Decision

After lots of thinking, praying, and talking it over with Terry, I’ve decided not to open a new blog on the subject of depression.  Instead, I’m going to post a new category here on this blog called, of course, Depression. At least for now.  May change it later.  I’ll be posting approximately once each week on the topic. usually on Fridays.  Starting today. The title of the new post will be Spinning in the Wind. 

Stay tuned. 

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Not. . .Chargeable to Any of You

II Thess. 3:8. “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.”

Paul continues to present his own behavior as an example for the believers in Thessalonica to follow. This is such practical teaching that it hardly needs any deep study into exact word meaning.  Let me give you my “paraphrase according to Linda,” and please note this is not Holy Spirit inspiration.  I’m not claiming anything of the sort, and you are free to challenge me if you think I’m wrong. 

“While we were there with you, we didn’t eat the food from anyone’s table without doing something to earn it. We worked very hard, to the point of exhaustion, 24/7, so that we would not be a financial burden to anyone there.” (By the way, I don’t believe Paul was whining and complaining here.  He loved the work he did. He was simply trying to establish a precedent that God’s people should earn their own bread.)

To eat bread: used in this context, the phrase means to receive maintenance, to get a living. I’m sure that when Paul and Silas were invited to someone’s home for a meal, they did not expect to sing for their supper; nor were they expected to do so by their host. The meaning here is clear, that the missionaries provided their own sustenance and did not expect the people in the church to provide their living. 

I need to point out here that there is record of other churches, already established, sending money and other gifts to Paul.  You can read about it in Acts, especially concerning the church in Antioch.  It is not wrong to help support those who are doing God’s work; it is not wrong to gift them with financial help so that they have the time to evangelize the people and build churches. What is wrong is when anyone who is in “full-time Christian service”  expects, even demands, to be so supported, and especially when the work is not moving forward.  This is a huge topic for another time.  Let me close it off for now with this example:  My dad was a pastor for many years. He worked with new and small churches, and there was never much money. His congregations did their best (with perhaps one exception, which someday I’m going to write a book about!) but they just struggled financially.  My dad worked part-time outside of the church in order to make ends meet.  Nothing wrong with that. Later on, he was able to devote all his time to the work of the church, and that was a great relief to him and my mom. My point is, he didn’t have the attitude that as THE PASTOR, he should live above the means of the people. He didn’t eat prime rib while they had tube steak. I believe his people appreciated that. 

It is clear that the disorderly in Thessalonica did demand  to be supported, apparently just because they were church members. We aren’t given details, so we can only surmise what their thinking was.  Because Paul used the term busybody,  we can safely assume that these folks were doing nothing worth being paid for, yet were claiming a right to remuneration based on their own ideas of the importance of their “work.”

That we might not burden any of you: Paul’s goal in his missionary work was to see souls saved.  It was not that he himself become wealthy or even financially comfortable at the expense of the people he evangelized.

Again, I need to stress that it is not wrong to take care of God’s workers. Indeed, the workman is worthy of his hire.  But, according to Paul’s teaching here, there had better be some evidence of work accomplished before anything is given away. 

What a thought!

Week Two

It’s been almost two full weeks now since I started my six-week break, and I’m already feeling panicky about going back to work.  Big red flag.

For any of you who have never experienced clinical depression, I pray that you never do.  This is new for me, and I don’t like it one little bit.  If you hold the belief that depression is “just a sin problem,” you need to back up off that a little bit and consider that while the spiritual aspect always exists in depression, it is NOT the sole, only part that needs to be addressed.

I often remind my clients of the great Bible and/or historical characters who struggled with depression.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon is right at the top of the list, along with David Brainerd and Abraham Lincoln.  Biblical characters include David, Jeremiah, Jonah, and the Apostle John.  The one thing all these people have in common is a personality that is characterized by great gifts, great compassion, and great attention to detail.  Perfectionism is a part of the personality, along with introspection, loyalty, a “thinker/get it right” approach to life, and a tendency toward great creativity.  The dark side of this personality includes a negative outlook, critical spirit, pessimism, and an unforgiving spirit.  Please understand that no one encompasses every one of these traits, and we all have other temperaments as well as this one, which by the study I use is known as the Melancholy temperament. It is the personality that is most inclined to experience depression, although no one is invulnerable.

I’ve never considered this to be my outstanding temperament, although I am aware of many of these traits in my own make-up.  I believe that maturity, life circumstances, and some pretty tough events just recently have pushed this temperament to the forefront, and I feel as if I’m swimming through thick mud right now.

I went to my doctor’s office today to get both a flu shot and a shingles shot. The nurse who gave me the shots has become a friend, and she looked at my face and said, “What’s up?  You’re looking worn out.”  So I dumped all over her, and she handed me tissues and held my hand, took notes, talked to the doc, and the medication I probably should have started several weeks ago is now on my dining room table, waiting to be taken with my supper.

So now I have a question for  you, and I hope you’ll respond here on the blog.  Are you interested in learning about depression?  Would you like to know more? Are  you struggling, and feeling as if there’s nowhere to turn?  I’m considering opening a new, separate blog just for this topic, and I’d be interested to know how many of you would  like to read it.   There is so much already out there on this topic that I hesitate to pipe up; however, I feel I do have some insight to offer both professionally, spiritually, and personally.

Let me know what you think. It will help me make my decisions.

For Yourselves Know

II Thess. 3:7. “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you.”

I hope you’ll forgive my paraphrase:  ” You people KNOW how to behave by following our example! We were not lazy and entitled when we were with you!”

Okay, got that off my chest.  Paul was pretty blunt, though, and I don’t think he would disapprove of my interpretation.  I get the sense in this passage that he’s completely fed up with the attitude, ergo the behavior, of the people who are expecting to share in the rewards without doing the work. 

If you know your early American history, you know that  in the Jamestown Colony, John Smith, who was initially the governor, established a “no work, no food” policy.  He did that because there were some, including a few noblemen, who didn’t believe they should have to work like the commoners.  They felt they were still the ruling class, as they had been in England, and that the commoners should give them a portion of the fruits of their labors.  It was an early, and unsuccessful, attempt at a sort of communal living. It wasn’t long before the “commoners” grew very angry and resentful that they were expected to support the noblemen in such a dangerous, difficult endeavor. The rest of that history is a fascinating read, if you can find a version that the revisionists haven’t doctored.

There really is nothing new under the sun.  Today’s socialists and Marxists think they’ve come up with a novel idea:  Share the wealth!  Not new at all.  This attitude was part of the spirit that existed in the Thessalonian church, and Paul wasted no words in his admonition against it. 

We behaved not ourselves disorderly among you:  We didn’t shirk.  We worked to support ourselves while we were there with you, so that we wouldn’t be a burden to anyone. We set the example of diligence and responsibility.  We didn’t expect to put our feet up at the end of a preaching service and read the newspaper while the rest of  you provided for our physical needs.  

In Phil. 4:9, Paul says that if the people will  simply follow his example, God will bless them. He isn’t being arrogant.  He just knows that he lived as God would have him to live. 

Phil. 4:9. “The things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

 

Withdraw. . .from Every Brother that Walketh Disorderly

II Thess. 3:6. ” Now we command  you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

So what exactly is this disorderliness Paul is rebuking so severely?  I surely am glad he didn’t leave it up to us to figure it out, because I’m afraid we would tend to broaden our definition much more widely than he did! 

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that the word disorderly is ataktos, derived from a very similar word meaning unarranged, insubordinate (religiously), unruly. That definition still seems to cover a lot of ground, so I did some further searching and here’s what I’ve learned: 

First, the use of every would indicate that the disorderly ones were few; most of the congregation were sound.  In order to maintain the soundness, the unruly ones must be subjected to the stern disapproval of the brethren.

Second, these people are described both positively and negatively; they walk disorderly, and don’t follow the traditions they’ve been taught.  The present tense verbs indicate a persistent practice, not just an occasional lapse. 

In I Thess. 5:14,  the disorderly are described as fainthearted and weak, needing attention. It seems they were guilty of deliberate loafing. Also, more than mere idleness is involved.  While they neglected their own work, they were busy gossiping and interfering with the work of others. Even worse, verse 12 clearly indicates that even though they didn’t work, they expected to be paid–to receive their livelihood from others.   

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? 

Some believe that these people were more than just lazy loafers.  They believe that those who expected to be  supported by the church members had taken upon themselves the job of prophesying, edifying and ministering to spiritual needs which they felt were being neglected.  This may be a stretch, but I think it’s an interesting possibility. 

Not only did these folks refuse to work; they also refused to follow the tradition Paul had taught them. Tradition here is the specific teaching Paul had given concerning everyday Christian conduct (II Thess. 2:15). In plain words, they were not walking after the Holy Spirit-inspired oral and written instruction of the Apostle and his coworkers.  Seems to me that it’s a dangerous thing to ignore God’s Word and go do your own thing, and then have the audacity to call it “ministry.”  More like heresy! In it’s origin, the word heresy simply meant to cause division. A dangerous thing to do in God’s Church. 

Our conduct as believers must be governed by guidelines set forth in the Word of God.  There is no self-help book that has the power of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Self-help books can, indeed, be helpful to explain and clarify what God has already said, but we have to remember that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9) and that all of man’s intellectual discussion does not compare to the wisdom of God ( Is. 55:8-9). 

Now we Command You

II Thess. 3:6. “Now we command you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

Paul is changing the subject, now, to address some other issues that existed in the Thessalonian church–and in all churches.  Human nature doesn’t change much over time.  Paul had skillfully set the scene for what he is about to say, encouraging and praising the people for their endurance and love.  Now it’s time for him to admonish them. 

Because the harmony and welfare of this young church were being threatened, Paul spoke strongly and authoritatively.  He didn’t apologize for or excuse what he was about to say, because he spoke under the authority of the Holy Spirit. He had addressed this issue more cautiously in I Thess. 4:11-12 and 5:14; apparently he did not get the results he hoped for. This time, his language is clear, strong, and indisputable. 

Withdraw is a strong word.  It calls for a complete removal from those who are “disorderly.”  Later in this chapter, we’ll see the support for this demand, and the need for it; In verse 12, we’ll see directions given concerning the disorderly, and concerning how the faithful members are to treat them. 

We command. . .brethren . . .in the Name:  Paul speaks with both authority and affection.  He speaks to the brethren,  the fellow-believers, most of whom were brought to faith under his own ministry.  He loves them.  He takes no pleasure in having to scold them.  He also speaks in the Lord’s Name, thereby claiming His authority to admonish and command.  Anyone who acknowledges His lordship is constrained to obey His commands.  

Withdraw:  A much more stern command than in I Thess. 5:14, where they had been told to “admonish the disorderly.”  That, apparently, was not enough.  Now they are to withdraw.  This is an interesting word, if you trace it back to its origins and follow how it has changed. The root meaning of withdraw was to set or place. It came to mean to bring together,as in furling the sails of a ship. Then, more generally, it meant to restrain, to check.  In one sense, it means to draw or shrink back from.  The usage in this verse is that they are to make it a practice to withdraw themselves from, personally separate themselves from, the disorderly; this would be done by withholding fellowship from them.  They are to remain aloof to impress upon the offenders that their behavior produces a gap between themselves and the other church members.

I think it is important to stop here for a moment and look at the way this command to withdraw has been misapplied in some religious groups, and even in good churches.  There was no command to kick these people out of the congregation, although it was implied that they not be allowed to participate in communion.  They were still welcome to attend, to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word. What was to be withheld was the inclusion into the bosom of the family, so to speak.  If these people were in trouble, there was no command to refuse to help them.  If they expressed a desire for restoration, there was no command to refuse them. And those who were not guilty of the disorderly behavior were never told that they could lord it over their Christian brothers and treat them as if they themselves were somehow better.  The withdrawal had the clear purpose of making the offenders stop, consider, and change what they were doing.  This is the principle of boundaries and consequences that we hear so much about today, and it’s a good one.  In a family, the biblically consistent lines we draw are the boundaries. When those boundaries are crossed, then the pre-set consequences must be applied.  It’s amazing how well this works, both in the family and the church, as well as in society as a whole.  When the system breaks down, it’s because the boundaries are loose and easily breached, and because the consequences are inconsistently applied. 

More on “the disorderly” next time.