Friday

26 August 2011

"Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more." (v. 1)

Background

Sex and money are in the newspapers every day. The details may change but human nature doesn't. So it's hardly surprising that Paul wrote about these subjects nearly 2,000 years ago.

Thessalonica was (and is still today) a busy seaport in northern Greece. It had pagan temples which doubled as brothels, and all sorts of sexual practices were permitted. The new Christians needed guidance in these matters, and Paul is clear. First, no fornication (verse 3). Second, self-control within marriage (verses 4-5). Third, no cheating of one another, which is probably a way of referring to people stealing one another's spouses (verse 6). These instructions aren't only from God, they will be vindicated by the Lord's judgement (verse 6).

Having dealt with the issue of sex, Paul then moves on to money. The early church in Jerusalem sold their property, pooled their resources, and shared the money among themselves according to each person's needs (Acts 4:32-35). This was because they saw themselves as a family, and it was a cultural norm that families shared everything.

Paul addresses the Thessalonian Christians as a family. He recognises that they are already demonstrating their love by sharing their resources, not only with one another, but with other churches in Macedonia. Paul wants them to do this even more. This may imply that they were of considerable number or significant wealth.

As Paul offered his advice about sexual and financial behaviour he knew that more was at stake than the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonian Christians. Other people would be watching this new community closely and they would judge the message of Jesus by its impact on their lives.

To Ponder

How far do you think the image of family is a helpful way of understanding the church today?

Human sexuality continues to be a live and divisive issue amongst Christians. How might we best handle this given Paul's concern for how non-Christians perceived the Church?

What resource does the church yuo know have? What does it do with these resources? How might it be more generous?

Bible notes author: The Revd Caroline Ainger

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