When I hear this warning of idleness in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, I can see it being taken in a couple different directions. The first is that, historically, it has been used to abuse people living in poverty. The author of this letter tells people “to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” This often leads to people being told to “just get a job and stop freeloading.” Verse 10 in the NRSV says “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Anyone unwilling to work. Not anyone who is unable to work.
While many people abuse this passage to starve and demean people in poverty or people living with disabilities, I think we could flip this around to call out the people with power who do very little work, yet still get to eat and eat well. The author says that some people in the Thessalonian congregation are idle and/or busybodies that don’t actually get any work done. I think we have all had that boss that just sits in their office all day and doesn’t actually do any work. They order a few people around and make the lower paid employees do all the work. In my job at CiCi’s Pizza in Indianapolis, I had a manager who walked around the whole time telling people what to do, but never actually did any work himself. Because he never did any of the work, we always left late when he was the manager for the closing shift. He was one of those “busybodies, not doing any work.” So the author is calling out for fairness. Be willing to put in the work you are asking everyone else to do.