2 Thessalonians 3:11
For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) For we hear.—Explaining how St. Paul came to speak upon the topic at all. Hitherto he has only been giving directions, without saying why. News had been brought back, no doubt, by the bearers of the First Epistle.

Walk among you disorderly.—A verbal repetition of 2Thessalonians 3:6. It is not quite the same as “some among you which walk disorderly,” for the words “among you” represent the vague and various directions taken by those aimless feet, going about from house to house, workshop to workshop.

Working not at all, but are busybodies.—This is what the disorderliness consists in, as we should have seen from 2Thessalonians 3:10. There is a scornful play of words here in the Greek which is lost sight of in the English: the word for “busybodies” being merely a compound form of the word “working.” Quite literally, the compound means “working enough and to spare,” “being overbusy,” “overdoing;” then, as a man cannot possibly overdo what it is his own duty to do, it comes to signify (1) doing useless things, things which concern no one, and might as well be left alone: as, for instance, magic, which is described by this word in Acts 19:19; or natural science, which is so described in the Athenians’ accusation of Socrates! (2) Meddling with matters which do not concern the doer, but do concern other people: so used in 1Timothy 5:13. Prof Lightfoot suggests (On a Fresh Revision, p. 59; comp. p. xviii., 2nd ed.) that the play can be kept up through the words “business” and “busy”: we might perhaps say, “not being business men, but busybodies.” But which of the two notions mentioned above is to be considered most prominent here we cannot tell for certain. (a) The Thessalonians do not seem to have been much carried away by the first class of danger—idle speculations, such as those of the Colossian or Ephesian Churches. Yet we cannot altogether exclude this meaning here. St. Paul’s readers had been overbusy in theorising about the position of the departed at Christ’s coming (1Thessalonians 4:15, Note), and had been so eager over their idle doctrines of the Advent as to falsify, if not actually to forge, communications from St. Paul (2Thessalonians 2:2). Such false inquisitiveness and gossiping discussions might well be described by the Greek word with which we are dealing. (b) Everything, however, points to a more practical form of the same disposition to mask idleness under cloak of work; feverish excitement, which leads men to meddle and interfere with others, perhaps to spend time in “religious” work which ought not to have been spared from every-day duties. (See 1Thessalonians 4:11-12, and Notes.) There is nothing to show definitely how this busy idleness arose, but it may very probably be the shaken and troubled condition of mind spoken of in 2Thessalonians 2:2.

3:6-15 Those who have received the gospel, are to live according to the gospel. Such as could work, and would not, were not to be maintained in idleness. Christianity is not to countenance slothfulness, which would consume what is meant to encourage the industrious, and to support the sick and afflicted. Industry in our callings as men, is a duty required by our calling as Christians. But some expected to be maintained in idleness, and indulged a curious and conceited temper. They meddled with the concerns of others, and did much harm. It is a great error and abuse of religion, to make it a cloak for idleness or any other sin. The servant who waits for the coming of his Lord aright, must be working as his Lord has commanded. If we are idle, the devil and a corrupt heart will soon find us somewhat to do. The mind of man is a busy thing; if it is not employed in doing good, it will be doing evil. It is an excellent, but rare union, to be active in our own business, yet quiet as to other people's. If any refused to labour with quietness, they were to note him with censure, and to separate from his company, yet they were to seek his good by loving admonitions. The Lords is with you while you are with him. Hold on your way, and hold on to the end. We must never give over, or tire in our work. It will be time enough to rest when we come to heaven.For we hear - It is not known in what way this was made known to Paul, whether by Timothy, or by some other one. He had no doubt of its truth, and he seems to have been prepared to believe it the more readily from what he saw when he was among them.

Which walk disorderly - See the notes, 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

But are busy-bodies - Compare the 1 Timothy 5:13 note; 1 Peter 4:15 note. That is, they meddled with the affairs of others - a thing which they who have nothing of their own to busy themselves about will be very likely to do. The apostle had seen that there was a tendency to his when he was in Thessalonica, and hence he had commanded them to "do their own business;" 1 Thessalonians 4:11. The injunction, it seems, had availed little, for there is no class of persons who will heed good counsel so little as those who have a propensity to intermeddle with the affairs of others. One of the indispensable things to check this is, that each one should have enough to do himself; and one of the most pestiferous of all persons is he who has nothing to do but to look after the affairs of his neighbors. In times of affliction and want, we should be ready to lend our aid. At other times, we should feel that he can manage his own affairs as well as we can do it for him; or if he cannot, it is his business, not ours. The Greek word used occurs only here, and in 1 Timothy 5:13; compare the notes on Philippians 2:4.

11. busy bodies—In the Greek the similarity of sound marks the antithesis, "Doing none of their own business, yet overdoing in the business of others." Busy about everyone's business but their own. "Nature abhors a vacuum"; so if not doing one's own business, one is apt to meddle with his neighbor's business. Idleness is the parent of busybodies (1Ti 5:13). Contrast 1Th 4:11. For we hear: the apostle gives the reason of this discourse he fell into about disorder, and commends, yea, commands, a remedy against it. He had heard of this disorderly walking, else his discourse might have been esteemed vain and needless. Reports are to obtain credit according to the quality of the person that makes them, his end therein, and probability of truth. He took notice of reports brought to him about the divisions that were at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:18.

That there are some among you: and the persons that he here chargeth the report upon, are not all, but some only, and he nameth none; for as to the body of the church, he had confidence they did, and would do, the things he commanded, 2 Thessalonians 3:4. And he requires them to withdraw from the disorderly.

Which walk among you disorderly, working not at all: and the disorder he chargeth upon these some is:

1. Mhden ergazomenouv, that they worked not at all, at least not the work of their own place, as it follows.

2. But are busybodies; busy, and yet idle, and not working; periergazomenouv curieusement, French Bible; as the curious arts of sorcerers are called perierga, Acts 19:19. The word signifies working about, and denotes either vain curiosity, meddling in matters that they ought not, or going round their proper work, but not falling or fixing upon it. The same the apostle speaks of younger widows, 1 Timothy 5:13, who learnt to be idle, and yet were busybodies; and such are called allotrioepiskopoi, 1 Peter 4:15. And the one follows from the other; for they that are idle and neglect their own business will be apt to intermeddle in another’s: and they that are not keepers at home, will be gadders abroad, and so not eat their own, but others’ bread, which the apostle here reproves, as dishonourable to the Christian profession; and, as a further remedy, doth with much earnestness address his speech particularly to them. For we hear that there are some,.... This is the reason of the order or command given in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 for withdrawing from disorderly persons. When the apostle was with them, he observed that there were idle persons among them, and therefore gave orders then, that if they would not work, they should not eat; and in his former epistle, having intelligence that there were still such persons among them, he exhorts them to their duty, and puts the church upon admonishing them; and still information is given him, that there were some such persons yet among them; for as the apostle had the care of all the churches upon him, so he kept a correspondence with them, and by one means or another, by sending messengers to them, or by receiving letters from those he corresponded with, he learned the state of them; and his information was generally good, and what might be depended upon; see 1 Corinthians 1:11 as it was in this case relating to some persons: which walk among you disorderly; and who they were, and which also explains 2 Thessalonians 3:6, are immediately observed: working not at all; at their callings, trades, and businesses in which they were brought up, but lived an idle and lazy life: and this was walking disorderly indeed, even contrary to the order of things before the fall, when man was in a state of innocence; for before sin entered into the world, Adam was put into the garden of Eden to keep and dress it; man was created an active creature, and made for work and business; and to live without, is contrary to the order of creation, as well as to the order of civil societies, and of religious ones, or churches, and even what irrational creatures do not.

But are busy bodies; though they work not at all at their own business, yet are very busy in other men's matters, and have the affairs of kingdoms, and cities, and towns, and neighbourhoods, and churches, and families, upon their hands; which they thrust themselves into, and intermeddle with, though they have no business at all with them: these wander from house to house, and curiously inquire into personal and family affairs, are tattlers, full of prate and talk, and, like the Athenians, spend all their time in telling or hearing new things; and they also speak things which they should not; they carry tales from one to another, and privately whisper things to the disadvantage of their fellow creatures and Christians, and backbite and slander them. These are the pests of nations and neighbourhoods, the plagues of churches, and the scandal of human nature; see 1 Timothy 5:13.

For we hear that there are some which walk among {7} you disorderly, working not at all, {8} but are busybodies.

(7) How great a fault idleness is, he declares in that God created no man in vain or to no purpose, neither is there any to whom he has not allotted as it were a certain position and place. From which it follows, that the order which God has appointed is troubled by the idle, indeed broken, which is great sin and wickedness.

(8) He reprehends a vice, which is joined with the former, upon which follows an infinite sort of mischiefs: that is, that there are none more busy in other men's matters, than they who neglect their own.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Thessalonians 3:11. The reason for reminding them of this saying, 2 Thessalonians 3:10. Arbitrarily, Hofmann: γάρ refers to the whole section 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10. The verb περιεργάζεσθαι is only found here in the N. T. (but comp. περίεργος, 1 Timothy 5:13, and τὰ περίεργα πράσσειν, Acts 19:19). It denotes a bustling disposition, busy in useless and superfluous things, about which one should not trouble himself. Paul thinks on the fanatical excitement, on account of which one busied himself about everything except the fulfilment of the duties of his earthly calling. περιεργαζομένους forms a paronomasia with μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους.[71] Comp. Quintilian, inst. orat. vi. 3. 54: Afer enim venuste Mallium Suram, multum in agendo discursantem, salientem, manus jactantem, togam dejicientem et reponentem, non agere dixit sed satagere.

[71] Ewald translates it: “nicht Arbeit treibend, sondern sich herumtreibend.”2 Thessalonians 3:11. The γάρ goes back to 2 Thessalonians 3:6. “Whereas I am told that some of your number are behaving in a disorderly fashion, not busy but busybodies,” fussy and officious, doing anything but attending to their daily trade. “Ab otio ualde procliue est hominum ingenium ad curiositatem” (Bengel). The first persecution at Thessalonica had been fostered by a number of fanatical loungers (Acts 17:5). On the sensible attitude of the primitive church to labour, see Harnack’s Expansion, i. 215 f. M. Aurelius (iii. 4) warns people against idle, fussy habits, but especially against τὸ περίεργον καὶ κακόηθες, and an apt parallel to this use of ἀτάκτως lies in Dem. Olynth., iii. 34: ὅσα (funds or food) οὗτος ἀτάκτως νῦν λαμβάνων (i.e., takes without rendering personal service in the field) οὐκ ὠφελεῖ, ταῦτʼ ἐν ἰσῇ τάξει λαμβανέτω.11. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly] Rather, we hear of some walking, &c. It was not simply that the Apostle heard that there were such people at Thessalonica; he knew about them,—who they were, and how they were behaving. Further news had come since he wrote the First Epistle, in which he touched briefly, in mild and general terms, upon the subject (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). Now he is compelled to single out the offenders and to address them with pointed censure. For similar allusions to reports from a distant Church, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 10:18.

He writes, “some which walk among you disorderly” (not “some among you which walk,” &c.), which implies that their public conduct and relations with the rest of the Church were irregular.

On “walk disorderly,” see note to 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

This disorder was not merely negative, consisting in refusal to work: mischief and idleness are proverbially companions; and we are not surprised to find the Apostle adding the further condemnation, that work not at all, but are busybodies (R.V.).

There is a play of words in the Greek, which gives to this reproach a keener edge, whose one business is to be busybodies; or rendered still more freely, minding everybody’s business but their own,—idly busy with the concerns of others. These mischief-makers the Apostle had already bidden to “study to be quiet and to do their own work” (1 Thessalonians 4:11); comp. the extended note on 2 Thessalonians 3:8 above. For the same disposition St Paul in 1 Timothy 5:13 reproves certain “younger widows”—“not only idlers, but tattlers also and busybodies.”

For similar examples of paronomasia in St Paul, see 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (“faith … faithful”), Romans 1:20 (“The unseen … clearly seen”); Introd. p. 33.2 Thessalonians 3:11. Ἀλλὰ, but) From a state of idleness, the disposition of men is naturally prone to pass to the indulgence of curiosity. For nature always seeks something to do.[28]—ΠΕΡΙΕΡΓΑΖΟΜΈΝΟΝς, busybodies [curiously-inquisitive]) Opposed to doing one’s own business,[29] 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

[28] And if not doing one’s own business, a man for want of something to do meddles with his neighbour’s business. For “Nature abhors a vacuum.”—ED.

[29] The antithesis is conveyed by the very sound of the words in the original, μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους, ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομέυους, doing none of their own business, and yet over-officious in the business of others.—ED.Verse 11. - For; the reason for the allusion to this proverb. We hear. The apostle had either heard from Timothy who had rejoined him from Thessalonica, or from the report of the bearers of the First Epistle. That there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. There is here a paranomasia or play upon words, the words "working" and "busybodies" being cognate. It is difficult to preserve the resemblance in a translation. "Busy only with what is not their own business" (Jowett); "Working at no business, but being busybodies" (Ellicott); "Not busy, but busybodies" (Wordsworth). The word "busybodies" denotes busy in useless and superfluous things, about which one need not trouble himself - occupied about trifles. The apostle refers to the fanatical excitement in the Church on account of which the Thessalonians, instead of occupying themselves with the fulfilment of the duties of their earthly calling, busied themselves about matters which were unprofitable and vain. Working not at all - busybodies (μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους - περιεργαζομένους)

One of Paul's frequent wordplays. See on reprobate mind, Romans 1:28. Not busy, but busybodies. Περιεργάζεσθαι (N.T.o.) is to bustle about a thing: here, to be officious in others' affairs. See on τὰ περίεργα curious arts, Acts 19:19, and see on 1 Timothy 5:13.

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