2 Thessalonians 3:10: He who will not work will not eat

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I work, I just don’t get paid shit, hence this weeks bleg above, the smallest donation is gratefully appreciated. You may have heard of folks in Congress parroting those words in the title to justify cutting billions from food stamps. One of them is Stephen Fincher (R-Hypocrite) who somewhat started the practice back in May, and who incidentally received more than $70,000 in farm subsidies in 2012 alone and has racked up over $3 million in taxpayer loot in the last decade. He’s not alone on that score either, there are a dozen more lfundie House hypocrites on the dole just like him. Of course, most of those who receive food stamps or who are eligible do work or are children.

But does it even mean what the congressman thinks it does? Here’s some context

Link — 2 Thessalonians 3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you,
2 Thessalonians 3:8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.

There are many interpretations of this. Some of which go back to an obscure battle between those who really wish Paul was the Savoir and not hippy Jesus. But most agree that it was a specific recommendation to Christians by Paul in a specific location, some of whom were apparently running around sticking their noses in other people’s business all day long, causing arguments and other problems between members of the congregation, instead of just minding their own. It’s a practical solution by Paul to resolve a problem in a Christian community that was being taken advantage of by a few assholes; keep the gossiping busybodies working and they can’t plant rumor and fuel discord.

These people causing the problem had work available, they just blew it off because they liked playing the Machiavellian game. Back in those days, with no social media or Internet, no phones, not even mail, if you wanted to be an irritating social butterfly you had to spend hours trudging around from one farm or market to another to get the juiciest stuff and pass it on, leaving little time for your own house and work.

What’s important to under stand is working was secondary in this take, the main message is a warning. Something like this: ‘Yes, normally the Church and your Christian neighbors have an obligation to feed you. But if you keep this divisive shit up you’re gonna go hungry as a punishment, because I hereby relieve the local church and the entire community of its standard Christian obligation to help you out if you come up short, at least until you quiet down and get back to your own business’.

In that interp, it means almost the opposite of what the pastor clique in Congress would like it to mean. In fact it would apply to them as culprits much like those Paul was warning: as in if only those conservative clowns would keep their noses out of other people’s personal lives and private bedrooms, and instead follow their Christian obligation to help the poor and unemployed eat.

Here’s a more in depth explanation of what Paul was up to courtesy of a reader at Daily Kos:

In the previous chapter of his epistle, Paul warned about those who were teaching that the second coming was imminent (2 Thes. 2:2), and this had apparently misled some in Thessalonica into ceasing from earning a living, since they expected the Lord to return at any moment. Paul made it quite clear in chapter 2 that such teaching was in error, and he details events that must first take place before Christ could return (2 Thes. 2:3-12). This is why Paul did not live off the resources of the church in Thessalonica, because he was setting an example, to reinforce his teaching that the second coming was not near (v. 9 above).

Many verses are vague, they are subtle, and two millennia out of context, making them irresistible for past and present conman to seize on and cloak their own greed and exploitation in the words of the Bible. Thessalonians is no exception. This parable appears to be more about telling people not to run around scaring and annoying others in the church and then relying on the Christian tradition of charity when and if your crop yield or flock suffers as a result. And in fact Paul went on to politely pay for his food, even though by rights he could have eaten at the church for free, as an example to follow, sort of a ‘I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk’ kinda deal. But regardless, there is no doubt what the core principles of Jesus Christ were, he stated them very clearly, again and again and again: feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, give your money away. Jesus was an upstart progressive, bordering on a full blown socialist, and as such, a bigger and bigger threat to the existing wealth centers of his ancient world as his influence grew.

That’s a big part of why he was sentenced to death by crucifixion. In that world, it’s hard to see how the wealthy Stephen Fincher analogue would have been one among the masses of oppressed people crying as Jesus was nailed to a cross. But he sure might have been among those lucky rich few relieved that the execution was carried out and the gruesome spectacle made public for all the riff-raff to see.