“And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
So what kinds of people are in your church? Wherever your church home, I bet I can give you a pretty accurate guess. How? Because the church is a collection of people and every collection of people includes a cross section of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. So wherever your home church — Thessalonica, Jackson, or somewhere in between – you probably have the same kind of people in the membership.
Some will be idle. Do you know anybody at your church who just can’t seem to get his life in gear? Maybe she seems to lack purpose and motivation. As a result, these folks, while brothers and sisters in Christ, may appear to be “lazy” (NLT) or “freeloaders” (The Message).
Some will be timid. Do you know anybody at your church who just seems hesitant or fearful about her life, even her faith? Maybe he seems tentative about using his gifts or apprehensive about opening up his life enough to experience real fellowship. As a result, these people, while brothers and sisters in Christ, may appear to be “fainthearted” (NRSV) or “stragglers” (The Message).
Some will be weak. Do you know anybody at your church who just seems both physically and spiritually frail or drained? Maybe she is so anemic that she comes across as fragile or delicate. As a result, these individuals, while brothers and sisters in Christ, may appear to be “exhausted” (The Message) or ineffective to the point of being more trouble than they are worth.
The idle, the timid, and the weak are everywhere! So how does the church respond?
Warn the idle. The church has a responsibility to do more than provide handouts for those in need due to their idleness. Throwing money at their situation, while the much easier option, will not bring improvement. Words of warning are sometimes required and that means hard work. While idlers love handouts, they often are less than receptive to counsel.
Encourage the timid. The church has a responsibility to provide more than sweet talk to those paralyzed by fear. Just throwing compliments at the person, while the easier option, will not bring improvement. Useful words of encouragement cannot be empty. They must be full of truth to effectively inform or motivate.
Help the weak. The church has a responsibility to do more than offer criticism or provide excuses for those who are worn out to the point of being useless. Throwing either words of condemnation or justification in their general direction, while the much easier option, will not bring improvement. Helping the weak can’t be accomplished by taking a hands-off approach. “Pulling them to their feet” (The Message) usually means getting your hands dirty.
These needy people — the idle, timid, and weak– are everywhere. The church must not fall into the temptation of taking the easy road of hand-outs, flattery, or judgment. Rather the church must get involved in the real lives of real Christians with all of their real problems. This is a difficult path. It’s a good thing that Paul reminds us when we do get involved; we must remember to be patient with all of them.