#203 “Exercising Restraint with Difficult People” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)

  1. 14 And we urge (parakaleō, “to appeal”) you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. Earlier, in 4:7-11, Paul expressed that Christians are to steward their spiritual gifts for the good of others and to glorify God. With that in mind, Paul turns his attention to the entire congregation (brothers) and exhorts them (as a whole) to no neglect ministering to three groups: (1) the idle, (2) the timid, and (3) the weak. Paul’s appeal is built around an initiative that goes from encouraging the church to respecting their leaders—to concentrating on ministering to difficult people in the church. Admonish the idle—Earlier in the letter (4:11) Paul discussed working hard to earn your keep. He now exhorts the church to deal with the “idle” behavior that is causing problems throughout the congregation. The GK. word is ataktosand has two renderings: (1) insubordinate and disorderly and (2) idle and lazy. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, “Lazy” (5:14) is a military term signifying the marching soldier who does not keep in proper step. Thus, it refers to those who are out of line.” The word later came to mean “to develop careless habits.”Encourage the fainthearted—The word can also be translated, “disheartened” or “feebleminded”—and means “lacking sufficient heart.” Christians are called to encourage and comfort those who are under severe emotional grief. What is fascinating is that Paul uses the same verbs (used in these two commands) in 2:12, “we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Paul didn’t just command people to admonish and care for others—he led by example. Help the weak—In the NT, weak can refer to physical limitations but Paul generally uses it to apply to spiritual weaknesses that need to be strengthened. Paul writes in Rom. 15:1, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Be patient with them all—Once again, Paul stresses to the Thessalonians to have patience. If you lack patience with your leaders and with difficult people—the problem, in the end, is you. In 1 Cor. 13:4, Paul writes that “Love is patient.”
  2. 15 See that no one repays (pay back) anyone evil for evil, but always seek (pursue; to strive) to do good to one another and to everyone. Paul lays out the principle of non-retaliation. Jesus taught his disciples not to seek personal retaliation. He says in Matt. 5:38-42, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Elsewhere, Paul writes, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom. 12:17). Christians ought to seek justice for one another—not seek revenge. To everyone—Paul emphasizes that Christians are to strive to live at peace with non-believers as well. This is a hard teaching to follow with obedience. The flesh wants to pay back any wrongdoing a person inflicts on us. The Thessalonians were being persecuted and were called by God to extend charity and hospitality amid the violence.