I’ve included the Fr. MacEvilly’s brief Analysis of the whole of chapter 3 to help provide context. In addition, I’ve also included his paraphrasing of the verses he is commenting on. The paraphrasing follows the biblical text and is in purple.
Summary of 2 Thess 3~The Apostle had been informed that, notwithstanding his instructions, when at Thiessalonica, and his injunctions conveyed in his former Epistle, some able-bodied men among the Thessalonians continued to go about, begging, when they might procure means of support by manual labour; indulging in idle curiosity, prying into the concerns of others and neglecting their own, to the great disedification and estrangement of the unbelievers. Hence, in this chapter, after recommending himself to their prayers (1, 2); and promising them the aid of the Almighty (3); and praying to God in turn for them (4, 5); he repeats his former injunctions on this important subject, and conjures these disorderly men, in the most solemn manner, to devote themselves to a life of labour.
He quotes himself as an example in this matter, and refers to the laborious life which he led amongst them; but should any person, after this admonition, continue refractory, he enjoins on the rulers of the Church to separate such a one from the society of the faithful. He tells them that severity should, however, be blended with tenderness and brotherly compassion (6-15). He concludes, by wishing them the abundance of peace and grace.
2Th 3:7 For yourselves know how you ought to imitate us. For we were not disorderly among you.
For you yourselves know what example we gave you, and how deserving we were of imitation; for we did not lead a disorderly life amongst you; we were neither idle nor turbulent.
He gave them an example for imitation.
2Th 3:8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing: but in labour and in toil we worked night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you.
Nor did we receive the necessaries of life from any of you without paying for them, but in labor and toil, we exerted ourselves unceasingly for that end; lest we might be a burden to any of you.
“Neither did we eat.” In some Greek copies, neither did we receive; which differs little in signification from ours ; for it was to be eaten that it was received. “For nothing,” i.e., without paying for it. “But in labour and toil.” He laboured at the trade of a cabinet-maker, in order to procure the means of subsistence, and that assiduously. “Day and night,” means continually. What an example of Apostolic independence is here furnished by the Apostle! The minister of the Gospel, who is anxious for the gifts of his people, and is the slave of avarice, can never enjoy that freedom and bold independence of mind, so necessary for the impartial discharge of his duties. The Apostle, also, by his example, teaches us to devote all our time to some useful occupation. What a picture! the teacher of the entire world labouring, as a mechanic, to procure a livelihood!
2Th 3:9 Not as if we had not power: but that we might give ourselves a pattern unto you, to imitate us.
Not that we had not a strict right to support from you, but, we had foregone that right, in order, by working hard, to exhibit ourselves to you as a model for imitation.
He had a right to support.—1Cor 9:14, &c.
2Th 3:10 For also, when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat.
(We are inculcating nothing new at present), for when we were amongst you, we enjoined the duty of laboring contained in the adage: the man who does not wish to work, is not deserving of the food he eats.
He announced to the Thessalonians, prone to idleness, the precept of labouring, which he confirmed by many examples and adages; among the rest by this: “the man who does not wish to labour, should not eat.” He says,
“will not work;” wishes not to work (ου θελει), because, some are not able to do so; but all should be disposed to do so.
2Th 3:11 For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly: working not at all, but curiously meddling.
For we have heard, that some amongst you are still leading a disorderly life, doing nothing, wholly engaged in curiosity, and in prying into the affairs and concerns of others.
His reason for dwelling on this subject arose from his having heard that some among them were living in a disorderly manner, since it is against the ordination of God for men to lead a life of idleness, of indolence, and ease. For idleness begets curiosity; curiosity begets turbulence and inquietude, which destroys discipline and causes disorder. The idle and the curious go about intermeddling in the concerns of others, and thus disturb peace and social order.
2Th 3:12 Now we charge them that are such and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ that, working with silence, they would eat their own bread.
But we command such persons, and we also entreat and conjure them by the Lord Jesus Christ, to lead a quiet, unobtrusive life, to engage in manual labor, and thus provide themselves with the means of subsistence, and not be depending on the charity of other.
“By the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Greek, by our LordJesus Christ. The Vulgate is supported by the chief manuscripts. He joins earnest entreaty, lest the repetition of the command might savour of harshness or undue severity. “Working with silence.” He opposes “silence ” to curiosity, to going about and creating disorder by prying into the concerns of others; and “working” he opposes to idleness.