6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.
This passage seems like it falls under the last passage I covered: leading by example. Certainly we could use this passage to continue talking about that, but I feel led to look at this from a different angle. If we remember from the beginning of this letter, we discovered that Paul was writing this because some of the members of the church had become lackadaisical, thinking the “end is near” and subsequently used that as an excuse to quit “working” as Paul likes to describe it. This is whom Paul is referring to in verse 6. He isn’t saying that we should shun those who aren’t believers, which is an easy interpretation of it, rather he is saying to be wary of those who proclaim to be of the faith but don’t live a life that exemplifies it.
Surely, we are all still sinners and we make our mistakes. However, those who truly claim to be believers and followers of Christ at least make an effort to improve themselves and seek out how to follow Him better. If you aren’t, you are a burden. If we become lackadaisical in our faith, then we become tumors on the body of Christ. We infect, worry, cause concern, and what I believe to be the worst side affect, we distract the rest of the body from its purpose.
Paul is now using the example of when he and his men were among them how they did not take for granted the kindness of the Thessalonians, because we did not actin an undisciplined manner among you. Before I go further, remember that the word discipline comes from the word disciple. Paul talks about paying for their food and even working along side them so that their presence was not a drain of resources, energy, or even a distraction. Their purpose in all this was so that they could encourage and help them. My wife exemplifies this whenever we go to someone’s house, whether they are long time friends, family, or someone we just met. She sets the example by always asking, “how can I help?” After being turned away, she waits until after we finish eating and just takes the initiative to jump up and help clean up. This is the example Paul is talking about at the end of verse 8, so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
How have we become burdens to the church? Do we bog our pastor down with complaints? Do we tell the elders how they should run things? Do we complain about how things are run? Do we run away when we are not satisfied, expecting the church members to serve us? Do we hold resentment against someone because we think they did something against us?
Sometimes we think that by leaving a church and going to another we are rectifying a situation, but all that we are doing is moving a tumor from one part to another within the body of Christ. All we are doing is metastasizing the cancer, and it will grow in that new location until it decides to move to another part and do the same thing.
Are you a tumor?