Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you
When I was a child, we went on a family holiday to Lefkada – one of the Greek Islands. Whilst we were there, we sat on the beach one morning and saw other families having great fun on pedalos out on the sea. We decided to pay for the hire of a couple of these and trying to enjoy some independence, my sister and I teamed up leaving my mother and father with our youngest sibling. Well, we did not have to go far for me to begin to regret this decision. After about 5 minutes of pedaling my sister decided to give up completely because it was too hot and she could no longer be bothered to carry on. Meanwhile, my parents and youngest sibling were pedaling out exploring the sea and having a wonderful time.
‘Idleness’ can be understood as going AWOL. If we step away from what we know to be right and true, not only do we exclude ourselves from blessing but we also lessen life for everyone else. I have been guilty in my younger years of leaving church and saying the words ‘well I didn’t get much out of that today’ perhaps this was something to do with the style of presentation or the hymns that were chosen. But we don’t come to worship God with God’s people to get something out, we come to put something in! We focus far too often on receiving rather than giving and there is a danger to being more interested in what we get rather than what we can give.
Perhaps, I was thinking about the pedalo situation in the wrong way, maybe it was never about what I was to get out of it but rather what I could put into allowing my sibling to enjoy the holiday that little bit more, or perhaps, that is stretching the analogy just a little too far!
Loving God, we thank you that you have blessed us with companions on our journey in the shape of our church fellowship. Lord, forgive us for the times we have tried to make it all about us and have lost sight of the needs of those around us. Help us to see how we can bless others and be more prepared to serve them knowing that in giving we also receive a blessing from you. Amen.
The Rev’d Josh Thomas minister of Petersfield and Liss United Reformed Church