1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
Out of context, these two verses can be used to construe a lot of things. I have a feeling that they have been used to make way too many rules in religious doctrines. If we follow Paul’s thought process, however, it is easy to discern what he is talking about here.
His point here is how we as believers should conduct ourselves so as to be in a place of setting examples and not fall into a state of greed, poverty, or worldliness. In other words, he is telling us to be good stewards of God’s provisions.
Honestly, verse 11 makes me think of the Amish. A quiet, hard working people who keep to themselves and do not strive to attain worldly wealth, but rather richness in life and purity in action. This might be because I just did a research paper on the Amish, but nonetheless, Paul’s point here is clear. Why is it he tells us this?
If we are living in a way that we are chasing money, building worldly wealth and amassing assets in order to live in luxury, where then is our attention? Is it on God? Are we serving God (and subsequently displaying our service to God) by doing that? How will we behave towards others? In the context of “outsiders” here, Paul is talking about those that aren’t believers or members of the church. If we are focused on wealth or earning more, our demeanor and conversations will be focused on that instead of God. If we are called to live out the Gospel in order to spread it, how can we do that if we are focused on wealth?
I think this is one of those passages that could cause us to forget that this isn’t a rule we have to follow for our salvation or holiness or righteousness, rather it is a suggestion that helps us realize that as our renewal in Spirit we will think and behave differently. This isn’t something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. It is part of the freedom we get to experience as God changes our hearts. If we seek God’s will, He will change our desires to be more of those honoring to Him. This will morph our lives into that which is articulated in these two verses. Remember, this part of the letter is Paul telling us what our faithfulness and seeking out of God will look like. The funny thing is, at least in my experience, you don’t really notice it until it has already happened. We tell people all the time how much God has changed our hearts. It’s not that we have to follow a list of rules and change our lives, but rather we seek God’s will and He takes care of the rest. It doesn’t even feel like we are “giving anything up,” although it seems like that to others. Rather, we just don’t care about that stuff anymore.
How is God changing your life?