The Disease of Idleness

2 Thessalonians 3:13 (ESV)
"As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good."

I believe if we ask any pastor of a church here in the United States about non-contributing members of their congregation, they could easily fill out a page or two of names right off the top of their heads. It’s a disease that is spreading and it is cancerous to a church body. Apathy towards serving is draining the effectiveness of churches today.

This is nothing new, as we see Paul having to address this issue in the early Christian churches as well. Those whose faith is stuck in idle, come in and take up residence in a pew for an hour or so on Sundays, and then leave, not to be heard from again for another week, are creating a slothful distraction whether they know it or not.

The faithful see it and for some it may initiate feelings of weariness in their own service, wondering what gain they are getting, believing those who do next to nothing seem to be getting along fine. The trickle effect of lukewarmness can erode an entire congregation if not addressed properly, the example being the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:15-17).

Paul’s address to the church at Thessalonica has much meaning for us today. He did not want the congregation to ignore those who were failing to live up to the faith they profess: in 2 Thessalonians 3:15, he clearly instructs the members to exercise church discipline in the matter.

For many churches today, discipline is likely a touchy subject. With many churches closing, drawing new members and not upsetting existing members has taken priority over addressing idleness and other actions of the church body that are incongruent to its mission.

There are several Scriptural references regarding admonishing those who cause disruptions in church—and idleness is certainly a disruption. Paul wrote of this in Romans (Romans 16:17), as well as to the churches in Galatia (Galatians 6:1;9) and in a previous letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:14). It is clearly taught here (see 2 Thessalonians 3:14) and elsewhere that if the offender will not listen, he or she is to be set outside the congregation and we are to have nothing to do with them (Matthew 18:15-17; Titus 3:10)

But discipline must be addressed. And it first must be addressed by looking in the mirror. What are you offering to the church and to the community? Are you using your spiritual gifts as God desires? Are you helping others discover their gifts? We should not seek to admonish others before cleaning our own house.

As members of a church body, we are obligated to reach out to those who have not yet used (or discovered, perhaps) their spiritual gifts. This is a vital part of discipleship and one that should be a part of every member’s sanctification process. It is not just the pastor’s job to certify every member into service.

Let us not merely look at those not contributing and wonder why; rather let us approach these people in a spirit of humility and help them grow in service to our Savior.