Let’s go back to the beginning of 2 Thessalonians 3, specifically, the end of verse 2, for not everyone has faith. NIV All but one of the Bibles from the list I generally use have much the same wording. But when I look at the Greek, I see, not for of all the faith, faithful. The last two words in Greek are pistis and pistos. Pistis means conviction of religion, a system of religion. Pistos means believing, true.
I think that the Message has the best translation; I’m finding that not all “believers” are believers. MSG While it is easy to read most of the translations as the non-Christians are not Christians, what Paul is saying is that many who claim to be Christians are not.
If we read the letter up to this statement, Paul is talking about the persecutions the Thessalonians were facing, so it is reasonable to assume that not for of all the faith, faithful would refer to those outside the Christian fellowship. But as we read chapter 3 as a standalone, the opening verse of today’s assigned reading is; On the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, we direct you, brothers, to part company with every brother who bucks out of the harness and refuses to live by the instructions you got from us. Cotton Patch Version
Paul does not often invoke Jesus’ name in his letters. He mostly speaks with the certain knowledge that his words are the words that Jesus would use, so he feels no need to say so. Here he feels the need to stress the point: Jesus wants you to live in harmony with the Word.
What was happening in the fellowship? If we look back to the first letter to Thessalonica, we will not see any reference to trouble within the believers. In fact, most of the letter praises their firm commitment to God and His Son. Paul does write of the hardships non-believers are dumping on them.
In this second letter, Paul continues to praise their steadfastness. Until the reading for today. It seems that the Thessalonian fellowship followed the principle of sharing everything described in Acts 4:32. The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common. NJB
Unfortunately, Now we hear that you have some among you living quite undisciplined lives, never doing a stroke of work, and busy only in other people’s affairs. Phillips These are people who claim to be believers but who are not following through in their daily lives. To them, Paul says; Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. NIV
The fellowship in Thessalonica practiced Christian communism. I use that word in the technical sense. In their pure natures, there are three main economic forms: communism on one end, socialism in the middle, and capitalism at the other end. They are neither good nor bad. We often get upset with how we are governed, which is usually where the problems arise. We also rarely see them in their pure forms.
The Thessalonians were sharing in a pure form of communism. Now, they were each out in the marketplace, earning money in the capitalistic system, so you can reprimand me for overstating the case. Still, within the fellowship, if Joe earns 1,000 denarii and Jacob earns 100, it all goes into the pot to be shared equally.
There are today many Christian fellowships who practice sharing equally, as there has been every year since Pentecost. As I study the Word, it is clear to me that sharing is part of our Christian DNA. We should work in this world as capitalists and share as communists.
All right, no more c-word.
As to sharing, does Jesus expect us to share with non-believers? Should we be running soup kitchens? Or should we keep our giving within the family?
There is no clear statement either way in the Gospels or the Letters. When we watch Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man willing to share with everyone. He did state that his mission was to the Jews, but we have several occasions of him dealing with non-Jews. In Acts 3:6, we read Peter’s words to a man who could not walk: “If you are expecting silver or gold,” Peter said to him, “I have neither, but what I have I will certainly give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” Phillips Peter and John did not check his passport to see if he was a proper citizen.
I do not see Jesus as isolationist, nationalist, insular, bigoted, partisan, cliquish, exclusive, restrictive, antagonistic, segregated, denominational, or unjust. Jesus loves every human on earth in equal measure. Jesus loved Judas, even knowing he would sell him out. Jesus loves Baptists and Catholics, Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons and Episcopalians. He loves Moslems, Buddhists, and every other religion. He even loves Democrats and Republicans alike. In short, everyone. He expects us to do the same. He did not say it would be easy.
Be righteous and do good.