Last updated on August 26, 2022
When Apostle Paul first visited Thessalonica, he taught the believers to work for a living rather than being dependent by demanding support or becoming clients of non-Christian patrons.
Yet some of the Thessalonians refused to work. Paul dealt with these idle Christians in his first letter (1 Thes. 4:11-12; 5:14) but they remained entrenched and had not changed their ways. Why did they refuse to work? Possibly, these believers so vividly expected a quick return of the Lord that they gave up all work. Paul’s teaching about the coming to the Lord, however never contradicted his basic instruction about the necessity of work (3:6, 10).
These idle Christians may have been clients of prominent patrons. Patronage was a fundamental feature of the Roman economic world. Rich patrons often supported numerous clients in various ways, such as by giving them food or money and by representing them in public assemblies. Having numerous clients increased the honor of a patron. However, being a client brought social obligations that Paul would have wanted the Thessalonians believers to avoid, especially because their patrons were most likely not Christians.
Paul set for the Thessalonians an example of self-reliance. While he was among them, he supported himself (3:7-8; 1 Thes 2:9) Although Paul believed that “those who work deserve to be fed” (Matt 10:10; 1 Cor. 9:13-16). He did not receive support from the Thessalonians (he did accept offerings from the Philippians, Phil 4:15-16). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that he did not come to them as a smooth talker hoping for monetary gain (1 Thes 2:5, 9). He wanted them to understand from his example how they themselves should live.
(A note from NLT Study Bible)
1 Corinthians 9:13-16
1 Thessalonians 2:5, 9;
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12;
1 Thessalonians 5:14
Source: NLT Study Bible, A Tyndale House Publication, Carol Stream, Illinois
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