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Tyndale Bulletin 40.2 (1989) 303-315.




Bruce W. Winter

In writing to the Thessalonians Paul reminds the church of the

teaching he gave them concerning work when he was with

...with toil and labour we worked day and night, that we might not

burden any of you. It is not because we have not that right, but to give

you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with

you, we gave you the command, 'If any one does not wish to work, let

him not eat' (εἴ τις οὐ θέλει ἐργάζεσθαι μηδὲ ἐσθιέτω). For we

hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not

doing any work. Now we command and exhort such persons in the

Lord Jesus Chris to do their work with quietness and earn their own

living. Brothers, in the doing of good you must not grow weary (2

Thess. 3:8-11).

Paul repeats to the church his original exhortation

elsewhere 'to do their work, to earn their own living, as we

charged you, so that you may command the respect of outsiders,

and be dependent on nobody', 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12.

In a recent discussion of the refusal of certain Christians

in Thessalonica to work, R. Russell has made the observation

that 'whatever encouraged their behaviour preceded these

eschatological problems because disorderly behaviour existed

from the beginning'.1 He argues that the problem was a social

rather than an eschatological one. To what may this problem

be attributed? number of suggestions have been made.

Russell himself argues that 'the opportunities for

employment were limited, and with scarcity of work idleness

was more widespread and wages even lower'. Thus, as a result

of unemployment, some had become poor and had received

support from members of the congregation who had means.2 If

this is correct, then Paul's solution was an unsympathetic and


1 R. Russell, 'The Idle in 2 Thess 3.6-12', NTS 34 (1988) 108.

2 Russell, 'The Idle' 112, 108.

304 TYNDALE BULLETIN 40 (1989)

impractical one, for if any were unemployed through lack of job

opportunities, then ipso facto they could not eat, 2

Thessalonians 3:10b.

A. Malherbe speculates that the fact that 'the converts

abandoned their trades and took to the streets (as Cynic

preachers did), helps to explain Paul's preoccupation with his

own and his converts' employment'.3 Dio Chrysostom in his

Alexandrian oration provides first century evidence of the

Cynic teachers offering their instruction free of charge in

contrast to others who accepted fees. They begged for support on

street corners from all and sundry.4 However, the esteeming of

Christian teachers on the one hand in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

and the exhortation to 'admonish the idlers' on the other hand

which follows immediately, seems out of place if it is true that

the unemployed have left their work to preach as the Cynic

teachers did.

Was the reluctance to work related to attitudes to

manual labour, 'working with their hands'? The view has been

canvassed that the first century's disdain for manual work was

at the heart of the Thessalonian problem.5 Artisans certainly

were not esteemed even if their work was admired. Plutarch

states, for example, that 'while we delight in the work [of

craftsmen and artisans], we despise the workman ... it does not

necessarily follow that, if the work delights you with its

graces, the one who wrought it is worthy of your esteem'.6 This

is but one comment reflecting the upper class's attitude to

manual workers. This, however, does not explain why some in

Thessalonica assumed responsibility to provide for their fellow

citizens whom it is assumed they despised.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-8 would seem to imply that there

was a convention of providentia which existed prior to Paul's


3 Malherbe, Paul and the Thessalonians (Philadelphia, Fortress Press 1987)

10 .

4 Dio Chrysostom, Or. 32.9.

5 e g. Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians (London, Marshall Morgan and Scott

1983) 223.

6 Lives, Pericles, 1.4-11.1, 2. In denigrating their opponents the sophists who

were from the social elite boasted they they knew nothing of labour, πόνον οὐκ

εἰδότες, and they spoke ill of those whom they describe as easy to despise

(εὐκαταφρόνητοι), Philo, Det. 33-4.

WINTER: 'If a Μan Does Not Wish to Work' 305
initial coming to Thessalonica, and one which he set about

resolving while still there. He refers to 'the tradition you

received from us.7 For you yourselves know how you ought to

imitate us . . . we worked day and night . . . to give you in your

conduct an example to imitate'.

The purpose of this paper is to suggest the providentia

convention of patron/client relationship as the cause of the

unwillingness of some in Thessalonica to work. It is proposed to

discuss (I) The patron/client relationship (II) Paul's call not to

be dependent on a patron (III) providentia in the face of

famines in Macedonia as the possible cause for the setting aside

of Paul's teaching, and (IV) Paul's teaching on the role of

Christians as benefactors not clients.
I. The Patron/Client Relationship
Russell suggests without further analysis that because the poor

'developed a relationship (friendship) with a benefactor or

patron whereby they would receive support, money or food in

exchange for that obligation to reciprocate with an expression of

gratitude', so to some of the Christian 'urban poor... may have

formed a client relationship and obligation to the benefactor'.8

What did such a relationship involve? Sailer writes,

The aristocratic social milieu of the Republic continued into the

Principate, and with it the basic notion that a man's social status was

reflected in the size of his following—a large clientèle symbolizing his

power to give inferiors what they needed. If a man's clientele was

indicative of his current status, his potential for mobility depended on

the effectiveness of his patrons whose wealth and political connections

could be indispensable. Perhaps partly because of the unchanging

social structure and values, financial institutions developed little, and

so Romans appear to have continued to rely largely on patrons, clients


7 παρελάβοσαν an aorist tense, v. 6, the implication being that both by word

and example Paul in Thessalonica drove home this message, undertaking what

he himself did not need to do because of his right of local support while

preaching the gospel, 1 Cor. 9:6, 12b, 14 citing the dominical fiat.

8 Russell, 'The Idle' 12-3.

306 TYNDALE BULLETIN 40 (1989)

and friends for loans or gifts in time of need, and assistance in

financial activities.9

At the heart of patronage was the social convention

which was called 'giving and receiving'.10 This meant more

than simply an expression of gratitude at the time of receiving

a gift. Once financial support had been given and received,

then this created a relationship which could be further

exploited by the receiver. The very return of profuse thanks for

a gift was the means of asking for more support:

The act of benefiting set up a chain of obligations. The beneficiary

had an obligation to respond to the gift with gratitude; his expression

of gratitude then placed the original benefactor under obligation to do

something further.11

One of the requirements of a client was that he should

attend the morning greeting, salutatio, in the reception room of

his patron and receive a gift of food or money.12 Indeed,

‘without the existence of the institution of patronage, the free

poor would not have received their daily bread’.13

There certainly were some in the church who were

wealthy and therefore potential benefactors. The name of

Aristarchus from Thessalonica in Acts 19:29 and 20:4 is possibly

one such person-if he is the same person as Aristarchus, son of

Aristarchus who heads a list of politarchs in that city, then he


9 R.P. Sailer, Personal Patronage under the Early Empire, (Cambridge, CUP

1982) 205. See also P. Marshall, Enmity in Corinth: Social Conventions in Paul's

Relations with the Corinthians (WUNT; Tübingen, J.C.B Mohr 1987) 143.

10 P. Marshall, Enmity in Corinth 157-164.

11 S.C. Mott, 'The Power of Giving and Receiving: Reciprocity in Hellenistic

Benevolence', in G.F. Hawthorne (ed.), Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic

Interpretation: Studies in Honor of Merril C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans

1975) 60-72 esp. 63 'the expression of gratitude placed a valid claim for further

benefits upon the benefactor'. 'Gratitude for one favour is the best method of

securing another"', ibid., citing C.B. Welles, Royal Correspondence in the

Hellenistic Period: A Study of Greek Epigraphy (New Haven, Yale University

Press 1934) 108.

12 N. Lewis and M. Reinhold, Roman Civilization Sourcebook II: The Empire

NewYork, Harper and Row, 1966) 240 citing Juvenal, Satires III 11. 129-130 on

paying morning respects to a patron.

13 P. Garnsey, Food and Famine, 214; M.I. Finley, The Ancient Economy,

(London, 19852) 198-204 on distributions and the poor.

WINTER: 'If a Man Does Not Wish to Work' 307
certainly would have been a person of means.14 Jason who

appears to have been Paul's host in Thessalonica and sent his

greeting to the church in Rome, may well have been a man of

means.15 There were 'not a few of the leading women' who

became converts according to Acts 17:4.16 As such they were not

precluded from giving public and private benefactions as

illustrated from the inscription to Junia Theodora c. AD 43.17

If some patrons were now Christians, what would have

happened to their clients? A Christian patron would still

have been under an obligation to support non-Christian clients,

for changing his religion would not have abrogated his

responsibility. There is good reason to suppose that converted

patrons would have made every attempt to share their new

found faith with the former, for they would have constituted

an immediate sphere of influence. Becoming a Christian would

not have automatically relieved a patron of his obligation to

continue to give help to Christian clients if they asked for

support. In fact, refusal to do so would have created a

relationship of enmity which could affect relationships in the


14 See C.J. Hemer (ed. C.H. Gempf), The Book of Acts in the Setting of

Hellenistic History (Tübingen, J.C.B. Mohr 1989) 236.

15 Acts 17:5-7 Romans 16:21, and R. Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence:

Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety (Philadelphia, Fortress Press 1986)

120 contra G. Theissen, 'Social Stratification in the Corinthian Community: A

Contribution to the Sociology of Early Hellenistic Christianity', The Social

Setting of Pauline Christianity, (Philadelphia, Fortress Press 1982) 95,

believes that the social status of Jason remains an open question.

16 Some have doubted the integrity of the account of the social composition of

the new church in Acts 17:4 because of the exhortations to the idle to work in

the Thessalonian corpus. Even if the Acts account contained no references to

people of status in the church in Thessalonica, the existence of a few wealthy

members would need to be presupposed. As Jewett, Thessalonian

Correspondence 120, comments after reviewing J. Murphy-O'Connor,

'Archaeology', St. Paul's Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (Wilmington,

Michael Glazier 1943) Part 3, 'the archaeological evidence in the Greek cities

renders it essential to assume the presence of a few patrons whose houses were

large enough to serve as centres for house churches'.

17 D.I. Pallas, 'Insciptions Lyciennes trouvées à Solomos près de Corinthe',

BCH, 58 (1959) 498-500 for the texts and L Robert, 'Recherches épigraphiques',

REA 62 (1960) 324 ff. no 7 for the dating of the decree c. AD 43. For a discussion

of the role of Roman women see A.J. Marshall, 'Roman Women and the

Provinces', Ancient Society, 6 (1975) 108-27 and R MacMullen, 'Women in

Public in the Roman Empire', Historia, 29 (1980) 208-20.

308 TYNDALE BULLETIN 40 (1989)
church, especially if they met in a Christian household or

households for worship.18

II. 'Dependent on nobody'
Juvenal in his satire on 'How Clients are Entertained' belittles

the 'plan of life' some have who 'still deem it to be the highest

bliss to live at another man's board', ut bona summa putes

aliena vivere quadra. He describes the inferior food a client

may be served at a dinner at which his patron is given the very

best.19 At the dinner the client speaks to his patron in the hope

of soliciting a gift from him:

No one asks of you such lordly gifts as Seneca or the good Piso or

Cotto used to send to their humble friends: for in the days of old, the

glory of giving was deemed grander than titles or fasces. All we ask of

you is that you should dine with us as a fellow-citizen: do this and

remain like so many others nowadays, rich for yourself and poor to

your friends.20

A client may live in the unrealistic hope that his

patron will bestow a gift of 400,000 sesterces, the sum required

for the client to become a knight, census equestris, making him

ex nihilo into his 'dear' friend but placing him under a deep

obligation. However his patron may be mean, for if the client's

wife produced three boys, at the birth of each he would 'order

little green jackets to be given to them, and little nuts, and

pennies too if they be asked for, when the little parasites

present themselves at his table'.21 Such an existence was

inappropiate for Christians who were to be 'dependent on

nobody' (μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε) for they were to work with

their own hands 'as we charged you'. This teaching was given

in situ, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, and 5:14. Paul himself would

not be dependent upon the Thessalonian church while he was

there, although he was within his rights to do so. Working

‘night and day’ he felt that he had provided an example for


18 P. Marshall, Enmity in Corinth 20.

19 Satire V, /I. 2, 80 ff.

20 Satire V, 11. 110-13.

21 Satire V, 11. 132-5, 142-5.
WINTER: 'If a Man Does Not Wish to Work' 309
them to imitate 2 Thessalonians 3.8-9.22 Paul's purpose was to

wean such persons away from the welfare syndrome, be the

source a wealthy Christian or non-Christian patron.

Furthermore Paul is concerned that Christians should

'command the respect of outsiders', 1 Thessalonians 4:12. As

those who laboured with their hands certainly did not

command the respect of the well-to-do outsiders,23 it is

therefore possible that the outsiders to whom Paul refers had

been patrons of some of the Christians. A client had a financial

source to call upon for his daily food. If on the other hand, he

makes no further claims on his patron would he not earn the

respect of his patron?

III. Providentia in Times of Famine
Tacitus declares that AD 51 was an 'ominous' year. 'There

were earthquakes and subsequent panic in which the weak were

trampled under foot'. He also notes that there was a shortage

of corn again as consequence famine. These were construed by

some as 'a supernatural warning'.24 Famine and earthquakes

were seen as divine portents not only by pagans but also by

Christians who attached significance to these disasters as but

the beginning of the tribulation.25 This may well account for

the heightened eschatological concerns of the Thessalonians.26

It does not necessarily follow that the expectation of the

parousia resulted in the Thessalonian Christians refusing to



22 R. Hock, The Social Context of Paul's Ministry (Philadelphia, Fortress Press

1980) 48 'we may assume a paradigmatic function for his paraenesis on work'.

23 See p. 304.

24 Tacitus, Annals XII.43.

25 Mk. 13.8, Mt. 24:7-8.

26 1 Thess. 5:13 and 2 Thess. 1:5-2:12. For a similar reaction in Corinth see B.W.

Winter, 'Secular and Christian Responses to Corinthian Famines', TynB 40

(1989) 92-3.

27 For the most recent treatment in a long line making the connection between

the parousia and work in Thessalonica see R. Jewett, 'The Millenarian Model',

Thessalonian Correspondence, ch. 9. He bases this on sociological

investigations into millenarian movements including the twentieth-century

cargo cult, and presupposes a dispossessed or oppressed class in Thessalonica, an

idea derived from W. Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of

310 TYNDALE BULLETIN 40 (1989)
How did the Council and the People in Greek cities

handle the enormous problems associated with famine which

threatened its peace and welfare? 'The grain supply provides

the mainsprings of hatred and popularity. Hunger alone sets

cites free, and reverence is purchased when rulers feed the

lay mob.'28 Officially, the authorities might appoint a

curator annonae, curator of the grain supply, whose task it was

to ensure that grain was available at a reduced price in the

market place either by purchasing grain and dumping it on the

market at a substantially reduced price thus forcing down the

price, or by initiating a corn fund with donations from wealthy

benefactors to subsidize the price of grain likewise.29

How did various groups in Greek cities cope with the

actual shortages during famines? The monthly corn dole in

Rome was sufficient. For more than a century in the imperial

capital the corn dole was the right of a vast number of

inhabitants for whom this concession was not based on need but

citizenship. Did Roman citizens in Thessalonica receive the

corn dole as their counterparts did in Rome, or were these

citizens actually from Rome who claimed the dole when absent

from the capital? We know that in a later period Roman

citizens in Oxyrhynchus were entitled to the monthly corn

dole,30 and they came from three groupings. There were those

who had established their eligibility on the grounds that

their parents were Alexandrian and Roman citizens. Others

who were people of means and had undertaken liturgies thus

qualified, and yet others who had one metropolite parent.31

Whether this applied in Thessalonica is not known, but if it

did, then Rome and Oxyrhynchus are a guide as to who would


the Apostle Paul, (New Haven, Yale University Press 1983) 73 that the

‘typical’ Christian in the Pauline churches was 'a free artisan or small trader'.

28 Pharsalia, III 55-8.

29 See C.P. Jones, The Roman World of Dio Chrysostom (Loeb Classical

Monographs; Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 1978) 19.

30 R.J. Rowland, 'The "Very Poor" and the Grain Dole at Rome and

Oxyrhynchus', ZPE, 21 (1976) 69-72.

31 See J. Bingen, 'Declarations pour l'epichrisi', Chronique d'Egypte, 16 (1956)

116; C.A. Nelson, 'Epikrisis: The Identity and Function of the Officials', Akten

XIII Internationalen Papyrologenkongresses, (ed.) E. Kiessling and H.A.

Ruprecht, (München, 1974) 309-14. For discussion of the status and numbers in

Oyrhynchus see Garnsey, Food and Famine 265-6.

WINTER: 'If a Man Does Not Wish to Work' 311

have been eligible, viz., mostly well-to-do citizens. There may

have been a few in the Thessalonian congregation who

qualified if the dole was given to Roman citizens in that city.

Certainly wealthy householders could afford to buy

grain whether at an inflated or subsidized prices, and indeed

they may have stored sufficient grain for all, including their

slaves, in expectation of food shortages. There were legal

obligations the first century for a master who had

conditionally manumitted his slave and, in effect, had become

his patron. He was bound to him to feed him as his freedman if

the latter were unable to do so himself.32 So the freedman and

the slave were cared for.

To whom had the lower groups, that is, the non-slave

labourers and artisans looked in order to cope in a time of

famine? 'Mutual support between ordinary citizens linked by

kinship, proximity of residence or friendship, and exemplified

in the interest-free loan, was a defence against poverty,

hardship and the personal patronage of the wealthy'.33

While the last was something which the Athenians wished to

avoid for ideological reasons,34 there were always those who

were happy to have a patron support them in time of want, or

indeed, permanently. There was a famine in AD 51. Another

possibly occurred a little later if Corinth shared the same grain

shortage with Thessalonica.35

It has been suggested that idleness did not create an

internal problem for the church in the first letter but it only

does so in the second letter.36


32 A.M. Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire (Cambridge, W. Heffer

1958) 98 and K. Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves (Sociological Studies in Roman

History I; CUP 1978) 148.

33 Garnsey, Food and Famine 80.

34 P. Millett, 'Patronage and its avoidance in Classical Athens,' in A. Wallace-

Hadrill (ed.), Patronage in Ancient Society (London and New York, Routledge

1989) 15-47.

35 For evidence of further famine after AD 51 see my, 'Secular and Christian

Responses to Corinthian Famines', 99 for the date of 53 or 54. 2 Cor. 8:1 notes the

extreme poverty of the churches of Macedonia which may well be related to a

severe grain shortage and made Paul's Jerusalem collection even more difficult;

cf. Phil. 4:14. See also Garnsey, Food and Famine 261, on famines in Greece in

the 40s and 50s.

36 P. Marshall, Enmity in Corinth 172.

312 TYNDALE BULLETIN 40 (1989)

The problem of idleness in the church is said to sound like a new topic

in 2 Th. 3:11, whereas it sounds old in 1 Th. 4:11; moreover it is strange

that Paul refers back to his own example in 2 Thessalonians rather

than to his previous letter.37

Would a famine subsequent to the writing of 1 Thessalonians not

account for the fact that now the problem was 'a new topic'? It

was new in the sense that it is now an internal one for the

church because for the first time the Christian ἐκκλησία,

distinct from the city's ἐκκλησία, is faced with the problem of

how to react to members who needed help to purchase grain. It

would have been available, but, as has been noted, it was the

price that could be crippling for artisans and non-slave

labourers. The solution was its provision at a cheap price or as

a gift, depending on circumstances. Christian compassion would

have demanded that they did so.

The Thessalonian epistles do not state that the church

as a whole was feeding those who refused to work.38 There is

no evidence that the congregation had set up a soup-kitchen,

even if that were to happen subsequently in a Jewish synagogue

in the third century AD.39 Some members of the congregation

appear this time to have sought out the patronage of a rich

Christian as against secular private benefactors, for the

purpose of obtaining money to buy grain or a handout of free

grain. Others with Christian patrons could have easily

resumed a patron/client relationship. It would not have been

severed simply because clients had to ask for money or food in

the intervening period and had worked instead.

Once the need had passed did those who were assisted

now assume a client/patron relationship and by means of their

profuse thanks continue the cycle of giving and receiving?

Subsequent to the writing of 1 Thessalonians Paul learnt that

some who did not wish to work had in fact reverted to a

patron/client relationship.


37 I.H. Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians 25-6.

38 Contra I.H. Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians 226 who argues that Paul is not

telling the church to cut off their supply of food to the idle, but rather

admonishing the idle to change their ways.

39 J. Reynolds and R. Tannenbaum, Jews and Godfearers at Aphrodisias

(Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Association Supp 12;

Cambridge, Philological Society 1987) 27.

WINTER: 'If a Man Does Not Wish to Work' 313

IV. Christians as benefactors not clients
Paul's proscription on feeding was directed towards 'brethren'

who were to keep away from any brother who is living in

idleness, 2 Thessalonians 3:6. This serious apostolic injunction

which was commanded 'in the name of the Lord Jesus' was as

much a binding admonition on the rich and the generous not to

give, as it was on others not to ask, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14.40

Paul's intervention with this command ‘to keep away from a

brother who is idle’ may have been the only way of relieving

the patron of his obligation without the latter's refusal to

provide food being seen as an act of enmity within the church.41

The reference to 'those not working but being the busy

bodies' (μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομένους) suggests

that the idle tended to create problems, 3:11. περιπατοῦντας

ἐν ὑμῖν ἀτάκτως in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 refers not simply to

the workers' idleness but to their disorderly conduct. This is

normally taken to refer to their activity in the church.42 It

could however be a reference to activity required of a client in

support his patron's cause in πολιτεία.43 Paul would not have

wished his converts to create strife in the city following his

own hasty withdrawal after Jason stood surety for his good

behaviour. The Thessalonians had themselves encountered

problems subsequently.44


40 The term 'brethren' as an inclusive term for Christians would not rule out this

injunction applying to patronesses or to their οἰκονόμοι who would have had

the responsibility for distributing food in a household.

41 It has been assumed that those from whom the idle were receiving assistance

in Thessalonica were all Christians. Russell, 'The Idle' 113.

42 Russell, 'The Idle' 107-8.

43 See Aristotle, Politics 1319B 15. ποιεῖν τὴν πολιτείαν ἀτακτοτέραν. A.

Lintott, Violence, Civil Strife and Revolution in the Classical City (London &

Canberra, Croom Helm 1982) and B. Rawson, The Politics of Friendship,

Pompey and Cicero (Parramatta, Sydney University Press 1978). This

suggestion is far more likely than the argument of Jewett, Thessalonian

Correspondence 125, who explores the view that the members of the

congregation understood Paul's proclamation in political terms and possibly

they comprised 'disenfranchised labourers who were known to be restive under

Roman rule'.

44 Acts 17:8 and A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the

New Testament: The Sarum Lectures, 1960-1961 (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1963)

95-6. See 1 Thess. 1:8, 2:14, 3:3.

314 TYNDALE BULLETIN 40 (1989)
Most importantly, Paul reminds the idle that they

were not only to engage in paid activity to support themselves

(2 Thessalonians 3:12) but they were to be those who by means

of their money did good—οἱ καλοποιοῦντες, verse 13. It was

not simply a matter of keeping out of trouble nor indeed simply

become self-supporting, as important as both of those reasons

were. There was a far more over-arching consideration which

stood at the centre of Christian reflection and activity, viz., in

the doing of good which benefited the lives of others.

Paul's exhortations then do not have as their focus a

concern about offending civic order.45 His concerns are far wider

because of the on-going commitment of Christians to

benefactions. Given his commitment to social ethics in the

broad sense of a Christian relationalism which aimed to

bestow help and blessing on the every day life of other citizens,

his deep worry about some Thessalonians' welfare syndrome is

explicable.46 Christians were not only to command the respect

of outsiders by being self-sufficient, but they were to seek the

welfare of their city by having the wherewithal to do good to

others. Paul's perception of what that meant involved sharing

financial resources. The whole discussion in the Thessalonian

cοrpus, however, has made it clear that they were not to

shower indiscriminately money or goods in kind on all in the

church or on the undeserving, that is, those who could but would

not work, but to give to real needs.

The section ends with the call that in the midst of

doing good, they were not to grow weary.47 There may have

been those benefactors who were somewhat disillusioned with

other Christians because they had continued to exploit them to

their own advantage in spite of Paul's specific example and

teaching both at and away from Thessalonica. Furthermore,

the problems for these Christians may have caused some to

question whether in the face of a hostile city, Christian


45 Russell, 'The Idle' 109 believes 'this exhortation (2 Thess. 3:10) is given so

that the Thessalonian believers will not offend the pagans' conception of civic

order, περιπατῆτε εὐσχημένως in 1 Thessalonians 4:12'.

46 See my 'The Public Praising of Christian Benefactors: Romans 13:3-4 and 1

Peter 2:14-5' JSNT 34 (1988) 87-103.

47 Cf. Gal. 6:9 τὸ καλὸν ποιοῦντες μὴ ἐγκακῶμεν.
WINTER: 'If a Man Does Not Wish to Work' 315
benefactors should continue to seek the welfare of other

citizens. There could have been those who drew the conclusion

that Paul was not particularly in favour of generous

benefactions. But he anticipates this at the end of his

discussion in verse 13 with the injunction, 'You yourselves

brethren, must not tire in doing good', ὑμεῖς δέ ἀδελφοί, μη

ἐγκακήσητε καλοποιοῦντες. It is clear that here Paul is

proscribing neither private nor public benefactions. His

direction to all, including the heads of households, was that

they should not grow weary in the doing of good.

It was not possible for some of the Thessalonians to opt

out of work simply because others would support them. While

in secular society 'it was less disgraceful to depend idly on the

state or on a patron for subsistence than to earn it by sordid

labour',48 it was not so in the Christian community—those who

did not wish to work were not permitted to be supported by

their fellow Christians acting as patrons.49


48 Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire 106.

49 I am grateful to Mr. A.D. Clarke for the helpful suggestions he made for

improving this paper.

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