The Quiet Ambassador
by John Kyle
Sometimes Scripture encourages us to shout from the mountaintops. Sometimes it encourages us to be quiet and diligent. This post is about the latter.
The people of Thessalonica were on fire for the Gospel. They loved well and followed the teachings of the Apostles. They were eager to hear more. And, they waited with excitement for Jesus to return.
In their excitement for his return, they got a little carried away. Some of them stopped working altogether. They became dependent upon others to eat and live. In addressing their error, the Apostle Paul gives very helpful insight about our own modern attitudes about work and ambassadorship.
But we urge you brothers to do this more and more, to aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. -- I Thessalonians 4:11-12
Be Quiet of Heart
Before addressing their lack of work, Paul starts by addressing their heart posture. “Aspire to live quietly.” The text can actually be read with somewhat stronger language: "Become students of the quiet life." In other words, Paul is encouraging us to study it, master it, and embrace it to the glory of God.
To many, the quiet life sounds boring, risk-less, adventure-less. Does this verse mean that we should never go to parties or enjoy a boisterous football game? Of course not. Paul is not making quietness a law. He is establishing a fruit-bearing principle of life – to focus on the work at hand. He is calling us to a calm and quiet temperament, to be peaceable.
[We should be] calm and quiet in our minds, in patience to possess our own souls, and to be quiet toward others; or of a meek and mild, and gentle and peaceable disposition, not given to strife, contention, or division. Satan is very busy to disquiet us; and we have that in our hearts that dispossesses us to be disquiet; therefore let us study to be quiet. – Matthew Henry
Mind Your Own Business
Sometimes we are enamored with the chatter of the day. Who is dating whom? He said, she said. Did you hear about…?
The Bible is not a fan of gossip or idle talk. And yet, we find ourselves engaged in it a lot, don’t we? Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook – otherwise powerful tools for human communication – can often be used for gossip and rumor. We need to keep a check on the ways these tools distract us from the quiet life and give rise to jealousy, strife, and disquiet in our minds.
Paul’s antidote to gossip and idle talk is right there in his letter to the Thessalonians: Get to work! And these words are not just for the Thessalonians. They are for us and endorsed elsewhere in Scripture. The Proverbs, for example, provide many words of wisdom about the benefits of diligence, hard work, and perseverance.
The Call to Serve
Paul closes this section with a reminder of what we are here to do and why we work. Some of the Thessalonians stopped working so they could wait for Jesus to return. In becoming idle, they started meddling. This is not what Jesus wants from us. He wants us to work for the good of the city and to provide for our families, our neighbors, and ourselves. He wants us to serve by working.