The Problem of Idle Hands

According to Google, “The proverbs idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle hands are the devil’s tools, and idle hands are the devil’s playground means that someone who is unoccupied and bored will find mischief; someone who has nothing to do will partake in something that will get him into trouble.”

Long before Google, Paul noted the problem of idle persons in the church. They were such a danger, that Paul used his final words in the letter to warn the church about them.

2 Thessalonians 3.6 – Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister living irresponsibly and not according to the tradition that they received from us.

Those who lived “irresponsibly,” were both idle and disruptive to the peace of the church.

My experience with the idle is that the Google information is correct. Someone who is unoccupied and bored will find mischief.

People who have nothing to do will partake in something that will get them into trouble.

Bored people seek stimulation. From fighting to gossiping, bored people will search for an emotional experience, even when it is destructive.

They may not be willing to work, but that doesn’t mean they won’t exert energy to alleviate the boredom.

Paul commanded the church to stay away from the idle-disruptive persons who were part of the church.

He also told them to pay attention to the tradition he had given them.

The Tradition to Follow

The tradition the church was to follow was Paul’s example.

2 Thessalonians 3.7-9 – For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not irresponsible when we were with you,

And we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor 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.

Paul had every right to request support for his ministry. He was their father in the establishment of the church.

Instead of being supported by the church, Paul labored from dawn to dusk while making tents.

It is believed that much of Paul’s instructions to the new converts of Thessalonica occurred while he worked.

As he fashioned the leather for tents, he taught a circle of eager disciples. He was in Thessalonica for a short time before persecution drove him from the city.

However, the early followers of Jesus were able to glean large amounts of information because they learned from the apostle for hours each day.

Paul’s example was that humans can work and serve Jesus at the same time.

Whatever the cause of the idle-disruptive persons in the church, Paul showed a different pattern of behavior.

Leadership by Example

One of Paul’s methods of persuasion was his personal example. He does not shy away from pointing to his behavior as an example to be followed.

Rudy Ross, who produces videos with me, points out that the church didn’t have a Bible in the first century.

The only “Bible” the early church had was the words and actions of their leaders.

Paul led the church with his teaching, whether in person or by correspondence. He also gave them a living word, his own behavior.

Charles Spurgeon said to his students in a lecture, “Many a good Sunday sermon has been ruined by a Sunday meal with the speaker.”

To be clear, what Spurgeon meant was that the speaker’s words did not match his behavior.

The best gift leaders can give their followers is consistent teaching and behavior.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage today on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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