A Commentary by John Stott
1 Thessalonians 2:9-12. c). A father.
It is striking that Paul likens himself to their father as well as their mother. And in doing so, for the third time he begins negatively. He reverts to the fact, already mentioned in verse 6, that he had *not* been *a burden to anyone* in Thessalonica, even while he *preached the gospel of God* to them. Indeed, it was in order deliberately to avoid being dependent on them financially that he and his companions had *worked night and day*. Probably they preached by day and laboured by night. For Paul anyway (we do not know about the others) his work was tent-making (Acts 18:3; 20:34-35), by which he earned his living and presumably paid Jason for his board and lodging (2 Thess. 3:8). They would *surely…remember…his toil and hardship* (9). Although we know that some gifts were sent to him from the Philippian church, even while he was in Thessalonica (Phil.4:16), these were evidently inadequate for his needs, perhaps because the Macedonian churches suffered from ‘extreme poverty’ (2 Cor.8:1-2). So in these circumstances Paul could have made himself a burden to the Thessalonian Christians by asking them for money, but he determined not to do so.
Instead of being a burden to them, he had been like a father to them, by both his example and his instruction. As for his example, they and God were together *witnesses…how holy, righteous and blameless* he had been among the believers (10). Although we should not attempt to distinguish too neatly between these three words, yet ‘holy’ (*hosios*) seems to refer to our being ‘devout, pious, pleasing to God’ (BAGD), ‘righteous’ to our dealings with our neighbour, and ‘blameless’ to our public reputation. Paul evidently saw his example as part of his paternal duty, so that he continued: *For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children (11), encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory* (12).
Paul seems to be thinking specially of the educational role of fathers, who, in addition to setting their children a consistent example (10), should also encourage, comfort and exhort them. In the apostle’s case, he found himself urging the Thessalonians to live worthily of God and his kingdom, and even ‘insisting’ on it. Since it was part of his teaching that the kingdom of God has both a present manifestation (e.g. Col.1:13) and a future glory (e.g. 2 Thess 1:5; 1 Cor. 6:9), we may assume that he appealed to the Thessalonians to live a life worthy both of their dignity now and of their destiny at the end.
There is no need to deduce from the two metaphors which Paul had developed in verses 7 and 11 that he was laying down a stereotype of sexual roles in the home, the mother feeding and the father educating their children. For mothers certainly have an indispensable part in the mental and moral upbringing of their children, while there is no reason (except cultural tradition) why fathers should not take a turn at feeding and bathing babies. Indeed, Scripture encourages rather than discourages this sharing of responsibilities. What is impressive is that in his pastoral care of the Thessalonians, Paul could claim to have combined both the father’s and the mother’s roles.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.