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Holman Bible Dictionary
Not engaged in earning a living; depending on the labor and generosity of others for support. Scripture distinguishes between those unwilling to work who should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10
) and those unable to earn a living (for example, “true” widows, 1 Timothy 5:9
) for whom the community of faith is responsible. Hebrew wisdom literature frequently condemned idleness as the cause of hunger (Proverbs 19:15
), poverty (Proverbs 10:4
; Proverbs 14:23
), and inadequate housing (Ecclesiastes 10:18
). According to Hebrew wisdom, the ideal woman “eateth not the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27
), but is an industrious, working woman who helps provide for the financial needs of her family (Proverbs 31:16
). In the New Testament, Paul called attention to his own example as a bi-vocational minister to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to be hard workers (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8
). Though Scripture consistently condemns “willful” idleness, it is also aware of economic realities in which some who are willing workers stand idle because no one has hired them (Matthew 20:6-7
). The biblical witness likewise does not trace all poverty to idleness. Some poverty results from the rich refusing to pay their poor day laborers (Leviticus 19:13
; Jeremiah 22:13
; James 5:4
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Idle'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/i/idle.html. 1991.