And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 1 Thessalonians 3:14-15

This is a pretty harsh statement for a softy like me. So I read the Message version to try to understand it better.

If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don’t let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he’ll think twice. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares. The Message

What is the clear command? I went to the Message again.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-9 Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.

10-13Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.

Paul had a pretty strong view on free loaders. He was a very strong leader, who made wrote very clear instructions in his letters. I have a few thoughts on this. Firstly, we know that people who work hard, feel a sense of satisfaction, and are generally happier, so it’s good advice to people, to say, you need to work. They say that many die soon after they retire, because they have nothing to live for. I look at Rob Morton as the exception to the rule. Since he’s retired, he’s volunteered at New Hope, and at Healing rooms, and is very busy with the work of the ministry.

Secondly, if we allow freeloaders to lounge around and waste their time. We are condoning their lukewarmness. The parable of the talents is very clear that we are to invest all that we have for the kingdom. We go on in our churches about sins of immorality, and others, but what about the sin of laziness?

The tough bit here is, “do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” The message version explains it a bit nicer, “don’t let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he’ll think twice. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares.”

Wayne Cordeiro said recently one of the biggest problems facing todays church is showing Grace without bringing correction. Where Shepherds know how to use the staff to gently guide the sheep, but don’t know how to use the rod of correction and discipline the sheep. Sometimes we need to use tough love to teach people a lesson. To show that we won’t put up with their laziness, and lukewarmness.

Lord, give me wisdom to know when to show Grace and when to bring correction. Help me to take seriously your direction from the word of God. In Jesus name, Amen.