Today I read 1 Thessalonians 4.11. My first thought was, ‘I wonder if this is the most forgotten-about command of the New Testament?’ This is how it reads:
… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…
How many church conflicts, how many rumours, how many hurt feelings would have been prevented if we listened to this command? How many times have we pursued busyness, noisiness, and in our boredomophobia-driven society pursued activity at all costs? And what is the net result? More stress, more tiredness, more strenuous relationships.
When I consider the cost of not trying to live quietly, of not minding my own affairs, and not being content to simply do my job, I see that it’s clear how Paul connects this to brotherly love. Immediately before these commands, Paul says,
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another… . But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly…
In other words, this command to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work hard at the job God has given you is an enactment of brotherly love. When you keep your nose out of someone else’s business, you’re loving them. When you are not a back-biter or a gossip, you are loving other people. When you stick to your job and stop being a busy-body (in the church and out of it), you are loving others.
Obviously, wisdom calls for balance here. Galatians 6.1-2 clearly calls us to help others with regards to their sin. We must be involved in their lives and bear their burdens. I suppose the difference, in some sense, is the implied relational ‘breaking and entering’ of 1 Thessalonians 4.11. We are walking into someone’s house where we aren’t invited, rather than merely continuing to carry a burden we were already invited to help shoulder in Galatians 6.
So, if you are looking for a way to excel in love for your brothers and sisters even more (and what Christian isn’t?), then why not consider this? Live quietly. Mind your own affairs. Work hard at the work God has given. Be content with your lot. By leading this kind of a life you will actually be fostering brotherly love in your world and in your church, where there will be less competition, less coveting, less complaining, and more contentedness.
But most importantly, more love.