10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
Paul’s point about people who aren’t doing their share of work is summed up nicely in verse 10. It seems to me as a general rule to follow for the recipients of his letter. Certainly, he is writing this to the members of the congregation, but this seems like it could work for general society, couldn’t it?
I think verse 11 needs to be pondered. First of all, the term undisciplined life lends itself to many interpretations when looked at on its own. Previously, however, we discussed that the word discipline comes from the word disciple and a disciple is one who follows something or someone. In the dictionaries of today, they refer to being a disciple of Christ since that is the most common usage of it these days. However, we can be a disciple of anything or anyone we choose to emulate. As I backtrack over 11 years ago, I think about the time I spent in boot camp, trying to emulate my drill instructors to be the best Marine I could be. Being a disciple or a follower of someone lends you to also listen to and follow their commands. My drill instructor’s definition of discipline was, “immediate obedience to all orders.” I think I’ve mentioned this before.
If we look to the Apostle Paul, we recognize he is a disciple of Christ, doing his best to follow Christ’s example and commands or “orders”. Part of those orders are to lead others in His ways, which is exactly what Paul was doing to the Thessalonians. Taking this, we look at Paul’s definition here of an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies: not contributing to the building of the Kingdom but rather wasting time meddling with others’ affairs.
Here comes the disciplined command in response to this, verse 12 lays down what is expected them and it points out where they have gone astray. Certainly, Paul’s command and exhortation is directed at them, but notice that (quite obviously) the whole congregation knows what this is. Paul didn’t leave anyone in the dark here, he was clear because now not only do those who are acting undisciplined know what is expected of them, but their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ can help keep them accountable.
We see at the end of verse 12 that Paul gives a basic direction of discipline. Work in quiet fashion not only talks about actual work, but also how to do it. Not to do it in a way of looking for praise or making a spectacle of yourself. Secondly, he talks about eating your own bread. I believe this ties into his previous point about not being a burden to the church, or society for that matter. Nobody likes a tumor that just sucks the life out of everything.
So where are we at with this today? Have we become undisciplined busybodies that mooch of everyone else instead of chipping in? Do we work so as to be recognized or make a spectacle of ourselves? What does Christ say about your current state of contribution?