To Work With Their Hands - Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
Lesson 13: To Work With Their Hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV)
“and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,”
Thessalonica was a big city—a bustling metropolis with a lot of activity. Therefore Paul admonishes the Christians, “Make it your business and your ambition to live a quiet life.” The Greeks were very active people, who had a love for personal distinction—and Paul knew there would be danger of their being occupied with less important affairs, thus neglecting to give their best to spiritual matters. In 1 Timothy 2:1 and 2 Paul prays, “ . . . That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
A study of Paul’s life convinces us that he was very active; it was his nature to be “on the move.” Even so, he admired the quiet life and considered it an asset to the cultivation of Christian character and study. Christians, in their zeal, sometimes attempt to do too many things. It is possible to sin by trying to do too much, attempting so much that we cannot do anything the way it should be done to the glory of God. I have found myself in this position twice in my life. I was doing too much, which caused stress between Sierra and I and between me and my children. It made me physically ill, so I chose to quit all my jobs, and eventually left that church. I should have heeded Paul’s warning, “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”
This is the first indication we have had in this epistle that some of the Thessalonians we’re so excited by all the wonderful things in the Christian faith that day were not bothering to earn their living. But there are a number of indications in the Thessalonian correspondence that this was so (especially 2 Thessalonians 3:11). A number of possible reasons for this have been suggested, but it is most likely that it arose out of Second Advent speculations. The Thessalonian believers had learned very well that the Lord would be returning in mighty power, and evidently some of them felt that it would be very soon. Accordingly there was no point in continuing in some steady job. It was much more realistic, they evidently reasoned, to be about the business of proclaiming the soon return of Christ. If they had need of this world’s goods in the meantime, why, there were others, Christian brothers, who could be relied on to come to their rescue. This kind of thing can be done from a sense of serious purpose, but, human nature being what it is; it can easily degenerate into downright laziness and idleness. People can be so taken up with the spectacular that, with excitement over the near approach of the Lord, that they pass over the important things of everyday life. So Paul gives attention
to such matters, and counsels these brothers to mend their ways.
Paul also warns the Thessalonians that they should be occupied with their own affairs and not with the affairs of others. Probably some of them were busybodies and gadabouts, meddling hither and yon. Paul did not want the believers to live such a life. In 2 Thessalonians 3:11 he said, “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all but are busybodies.” You may rest assured that those who meddle in other people’s business always wreck their own! If we take care of our own affairs and remain alert concerning our own life, we have little time to metal in the affairs of others.
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV)
(4:11) and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you
Some of the new Christians remembered hearing Paul discuss the second coming of Jesus. They reasoned inaccurately that since Jesus was coming soon, they should quit their jobs and wait for His appearing. You can imagine the economic problems that practice causes for the Christian community with so many refusing to work and expecting to be supported by other believers. As you know, idle persons usually create problems for themselves and others. So Paul wrote, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Then he gave three words of advice about responsible living as Christians.
• Lead a quiet life: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” In the excitement and expectancy about when Jesus would return, Paul urged them to, “Keep calm. God’s in control. Go back to work.” It’s good advice. A responsible Christian avoids embarrassing others or creating scenes. It’s tough for even the most committed soul winner to win a family to Jesus who live next door to a discourteous, inconsiderate, though prominent church member.
The word(s) that have been translated “Lead a quiet life” denotes tranquility of life, which of course does not mean inactivity. It is possible to be very active in the Lord’s service and still be at peace. It is clear that some of the converts were far from living the simple life, and Paul is very anxious for them to recall their former calmness and simplicity. If the Lord were coming soon, then the best way for Him to find them would be doing their ordinary work, but, as yet, they had not learned this.
• Mind your own business: That doesn’t sound very religious, but the message is crystal clear: “Mind your own business.” Or, “Don’t meddle in other people’s affairs.” Having given up their daily responsibilities of work, these unoccupied Christians involved themselves in everybody’s business. Paul is telling us, “The busybody and the meddler are as wrong as those who deny the deity of Jesus or the doctrine of salvation.” Don’t be a nuisance to others. Someone joked, “To do nothing is tiresome because you can’t stop and take a rest.”