2 Thessalonians 3:6,10 Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness . . . If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
It is not uncommon to hear from someone who is greatly distressed by an alcoholic family member, only to find that the person telling me about the alcoholic is the one buying the alcohol. Though the enabling is obvious to anyone else, to the one doing it, it is not so easy to see.
Paul, in today’s passage, said that those close to the one with a defective behavior bear some responsibility not to support that behavior. Idleness was apparently a problem in Thessolonica, where some slothful church members were taking advantage of Christian generosity. Though the church was supposed to provide financial assistance to the poor, those who were able to work were expected to do so. In the church’s effort to help the poor, they had contributed to the defect of laziness. Paul insisted that this needed to stop.
As a Christian, I must first act rightly myself. Enabling, itself a defect, can become a behavior that is as destructive to me as it is to the one I am enabling. If I am buying alcohol for an alcoholic, I must stop. If I am bailing a loved one out of consequences, I need to quit doing so. I may see this as an attempt to change a behavior in the other person, but he or she may never change. My responsibility is to avoid participating in the defective behavior myself, whether or not he or she ever changes.
Make no mistake, when I aid someone in a defective behavior, I become an accomplice in that behavior. Paul said I must maintain boundaries between such destructive behavior and myself. I must allow those engaging in such behavior to reap the consequences they have sown.
This seems cold and un-Christian to us, which is why we enable. We think we are doing good by helping, but there is a vast difference between loving and enabling. The most loving thing I can do sometimes, is to quit contributing to a destructive behavior.