2 Thessalonians 3:6 and Catholic Tradition


2 Th 3:6 (NRSV) Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.

Well, there you have it, proof that Paul taught the doctrinal oral Traditions of the Catholic Church! Right?? When this verse is cited as a proof text in support of oral Tradition by Catholics, the chances are slim to none that they will examine and explain the context of this verse. What is Paul really teaching, when context is taken into account? Let's let Paul explain:

2 Th 3:7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you,
2 Th 3:8 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.
2 Th 3:9 This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.

Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that when he was with them, he did not accept gifts or charity from church members, but paid a fair price for even his meals. He did this even though he was entitled, as a preacher of the gospel, to have the church supply his room and board. Paul goes on to explain why he was doing this:

2 Th 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.
2 Th 3:11 For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.
2 Th 3:12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
2 Th 3:13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

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).

Paul now restates and enlarges on what he said in verse 6:

2 Th 3:14 Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed.
2 Th 3:15 Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.

Paul was reminding the Thessalonians of how he conducted himself when he was with them; he was self-supporting, working diligently to be productive and earn an income to pay his own way, and this, in context, is the tradition Paul speaks of in verse 6, that is in contrast to the idleness of some:

2 Th 3:6 Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.

The very same principle is taught in the parable of the idle servant (Matt. 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-27).

So now, what of the alleged support for Catholic Tradition in 2 Th 3:6? Clearly when the verse is examined in context, that support simply evaporates before your eyes!



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