“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, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
As I enter a new chapter in my life, I feel challenged by God to work out the concept that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Thessalonians. He urges this church to “make it their ambition to 1) lead a quiet life, 2) mind their own business and 3) work with your hands”. In the midst of a social media crazy culture, it is almost impossible to lead a quiet life or mind your own business, let alone make it your ambition. Most people’s ambition is to be seen and heard through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest- all social media sites that I enjoy using but do they help me achieve this goal of living quietly?
Due to the recent changes in my life, I think Paul is drawing on something wonderful and life-changing.
Months ago, my family moved to the Palm Harbor area to be closer to schools, water and boating. This lifestyle change has been on our heart for years but unattainable for many reasons. This move to a smaller but taller house (3 story home) has its benefits and disadvantages. First, my husband has a much longer commute to his office though time spent working at home has led to more family time. Also we left many dear friends in the Lutz area that we hope will remain in touch with especially since we live near the beach- road trip! Finally, I decided to leave our church which I spent many hours serving in women’s ministry. This church change was something that I can see now as necessary to my spiritual health and growth. I feel as though God is urging me to have a period of rest while I draw closer to Him for strength, wisdom and guidance for next steps of ministry or occupation. My desire to “do” for God has always been strong and clear. Now I feel a desire to be available more emotional and mental to my family and enjoy my quiet time with the Lord without any set agenda. But I have to be honest, I feel a little lost- God has always been clear on the next step. All I can do is put my trust in God- He knows the when, where and how for my next steps.
When I came upon these verses in a study on Paul’s letters, I was immediately drawn to this concept of living quietly. Making it my ambition to just live quietly, mind my own business and work seems like my new plan from God- one that might win the respect of outsiders and open the door to new relationships.
To truly understand what Paul is urging in these verses, I had to pull out key words to help me understand this passage. Ambition means “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.” Paul is telling them “to be determined” to live quietly- this is not very true of the culture we live in- what does living quietly even look like? I don’t think Paul was suggesting that these new believers hole up together keeping the outside world at a distance but instead to integrate themselves quietly, intentionally and mindfully into their communities. Living quietly means to live not for your glory but God’s. To look out for the best interests of others- to love your neighbor. Forgive when it is hard to forgive, love when it is hard to love. Always giving back to Him all credit and honor through your words, actions and deeds.
"Working hard” at minding your own business tends to be something that women struggle with more than men. As believers, we need to be concerned with ourselves and not engage inappropriately in other people’s lives. The type of person who is making this their ambition will not meddle in other’s lives- they will be concerned with their house and keeping it in order- looking for ways to help people, not add to or create drama.
Finally, it is important to work, specifically with your hands. The Thessalonica church had become idle, waiting and watching for the Lord’s return. This was not a good witness to the outside world that was watching them. When you are engage in good, honest work, there is no time to be idle- the idle life doesn’t please God. Idleness leads to worry, fear and meddling which will not earn the respect of others that are watching your life.
God’s heart yearns for the unbeliever to turn and come to Him. He uses believers to be seed planters in the lives of those around us. In order to even plant a seed or nurture an existing seed, the soil needs to be soft and pliable- ready to receive. This is also true with the spiritual seeds we plant and nurture in the lives of the people we come in contact with daily. If their heart isn’t ready to receive a word from you then the seed will eventually die. But we play a huge part in the readiness of the soil- the respect you gain from others due to the way you live helps the soil of one’s heart to be open to the seeds God has given you to plant.
Paul’s challenge to live quiet lives will not only lead to a more abundant and fruitful life for yourself but can lead others to God.