I’m a collector. I’ve always collected things, some of which have made no sense to the people in my life—or even to me, when I look back, for example, on when I had a strong desire to gather bottle caps when I was 6 and lived in Atlanta. (My father will tell you that I get this from my mother.) Regardless of what particular item has garnered my interest, I experience an awful lot of joy in being able to amass a collection of things. Sometimes this joy has been expensive. As I discovered comic books, I was easily wooed into ponying up cash for a “limited edition” cover or over-paying for an issue at a convention, one that I had not found elsewhere—sometimes I just had to have something.
Although I usually find a way to track down something I want, I doubt I will EVER wait outside in long lines, in any weather, for days at a time, in order to acquire it. Which is why when I see people begin camping out for Black Friday sales days ahead of time with a sleeping bag and a large thermos, I shake my head. As I contemplate this phenomenon, I contemplate how these individuals rationalized taking off work to do this. Of course, I’m also frugal, so the thought of losing money in order to spend it is foreign to me.
But some people take such pleasure in waiting around for something to happen—a door to open, a person to arrive, etc.—that they shut off everything else in their life to wait. Maybe they just want a story to tell. 2 Thessalonians addresses some of these people, who have checked out of their life so that they can wait for Jesus to return.
This book of the Bible is a follow-up letter to the people of Thessalonica. Arriving a few months after Paul’s first letter, it is designed to shore up some of the same points as 1 Thessalonians. Specifically, Paul feels the need to address all of the unrest about those awaiting Jesus’ return.
Contrary to rumors, Paul clarifies, Jesus has not already returned. How does he know? Well, Jesus can’t return, not until The Man of Lawlessness appears. Paul is a bit vague on what form this person/entity will take; however, he does say that Satan is guiding him, that he will display all kinds of “counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders” (2:9), and be displayed in “every sort of evil” (2:10).
So basically he’s the anti-Jesus. Not to worry, though, for Jesus will overthrow this person (2:8). However, this person will apparently have been sent by God in order to condemn all of those people who don’t believe in Jesus, God, etc. (2:11-12).
You’d think people would begin to panic with the prophecy of such an awful being surfacing; however, it seems, some people decided to throw a party instead. Bad move, Paul suggests. His letter stresses that while people await this second coming, they should avoid these idle individuals—they should not have quit working. These people are vile, suggests Paul, for they don’t know that a man must work in order to eat (3:10), that bread must be earned (3:12). These people should not be judged, however, just warned.
I appreciate the need to encourage people to continue to work; however, this part of the Bible seems like a pretty clear argument against any type of social assistance, like welfare, food stamps, or even some forms of social security (like disability).
Aside from that, this seems to contradict at least one of Jesus’ own miracles: he turned a few loaves into enough bread to feed 5,000 and then 4,000 people, none of whom were “working.”
But I guess that if you’ve given over your life to something you believe in so deeply that you think of nothing else as you anticipate this idea coming to pass, you ignore the naysayers. If you believe one thing, what makes what someone else believes better enough to ignore your own conviction. Maybe all of these ideas merely act as tests to see how far people will go with their waiting. Perhaps this is why Black Friday now begins on Thursday.