Work Ethics Pt I

Exegetical Study: 
Linked Article: 

In 2 Thess 3, Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians, by once again providing instruction for behavior within the church. Before instructing the Thessalonians' behavior, Paul requests prayer for the spreading of the gospel and deliverance from wicked people. Scholars suggest that Paul's introduction follows a captatio benevolentiae, an ancient rhetoric. The ancient rhetoric embodies praise intended to gain a good hearing, before addressing a difficult issue. The difficult issue addressed dealt with certain Thessalonians not working but relying on rich brothers to meet their needs. Paul addresses this issue in the first letter; however, the behavior remained. In Paul's dealings with the issue, he urges the Thessalonians to separate themselves from those who are idle. Paul's urging exemplifies the intensity to which the lingering issue escalated. He continues his exhortation by identifying his own behavior amongst them. This behavior warrants imitation as he established a model example. Finally, he declares the Thessalonians to separate themselves to bring shame on the guilty parties. Paul concludes his admonishment with a closing prayer or greeting like the first letter. However, the final greeting of this letter emphasizes his authorship and authority, by his declaration that his own hand signed it. In conjunction with the demonstration of his authority, Paul concludes the letter departing grace to the Thessalonians.


2 Thess 3 progresses Paul's ideology of endurance under persecution to the Parousia of Christ to warning against idleness. Paul begins his discourse by seeking prayer from the Thessalonians. After this introduction, Paul pivots to God's faithfulness and protection from the evil one. After Paul's introduction, he progresses to address the matter at hand, idleness within the church. The crux of the address contrasts God's guidance of the heart to Paul's command to abstain from those who walk disorderly.


Paul commands the Thessalonians to separate themselves from those who are idle and to work with their hands. The word family for disorderly or idleness resides only in 2 Thess in the adverb and verb forms. The adjective form, ἄτακτος only exists in 1 Thess 5:14 as Paul also exhorts the Thessalonians about unruly or idle behavior. The TDNT denotes that in the adverb form of ἀτάκτως means "without order or plan." The term also has the connotation of "roam about in disorderly fashion." Therefore, Paul commands the Thessalonians to not live in a manner, where they roam disorderly without order or plan. In relation to the Thessalonians' epistles, the TDNT also contends that the term does not emphasize laziness, but rather the irresponsible attitude to the obligation of work. Consequently, the Thessalonians are not guilty of inaction, but of busy unrest. To challenge this "sense of insufficient inclination to disciplined work in an irresponsible manner," Paul provides an example of how he worked among them.