Some people refuse to work and are intentionally lazy and idle. They know better but disobey the instruction of God and refuse to follow the example of hard-working Christians. They busy themselves in the lives of others, and burden others with their needs. What does Paul say to these people?
In 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12, Paul urges Christians to show love and, in doing so, live quietly, mind their own affairs, and work. These actions make for a good, Christian testimony to unbelievers and a life of independence, not unduly burdening others.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, Paul instructs believers what to do with someone who persistently refuses to work—avoid such a person while admonishing him to work. Such a person is disobedient to God, turns into a busybody, and is an unnecessary burden. In 2 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul directly addresses the lazy person—live quietly and eat your own bread (i.e., work to meet your own needs).
What might the Proverbs add to Paul’s command to live quietly and eat one’s own bread?
The command to eat one’s own bread implies that these lazy people were eating the bread of others. In frequenting the houses of others to find food, this lazy person would avail himself to the affairs of others, be a busybody, and thus live anything but quietly.
Visiting a neighbor is like eating candy—it’s something fun, but one can have too much of a good thing. Proverbs 25:16 warns us not to indulge with honey lest we eat too much and vomit. Similarly, Proverbs 25:17 (the very next verse) warns our feet not to be too frequent in our neighbor’s house lest his welcome turn to hatred. A guest who stays too long or visits too frequently quickly wears out his welcome.
If a lazy person frequents his neighbor’s house and starts to mind his neighbor’s affairs, he robs himself and his neighbor of the quietness that Paul commands. Constant conversation may lead to sinful words (Prov 10:19; cf. 17:27), unnecessary opinions (Prov 18:2) and needless quarrels (Prov 20:3; 26:17; 29:9). It is better to cast out this lazy fool for one’s quietness than to work twice as hard to keep his company (Ecc 4:6). He is fuel for the fires of strife, and his departure will quench his quarrels (Prov 26:20–21).
Work for Your Own Bread
An industrious person does not eat the bread of idleness but works his land and does not senselessly follow worthless pursuits (Prov 12:11; 28:19; 31:27). It would not be fitting him to live luxuriously at his neighbor’s expense (Prov 19:10a). His love for pleasure would leave him poor as a result (Prov 21:17). Instead, he sleeps as necessary, wakes up, works hard, and satisfies himself with bread (Prov 20:13). These actions obey the Word of God, and the natural result is that he minds his own affairs and avoids becoming a busybody and burden to others.