Lighthouse Leader Study Guide
Date: October 23, 2016
Series: While We Wait
2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
This Week’s Printable Resources:
Here are some important reminders for you and your group this week:
- We need your help with the Fall Festival this coming Wednesday. We are asking each Lighthouse to participate in the Trunk or Treat part of the event at the church. Each Lighthouse should have a car in the parking lot from 6-8:00 pm with a trunkful of candy. As every family in your group to provide 2-3 bags of candy and one person in your group to have their car in the parking lot. If you have any questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Group Fellowship. The week of Oct. 30, we will not have a regular Lighthouse Lesson. You are encouraged to use this week for a group fellowship. Basically, have your group bring food (more than usual) and plan on spending the time doing something fun as a group. Remember, if your group meets on Sunday night, this is Beggar’s Night.
- Fireside Chats. We will have our Fall Fireside Chats in November. Your elder should contact you in the next couple of weeks to setup the time for your Fireside Chat. If you are unsure who your elder is for your group, you can check in FFC Connect (go to your group’s participant page), or contact me and I will get the info to you.
Overview of this Lesson
This week is the conclusion to our study of 2 Thessalonians called, “While We Wait.” The focus of this week’s lesson is on dealing with people whom Paul refers to as “idlers” or “unruly” people. These are troublemakers who need to be admonished by the church, not to be mean-spirited, but out of love. The goal is restoration, not retribution.
Memory Verse for This Week
“Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:12
This Week’s Take Home Truth
“Applying the discipline of appropriate distance is used by God to remove false doctrine and restore disobedient believers.”
1] What was the first job you had where you were paid by someone outside of your family? What did you do in this job?
2] What has been the most difficult time in your work life and what made it so difficult?
3] Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text (2 Thessalonians 3:6-18)
Before Paul brings this epistle to its final benediction, he must deal with a problem that is crucial among the believers in Thessalonica. The fact that this section is second in length only to that on the return of Christ indicates its importance. Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18.
2 Thessalonians 3:6–18 (ESV)
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
4] Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians with a strong command—keep away from those walking in idleness. Who are these “idle” believers?
First, it is important to note the seriousness of Paul’s command to the Thessalonian believers. He doesn’t say, “here’s a good suggestion…” or “let me give you some simple advice…” Paul uses the word paraggéllō which is translated into English here as “command.” Zodhiates defines this word as “to pass on an announcement, hence, to give the word to someone nearby, to advance an order, charge or command.”
Wiersbe provides the following definition:
Paul had used this powerful word command in his first Thessalonian letter (1 Thes. 4:2, 11); and we met it earlier in this chapter (2 Thes. 3:4). He used it again in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12. The word means “a military order handed down from a superior officer.” Paul considered the church to be like an army; and if the army does not obey the orders, there can be no order. Unfortunately, some of the saints were “out of rank” (“unruly” in 1 Thes. 5:14, and “disorderly” in 2 Thes. 3:6-7 and 11).
Moreover, Paul gives the order “in the names of our Lord Jesus Christ,” adding our Lord’s authority to underline the apostolic authority of Paul. This is serious business.
Who are these idle believers? Note first that Paul calls them “brothers,” so these are not unknown beggars on the street or the indigent poor. These are believers, fellow Christians who have a testimony and are known followers of Christ. This hints at the reason for Paul’s strong admonition concerning them—their poor testimony was tarnishing the reputation of the church as a whole and the very name of Christ!
Next, these were idle people, literally lazy people. It’s not that they could not work or were unable to work, these were people who chose not to work. They were lazy. The word translated as “idleness” in v. 6 is ataktōs. Demarest and Ogilvie give us more color on this word:
This is a military term used to describe a soldier who steps out of the ranks. It is used to refer to anyone or anything out of place. The word ultimately portrays intentional idleness or what we would call “loafing” or “goofing off.” Thus, the disorderly and unruly are to be seen as loafers. Their idleness was a matter of their own choice, not of being unemployed or unemployable. And what made the whole thing so destructive was that this refusal to work was very likely defended on theological grounds.
Most commentators also agree that, given the context of this letter, these idlers were believers who either expected the Lord to return at any moment, or believed He had already returned and they had missed it, but their response was to simply cease working. Their attitude was one of “what’s the use?” So they became lazy and idle.
5] Why would Paul tell the Thessalonians to stay away from these idlers?
First, understand that this is not Paul’s first reference to these idlers. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, he urged the church to “admonish the idle” (1 Thess. 5:13). Clearly, this admonishment had little effect, so now Paul commands the church to break fellowship with them, to have nothing to do with them.
There are four reasons Paul gives to withdraw from these lazy people:
- They are disobedient to the instructions of God (3:6). Note the word “tradition.” Paul uses the same word in 2:15 in which he tells them, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” Paul is referring to the Word of God, either taught or written. Paul had taught them the importance of work and a Christian’s responsibilities in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22. These idlers were without cause. They were disobedient.
- They were setting a poor example, and others should not follow them (3:7). Paul points to his own example when he was living with the Thessalonians. Paul worked hard, day and night, so he was not a burden to others. This was the example Paul expected them to follow (3:9), not the laziness of these idlers.
- They had become a burden to the church (3:10). Paul reminds them in 3:8 that he and his team did not eat anyone’s bread without paying them for it so they would not be a burden. These idlers didn’t follow this example, and, as a result, had become a burden on the church. Paul’s instructions are blunt, but simple, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. He’s instructing the Thessalonian church to stop taking care of these loafers. Their laziness cannot become a burden to the church.
- They had become troublemakers (3:11). The Living Bible translates Proverbs 16:27 as follows: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.” People with too much time on their hands become troublemakers. Paul uses the word “busybodies” to describe such people. We understand that phrase well. We all know “busybodies” who run from here to there stirring up trouble, whether it’s through their gossip or their mischief. They having nothing to do, so they draw their sense of importance and purpose by dragging others down to their level of laziness. Paul says in the strongest words possible avoid these people!
6] Does this text instruct the church on how we should view and treat the poor?
In a word, “No.” Unfortunately, Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonian believers here—“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat”—is too often repeated by many as a simple proverb concerning the poor. Paul is instructing the church on how to minister to the poor, he is instructing the church concerning the lazy. Yes, laziness leads to poverty (Proverbs 10:4), but we must discern the difference between those who are capable of working and choose not to, and those who are simply unable to earn enough to take care of their basic needs, and these folks need our help.
The truth is, the vast majority of those who fall below the poverty level welcome the opportunity to work. Think of the single mother who works at a minimum-wage job and is trying to feed herself and her children. She works hard, harder than many of us, but is unable to make ends meet. This mom needs our help.
Paul’s charge in 2 Thessalonians 3 is not a call to callousness on the part of the church; it is a warning to stay away from idle troublemakers who bring problems into the church and disgrace to the Name of Christ.
Let’s remember the example James gives in his epistle:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16).
Or the stinging words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 25:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ (Matthew 25:41-43).
7] What Christian traits in the workplace cause others to be attracted to Christ?
The New Testament provides the following character traits of a person worthy of the disciple of Jesus Christ:
- Humility (Eph. 4:23)
- Purity (Rom. 13:13)
- Contentment (1 Cor. 7:17)
- Faith (2 Cor. 5:7)
- Righteousness (Eph. 2:10)
- Unity (Phil. 1:27)
- Gentleness (Eph. 4:2)
- Patience (Col. 1:11)
- Love (Eph. 5:23)
- Joy (Col. 1:11)
- Thankfulness (Col. 1:3)
- Light (Eph. 5:8–9)
- Knowledge (Col. 1:10)
- Wisdom (Eph. 5:15–16)
- Truth (3 John 3–4)
- Fruitfulness (Col. 1:10)
8] On the other hand, what traits have you noticed at work where Christians turned off their unbelieving peers?
If no one in your group responds to this question, I think you can take them back to the qualities Paul identifies in this chapter:
- A burden to others
We can also add to this:
- Loud mouths
- Crude (humor, words, etc.)
- Thieves (either directly or indirectly)
- Wear University of Michigan gear to work1
9] In his sermon, Todd mentioned seven implications and applications, which of the following was most impactful to you and why was it impactful?
- Sound doctrine and sound deeds go hand in hand.
- All Christians who can work should do so with integrity and industry.
- Work matters in the mission of making disciples.
- Continued disobedience among believers should not be ignored.
- Everyone in the church has a responsibility to informally keep other Christians accountable in their personal lives through meaningful friendships and encouragement.
- Every church has a responsibility to formally discipline its members in cases of willful waywardness.
- Remember—the goal of both informal and formal discipline is restoration, not rejection.
These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.
10] Looking back at this week’s teaching and study, what’s the most important thing to remember?
11] Have there been any attitudes or actions you need to change in your workplace in order to improve your testimony as a Christian?
12] Is there a fellow Christian you need to lovingly confront about their inappropriate words or behavior? Spend time this week praying for the right opportunity to do so.
Commitment to God’s Standards
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”–Ephesians 4:1
When someone is part of a group, he or she is obligated to follow its laws or standards. American citizens are required to obey the laws of the United States. Employees must conform to the rules of their company. Athletic teams are expected to listen to their coach.
Most of us want to be part of a group because with belonging comes acceptance. This desire to conform can be quite strong, sometimes dangerously so. During Jesus’ time, “many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43). Those rulers were so committed to their religious system that they damned their souls by rigidly adhering to its code.
Some people think belonging to the church is different though. They want the blessings, rights, and privileges of being a child of God, but they’re unwilling to conform to biblical standards. But God expects Christians to live a certain way. Paul told the Corinthian believers to remove from their midst all who live immorally (1 Cor. 5:1-2). In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 he says, “Keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”
“Since people can join athletic teams and businesses and follow the rules, since people can be so fearful of being cast out of their society that they forfeit their souls, since people can be so devoted to things that don’t matter, shouldn’t Christians make an even greater commitment to what matters most? In Ephesians 4:1ñ6 Paul tells us how we can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which (we) have been called” (v. 1). Let’s commit ourselves to obey God as we learn what He requires of us.–John MacArthur
1 This, of course, is humor put inside the leader notes. If we intended to be serious, we would have said Minnesota Vikings gear. As it is, we humorously used Michigan gear as an example. If you have any questions, contact Keith Fortenberry.