“Christian” Ideas that Aren’t (4)
1. “I’m more of a New Testament Christian.”
2. “The Old Testament is legalistic and about law; the New Testament is about love and grace.
3. “God helps those who help themselves”
4. “Those who do not work should not eat.”
Many argue against or are suspicious of welfare because they believe this is what the Bible says. Unfortunately for them, the Bible nowhere says such a thing. This is a misreading of 2 Thessalonians 3:10. There Paul does not indict those who do not work (regardless of circumstance) but rather those who choose not to work. The new Common English Bible gets it right: “If anyone doesn’t want to work, they shouldn’t eat.” It’s a matter of the willingness to work, not whether or not one is actually working at any given time and for any reason.
Paul critiques here those “end-time” enthusiasts in Thessalonica who were so certain that the Lord’s return was at hand that they had ceased the normal activities of life, including work, to huddle together and prepare themselves for this great event.
So far from being a general principle, this is a pastoral warning for a particular situation. Should that situation arise again, Paul’s word should be heeded. But it should not be taken as a biblical warning against government welfare. It is not addressed to the general public or to a situation that would arise among the general public. Nor does it castigate any member of society because they are not working. This is a matter of the church disciplining its own wayward, misguided members.