire” accompanied by “strong angels.” On that “very same day” he’ll be exalted and celebrated by those who believe in him. In other words, Christians won’t have to go searching for Jesus and none will be left in the dark concerning his return. As I read these words I’m reminded that those who teach a “secret rapture” don’t necessarily have it right. I’m friendly to the view, but I don’t think it’s the only way to talk about the return of Jesus. Either way, the most important thing isn’t getting the details all worked out. Rather, it’s being ready. As Paul puts it, “pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be.” Passing a theology quiz isn’t required for entry into heaven.
Take Away: While it’s nice to think one has a handle on some of the more difficult portions of Scripture, it’s even better to live in a right relationship the Lord.