An Open Letter To The Idle Believer.

#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?


In our inaugural post of the year, we examined the first four of 12 instructions given to us this year taken from I Thessalonians 5:12-22. We decided to implement these instructions by on one of them each month. For March, our instruction is to:


In admonishing the idle, this post will approach from four aspects:

  • The idleness of hand.
  • The idleness of mind.
  • Consequences of idleness.
  • Dealing with idleness.

Before we get started, let’s examine the general warning against idleness contained in II Thessalonians 3:6-15.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour, we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now, such persons, we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own livingAs for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

II Thessalonians 3:6-15 [ESV]

This passage of scripture speaks about how to deal with a believer who is walking in idleness, particularly, idleness of hand. In those days, Paul was speaking to people who thought that because Jesus was coming soon, there was no need to work and all they had to do was laze around doing nothing while waiting for His return. As such, they became very burdensome to the church as were living off of the hard work of others. We are told to warn such people as brothers but not regard them as our enemies. Instead, we continue to encourage them to do their work quietly and earn their own living.

1. The Idleness Of Hand.

A believer suffering from idleness of hand refers not just to someone who has absolutely nothing doing to earn a living, but also someone who has abandoned their calling for one reason or another.

As believers, we are not just idle when we have no earthly jobs but when we especially do not live up to our spiritual callings. It is not enough to focus on the work needed to survive in this world, we also need to go about the work of God’s kingdom.

When we fail to do either, especially the latter, we become idle in hand and this leads to our next heading:

2. The Idleness of Mind.

“For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.”

Those who are not busy working become gossips and busybodies. This is quite straightforward because if you have no business of your own to do, or if you neglect your business, you will end up busying yourself with the affairs of others that do not concern you.

Once you give in to the spirit of idleness, the devil will soon come to find something for your corrupted heart to do. The mind is a busy thing, always working round the clock, for some even while we’re asleep through dreams and visions. If the mind is not focused on doing good, it will soon be employed by the enemy to do evil. This is why we MUST renew our minds with the Word as instructed in Romans 12:1-2.

The idleness of mind is described further in I Timothy 5:13, where the apostle warns believers to beware of those who “learn” to be idle. Such people go from house to house gossiping, telling tales and speaking things they should not. This shows that idleness is not just something that happens suddenly, it is something that is learned. Once compromise on hard work becomes consistent, laziness sets in and idleness becomes the norm in a person’s life.

3. The Consequences of Idleness.

Once idleness becomes the norm in a person’s life, a number of consequences arise such as:

i. Poverty & Hunger: Our main scripture duly notes, if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. This is also noted in Proverbs 19:15, which says:

Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.

It is clear that the idea conveyed in both verses is that a person who is idle will eventually go hungry and be unable to take care of himself and any family he/she may have.

ii. Sinful Actions: An idle person who is now suffering from poverty and hunger will eventually be led to commit sinful actions if he does not quickly repent. They will be easily tempted to sin in order to be able to cater to their needs and desires. Paul gives an interesting example in I Timothy 5:11-13:

But refuse to enrol younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

This clearly demonstrates how these widows who abandon their faith, become idle gossips, going about sinning by saying what they should not. In our century, idleness often leads to gambling, alcoholism, pornography and all sorts of other nasty activities. Again, this is because the mind is busy thing! If it is not invested in doing good, it will be harnessed for the purpose of doing evil.

iii. Unclean Spirits: We all know the scripture that says, once sin is fully grown, the result is death. So also, once idleness leads to sinful actions in the life of a believer, it is not much longer before unclean spirits begin to make themselves at home within his/her consciousness. In Matthew 12:43-45, we are told the story of an unclean spirit who returns with seven other spirits worse than itself, after finding a person’s mindempty, swept, and put in order”. An empty mind that is devoid of God’s word is ripe for plucking by the adversary, and we must give him no occasion to do so by ensuring that our minds are kept busy, invested in doing the Lord’s work.

4. Dealing With Idleness

It is important for believers to understand not only how to warn an idle person, but also to be able to explain to an idle person how they can desist from such behaviour. So first, we’ll examine:

How to warn an idle person

According to II Thessalonians 3:6-15, there are a number of steps to take in warning someone who is idle. First off, one should not accuse a person of the sin of idleness without sufficient proof.

Second, we are not to consider an idle believer our enemy. This means that we are to warn them in a private, yet friendly manner, reminding them of their sin as we would a son, daughter, sister, brother, father or mother. If after doing this, they still will not listen and remain in disobedience, then we are to stop associating with such person.

The reason for this is so that we too do not fall into the same trap, for iron sharpens iron and evil communication corrupts good morals. The longer we keep the company of the idle, the more we risk becoming idle ourselves.

Another reason to stop keeping their company is so they may realise their wrongdoings, if they see that their actions are frowned upon by other believers, this may awaken them to their wrongdoings and eventually lead to their reform. Once a person has heeded the warning against idleness, believers must take steps to advise them on how to desist from this mode of living.

How to stop being idle

1. Get Wisdom: Godly wisdom is needed for victory in the fight against idleness. In Proverbs 6:6, the lazy-boned person is told to learn the ways of the ant and become wise. Ants are extremely hardworking creatures. They know how to gather all they need to survive and how to make use of their resources. We too need the wisdom to live a hardworking life, else we may labour over meaningless things. According to James 3, the wisdom of God is open to reason, pure, peaceful and sincere; all the things a person needs to defeat a lifestyle of idleness. Once we have Godly wisdom, we will know how to live a life that is filled with fruitfulness!

2. Manage Your Household: In Proverbs 31:27, we are told of a woman who looks after her household well and does not “eat the bread of idleness”. This has deep applications for men and women alike. Not only does it speak once again to the importance of hard work, it also notes that we ought to mind our own business. A person who is minding their own household has no time to meddle in the affairs of other households that do not concern them. Such person has no time for gossip tales and merry-go-rounding. Focusing on what is important to you will keep you from eating the bread of idleness. So watch your own affairs. Take out the log in your eye, before going about removing specks in the eyes of others!

3. Renew Your Mind Daily: In our encounters with the citizens of this world, we may sometimes see or hear things that leave a nasty taste in our mouths, dwelling on such thoughts in our minds can cause us to become idle and discouraged. However, we can stop our minds from going idle by filling it with God’s word. Philippians 4:8 encourages every believer to focus their thoughts on good, honourable, just, pure and edifying things, which are of excellent nature and worthy of praise. Thinking about these things will refresh our spirits and clean our minds of the filth of this world, which we go through every day. You can read more about renewing your mind here!


Many Christians come to church only to gossip about their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It should not be so. We must quietly labour, lest we become busybodies.

A true Christian ought to be focused on the work of God’s kingdom, for the harvest grows increasingly stronger every day! God is always in need of more labourers to plough His fields, so there is no reason for any believer to stay idle doing nothing or to go about meddling in the matters of others.

Find something for your hands to be doing, and do it excellently to the glory of our Heavenly Father and Most High God.

It is the will of God that every man should have a calling, and mind his calling, and make a business of it, and that none should live like useless drones in the world. This is an excellent but rare composition, to be of an active yet quiet spirit, active in our own business and yet quiet as to other people’s.

[Matthew Henry’s Commentary]



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