|Tyndale Bulletin 40.2 (1989) 303-315.
‘IF A MAN DOES NOT WISH TO WORK. . .’
A CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL SETTING FOR
2 THESSALONIANS 3:6-16
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
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
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
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)
4 Dio Chrysostom, Or. 32.9.
5 e g. Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians (London, Marshall Morgan and Scott
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.