“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” ~1 Thess. 5:14
My children attend an intense grammar course as part of their homeschooling curriculum in which we (the parent learns along with the child in class) parse sentences and learn not only the diagramming but also the purposes, tenses, forms, etc for each word. This Quid et Quo that we do with each sentence teaches the child to break a sentence down into what is being said and why. This verse from Paul is a great verse to study because I believe this verse speaks directly to me as a mom. Paul is teaching the believers in Thessalonica and giving his last instructions to them regarding how they are to engage with others in the church.
So I wrote something for this verse that has been tripping around in my brain for a few days, a way to analyze it and see the truths, and I’m not sure it makes sense to anyone but me. It’s how I think a lot of time as I approach the Word of God – look at it at face value first – what grammar is used, what tenses, forms do the verbs take, where are the pauses and what conjunctions or modifiers are present? Look at it in context of the passage. And then dwell in the truths offered there, listening and inspecting my own life to see where I am in comparison to the truth.
Paul’s purpose clearly is the imperative or command in a declarative sentence. Three types of people, so in my world three types of children, receive the action of the verbs – “Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak” but the final command “Be patient with them all” is a command with a linking verb thus linking me with patience as a description of me.
The first command is admonish the idle: looking in other translations, the words disruptive, lazy, unruly, irresponsible, undisciplined or wrongdoers appear in place of idle. And the verb may change in different translations to warn, rebuke, instruct. A lot of my day consists of this action but isn’t it good to know this was an instruction for the church as a whole as well! We all struggle with idleness, and in childhood it must be trained and shaped. This is the primary disciplinary area of our children. So I need to be careful that what is actually going on with my child falls into this category before I choose rebuke or instruction. But I also need to understand that warnings and rebuke are required here.
The second command encourage the fainthearted: the disheartened, timid, feebleminded, discouraged, or feeble souls are to be comforted or cheered up. Strong’s concordance defines the Greek word here as as undeveloped soul, lacking in quality. We have been entrusted with the amazing job of coming alongside these undeveloped souls and encouraging them. Our children can be easily discouraged, scared, worried, full of fear, or lacking in character so that they will change/conform to please others. A lot of my children’s behaviors stem from some form of immaturity in their soul. And my job is to ENCOURAGE — to give support, confidence or hope; to help or stimulate to develop; to give support of advice so that they will do or continue to do.
Thirdly help the weak: the weak or the infirm are the only two words used as the direct object in any translation; the verb help changes to support, sustain, help, bear the burdens, take tender care. When I looked this word weak up in the Greek, the word Paul uses is asthenon meaning without strength, weak. This Greek word only occurs here and in Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak/without strength, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Our children just like us are powerless to save themselves. They are weak spiritually. But He is strong. And my role is to help or support them as they hear the Gospel, to bear their burdens before the throne (be a warrior for your children in prayer), and to take tender care of their hearts that they will be fertile ground to understand their need for a Savior.
So God has been challenging me to pause before I react, to be purposeful in my actions, and to seek Him to understand which adjective describes my child in the moment. When I see my children more with spiritual eyes, His patience will also flow. I need to train myself to turn first to Him, both to have the wisdom to know what to do and the patience needed.
In the moments of my day with my kids, can I pause and categorize them? And doesn’t that then point me with purpose to the verb and therefore the action I need to take? The love response of patience that undergirds the action will display Christ’s love to that child. And often this pause can put me in check, helping me respond with the Holy Spirit’s help rather than my own reaction.