“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV).
The New Testament epistle of 1 Timothy offers some valuable insights that we can apply to our look at this passage from 2 Thessalonians 3:10…
“Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.
Now a true widow, a woman who is truly alone in this world, has placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help. But the widow who lives only for pleasure is spiritually dead even while she lives. Give these instructions to the church so that no one will be open to criticism. But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” (1 Timothy 5:3-8 NLT).
Unlike many contemporary forms of retirement planning, there were no means of assistance available to help the aged in the days of the first century. If an older person did not possess the physical ability to work and had no other source of income, he or she usually had to resort to begging to survive. In such instances, it was right and proper for the church to assist someone who fell into that category. This helped maintain a sense of dignity for those who could no longer support themselves.
Nevertheless, this passage provides us with several important qualifications…
The person under consideration must have no other means of financial support.
The initial support responsibility belonged to the immediate family members, not the church at large.
The person in need of support was responsible to pursue a lifestyle that honored God.
In a modern-day context, we might compare this example to those who are seeking financial assistance in an effort to start a new life in Christ. In fact, many churches maintain benevolence funds to assist those who are attempting to rebuild their lives in this manner. However, a person who seeks this kind of assistance while simultaneously pursuing a God-dishonoring lifestyle serves to divide him or herself from a church family who can help. In such instances, it may be proper to invoke the teaching given to us here in 2 Thessalonians 3:10.