Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, . . . so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Like many of the verses in our “Remember the Bible” series — indeed, like most of what the New Testament tells us to do — 1 Thess. 4:11 is counter-intuitive. It teaches us the opposite of the lessons that society, the world, and our innate desires for success in the world teach us.
First: “Live quietly.”
Life teaches us to “live noisily,” to complain loudly, to argue vehemently about the things of the world. It teaches us that those who make the greatest public stir also get the most power, money, and prestige. We admire celebrities, political and social leaders, larger-than-life public figures — in other words, we most admire those who live “noisily.”
Shouting about political issues is a lesson that the world teaches us. It is not a lesson that the Bible teaches us. In fact, if we read any of the Gospels with an open mind, Christ’s rejection of politics as a path to salvation (of ourselves or others) is clear and marked.
Most people understand, at least in an academic sense, the message of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Ironically, much of the crowd thought that He was the messiah who would overthrow Rome, clean house in the Sanhedrin, and restore Israel to the glory of King David. How disappointed they must have been when He just allowed Himself to be executed without a fight!
Nor would he allow his disciples to lash out in His defense. He markedly rebuked Peter for raising a sword at the time of his arrest.
And concerning His verbal teachings, His only comments on political action were such statements as “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and (through the voices of Paul and Peter) “be subject to the governing authorities.” His harsh words were reserved for hypocritical religious doctrine and for those who would not accept Him as Christ.
So, “Live quietly.” Paul really should not have to say this, since the enormous emphasis on humility, in the teachings of Jesus Christ, should lead us to it. But it is a lesson that people do not want to hear and one widely ignored by many Christians.
“Mind you own affairs.” No real explication of this phrase is necessary. Living it, when our natural instincts tell us to voice our opinions about all kinds of affairs not our own, is another matter.
I will skip over “work with your hands,” in the interest of time. We should make our living, as best we are able, by productive work. There is surely no sin in accepting charity, for those who need help. But the phrase does raise knotty issues concerning career choices.
The telling phrase is “that you may walk properly before outsiders,” for it gives us the reason that we aspire to live quietly. What is the Christian’s primary duty to the non-Christian? Our commission from Christ is to spread the Gospel. Is it so hard to see that we injure the Great Commission when we equate politics, or any other exercise of coercive worldly power, with Christianity?
Lord, grant that I may always seek to live quietly and mind my own affairs. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer