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2 Thessalonians 3:10

ESV For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
NIV For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'
NASB For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
CSB In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: "If anyone isn't willing to work, he should not eat."
NLT Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: 'Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.'
KJV For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

What does 2 Thessalonians 3:10 mean?

Paul and his associates had taught the Thessalonian believers not to tolerate those who were capable of work, yet chose to be idle. In modern terms, such a person might be called a "slacker." Paul labels such a person as unworthy of assistance. He instructs the Thessalonians not to support those who were unwilling to work. This parallels guidelines given by Paul in passages such as 1 Timothy 5:11–13.

It's clear in the text itself, but worth emphasizing, that Paul did not say those who were unable to work were unworthy of support. There is absolutely no similarity between someone physically unable to work and someone who is able to work but refuses to do so. Jesus put His stamp of approval on helping the poor, when He told a man, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21). If Christians are poor and needy through no fault of their own, their fellow believers should help them financially and/or materially. For this reason many churches maintain a benevolence fund. Paul collected money to help the poor believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27–30; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1–3; Galatians 2:10).

This guideline is not about being judgmental or vindictive. Rather it is practical, spiritual, and loving. Resources which could have truly helped the helpless are wasted when given, instead, to those who are simply lazy. Supporting those who are content to live on handouts enables a spiritually-toxic attitude (Proverbs 18:9,; 19:15). This discernment can be uplifting: an able-bodied person will often stop looking for handouts and start looking for employment when the stomach growls or the rent comes due. For the good of the church, the culture, and the lazy person themselves, believers have an obligation not to give charity to those who are merely freeloading.
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