Show Love and Mind Your Own Business
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
1. Recognize the Context:
Previous context: 4:1-8
The Thessalonian community received instruction from Paul concerning how to live in order to please God. Paul affirmed this was in deed how they were living. Then he encouraged them to continue to live this way because the authoritative instruction they received from him came from the Lord Jesus.
In verse 3, Paul identified one aspect of God’s will for the believing community, namely, how they could please God. They were to be sanctified, specifically in the area of sexual ethics. Paul reminded these new believers they were to avoid sexual immorality. The word Paul used here is an all-inclusive term that would have included all forms of premarital or extramarital sexual activity.
They were to learn to control their own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable. To live a life pleasing to God, a holy life, they must control their sexual desires and conduct. Paul contrasted their sexual behavior with those who don’t know God. The pagans lived in passionate lust, but the Thessalonian church was called to live holy and honorable.
Sexual sin has the potential to significantly impact those in a local church setting, as well as the broader Christian community. Paul warned of the seriousness of such sin, which will result in punishment. However, there can be forgiveness and healing in situations involving sexual immorality.
In verse 7, Paul restated the call to live pure and holy, which reflected the character of God. To reject this teaching was to do so at one’s own peril. Paul concluded with a reminder God doesn’t simply set the standard, but he makes it possible for believers to live this way because he has given his Holy Spirit.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 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, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
The second way in which the Thessalonians could please God (verse 1) was to love one another. The noun Paul used for love (Greek-philadelphia) was not frequently found in the New Testament. Within the Greco-Roman world, it referred to the love existing between siblings, which was appropriate to describe the relationship that should exist within the believing community. This was why Paul was able to identify his letter recipients as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul stated he didn’t need to write about love because they had been taught about it, and in fact, they were doing it. He encouraged them to do so more and more (verse 1).
Again, in typical Pauline style, his approach can be summarized as follows:
In verse 11, Paul used three phrases to indicate how the Thessalonian community could demonstrate love for one another.
1. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life- This phrase seems a little contradictory, “actively” seek a “quiet” life. What did Paul mean by a “quiet life?” This did not refer to a silent life or a non-active life. This phrase meant out of the public eye. Another way to say it, “Don’t live in such a way as to draw negative attention to the Christian movement.” Harmful attention brought negative social consequences for the Christian community, and was therefore, unloving to fellow believers. There is a lesson in this for Christians today!
2. You should mind your own business- This has a pejorative connotation in idiomatic English, which Paul did not intend in Greek. Another way to say it is, “stick to your own affairs” or “don’t be a busybody.”
3. Work with your hands- Even though many in the Thessalonian community worked in a trade and did work with their hands, here Paul’s emphasis is on work in general. This meant don’t be an economic burden to anyone, if you are able to work, do so.
Paul’s instructions included how to live within the believing community, as well as outside the believing community. The actions and consequences impact both arenas of life.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully consider what it means to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Is there someone you should specifically pray for?
Today, prayerfully consider what it means to live a “quiet life” according to Scripture. Does this describe you? Pray for those you claim to be a part of the Christian movement but seem to bring negative attention to it by their actions and the things they say.
Today, prayerfully consider if you truly are a person who "minds your own business." What is your motivation for wanting to know about others? Is it a genuine interest, care, and concern for others? Or do you desire simply to “be in the know” or do you compare yourself to others or gossip about them?
Today, prayerfully consider those you know in the believing community who may be out of work and in need of a job. Lift them and their families before God.
From your prayerful consideration of loving the family of God what is one action step you can take today with the Holy Spirit’s help?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study these other verses that specifically use this word group (philadelphia) in the New Testament-Rom. 12:10, Heb. 13:1, 1 Pet. 1:22, 2 Pet. 1:7 (twice).
Use a concordance or a website like biblegateway.com and search other verses on love.