In 2 Thessalonians 3:6–13, Paul admonishes the believers in Thessalonica to follow his example and work for their keep. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (v. 10). Our understanding of modern economics supports this: There ain’t no such thing as free lunch! (#TANSTAFL) Yet, this understanding comes up painfully short in God’s economy.
Paul was not talking about those who are unable, but those who are unwilling. When we get caught in the trap of focusing on the shortcomings of others, we’re not busy – we’re busybodies! In these cases, we become the “idle and disruptive” non-contributors Paul was rebuking. But he leaves us with a reminder: “Never tire of doing what is good” (v. 13). When we are busy doing what is good, we offer help to others. We take the time to see the good in them. We understand them in the context of their life and not our own.
There is a wide gap between being unwilling and unable. And it is our job as the image-bearers of Christ to offer hope to the hopeless, not an assessment of their value. To offer help, not idle judgment.