2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
By Prof Christopher Byaruhanga
Regarding some brothers/sisters who were taking advantage of the generosity of hardworking Christians in Thessalonica, Paul’s position is that it is not helpful to give to those who will not work.
This is not because Paul does not believe in charity, but rather in this particular situation Paul is talking about those who could work but chose not to.
Paul is aware that idleness leads to mischief and breeds trouble. His command to the believers, therefore, is to keep away from these lazy people that cause the theological earthquakes and distress in the church.
The Bible tells us that God is Himself a worker and he called people who were busy at work. For instance, Moses was caring for his father-in-law’s sheep and Jesus himself worked as a carpenter. Paul’s lifestyle was very clear to the Thessalonians.
He worked hard for his needs. Hard work, therefore, is not to be avoided. It is part of the life of a serious Christian.
God expects each of us to be involved in some form of work, because avoiding work does not only go beyond the burden placed on others, but also leads us to spending time on unproductive pursuits.
Paul says if a man will not work, he should not eat. Denying food to those who are unwilling to work is not a cruel act. Rather it is a basic form of discipline that one would call tough love.
Paul further urges the rest of the congregation not to tire of doing what is right. In this context, doing what is right has two aspects: it helps the needy and it helps one to live a productive life.
In Titus 3:14 Paul says our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, so that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.
When it comes to life at UCU, what might this include? Is there a certain committee you could serve on? Are there staff members who could use a kind word?
What about in our faculties and departments? Are there ways we can serve the Lord by serving one another?
1Thessalonians 4: 11 says, make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: to mind your own business and to work with your hands. Staying busy for the Lord is a lifelong mission.
This instruction has three elements: first identify the lazy believers. The Christian community is a giving fellowship, so perpetual takers do not fit in it very well.
Secondly, do not associate with lazy believers who gossip about and slander other people in the Church. The purpose here is not punitive, but to make the lazy person be ashamed of what he/she is doing.
Thirdly, Paul is quick to remind us that we are a Christian community. Our brothers and sisters’ situation is ours too. And the goal of church discipline is never punishment but tough actions of love done with a view to reformation and restoration to fellowship. When exercised lovingly, firmly, and consistently, church discipline can solve many problems.
However, there are fellowships that have no discipline and there are those that are afraid to exercise discipline and this is one of the reasons why some of the Christian communities are unhealthy both spiritually and physically.
Is today’s Christian community at UCU any different? The answer is no. There are believers who are idle spiritually and physically among us. They spend time criticising and spreading rumours about others.
I take Uganda Christian University as a well-disciplined, extended family that should do certain things differently.
I urge you in the name of Christ not to speak evil of anyone, and not to listen with pleasure to anyone who speaks evil of another. Above all, be a useful and productive part of the body of Christ.
This article is part II of excerpts from the sermon by the author, delivered on 7 March 2017 in Nkoyoyo Hall