Studying To Be Quiet

December 3, 2017 / No. 3909

Dear Radio Friends,
Last broadcast we considered God’s Word as it touched upon our life of holiness. We found that holiness requires of us freedom from fornication and a call to sexual purity. In verse 9 of I Thessalonians 4 Paul turns to another subject: he speaks of love for the brother. This means the verses we study in our broadcast today stand intimately connected with the call to love the brother.
We consider verses 11, 12. We read, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” These verses are a part of Paul’s exhortation to grow in brotherly love. In verse 10 begins his exhortation: “but we beseech you brethren that ye increase more and more [in brotherly love] and that ye study to be quiet,” and so on. There definitely is a connection in Paul’s mind between the love of the brother and the need to do one’s own business and to work. That connection is this: to labor diligently while minding our own business is itself showing love to the neighbor. That is true both with respect to the neighbor within the church and to the neighbor without. Out of love for those around us we mind our own business, work diligently, and walk decently with our neighbor. In this way we fulfill the second table of the law. So, we bear that in mind today.
Also, we need to bear in mind that we have before us a very practical Word of God. We are studying that part of Paul’s letter dealing with many practical truths of the Christian life. Although this Word of God is rooted in doctrinal truth, nevertheless, this passage is almost exclusively practical in nature. Yet, it is important instruction nonetheless simply because it shows us that we cannot separate our lives into parts. What we believe of God, sin, and salvation in Christ has everything to do with how we live. Even in what we may think is the most trivial or insignificant areas of our lives.
I. The Meaning
Though every true church of Jesus Christ has its strengths for which she can be commended, it is equally true that she has her weaknesses. This was true of the church in Thessalonica as well. As far as brotherly love was concerned, this congregation excelled in it. But there was a problem that was yet in seed form, a problem just beginning to show itself in the life of some of the members of this congregation. No doubt Timothy detected this when he returned to Thessalonica to enquire into her spiritual needs. There were some who had the notion that Christ’s second coming was close at hand. And if this were true, they need no longer busy themselves with their earthly labors. They were better off spending their time in spiritual pursuits in order to be prepared when Christ came for them. This notion probably arose in connection with the preaching of Paul while he was there on his second journey. No doubt, Paul preached about this great truth of Christ’s second coming, emphasizing that we must always live in consciousness of that coming. Paul probably spoke of Christ coming soon and swiftly, as a thief in the night. And though Paul himself had no mistaken notion concerning Christ’s coming, there were those in Thessalonica who did. They were beginning to think that Christ might return tomorrow or the day after—or at least very soon. They thought it best therefore to quit their daily labors and spend the short time they had left in preparation for the coming of Christ. Paul addresses this problem in some detail in the second epistle. The problem was not as prominent with the writing of this first epistle as it was when Paul wrote the second one. Yet, as we mentioned, the problem was already beginning to surface in Thessalonica prior to the writing of this first letter. Evidently it was a big enough problem already to warrant the writing of the passage we consider. This, then, is the reason Paul enjoins the saints in Thessalonica to study to be quiet.
Now, we might be quick to think that this Word of God no longer applies to the church today. It was for a young church who was as yet immature in her faith and knowledge of Christ’s coming. The church today is mature in her knowledge. Therefore, the instruction of our text is really of no value to us. If that is our reasoning at this point, it is faulty. Our text addresses itself to the church today. It condemns those today too who have the mistaken notion of Christ’s imminent, unexpected return—those who are deceived into thinking that Christ is coming on a certain day and therefore sell all that they have and spend their time in idleness waiting for Christ’s return. These verses definitely condemn such foolish persons, and they instruct them to be busy with their own business and to labor.
But this Word of God applies to all of the church. Others in the church today, for one reason or another, refuse to labor, and as a result they meddle in others’ business. These members of the church do not take seriously their calling to support their household. They do not take heed to the instruction of God’s Word that a man must labor diligently in order to make a living for himself and the members of his family and church. As a result, they do not prepare themselves properly for a job that will be able to support family and church; neither when the time comes to fulfill this calling do they perform it. God places a serious responsibility upon the head of the home: he must labor with his hands or his mind or both in order that he might lack nothing for himself or the church. Our love for God and the neighbor, our calling and place within God’s kingdom, apply to this aspect of our lives. You see, sometimes we like to divide our lives into compartments, it seems. This compartment belongs to my spiritual life. This one belongs to my earthly, secular life. What belongs to the spiritual I deal with spiritually, but what belongs to this secular aspect of my life, well, it has nothing to do with what I believe. It belongs to earthly business, earthly labor, and has nothing at all to do with my spiritual life. That is not true! Everything, everything we do—and that as far as life and business are concerned too—everything must be controlled by what we believe. Our lives cannot be divided up into various compartments. Our spiritual life and the Word of God, even in such practical matters as seeking work and supporting a family, must guide and direct our actions. This is why Paul instructs as he does in the passage before us: “Study to be quiet!”
That is a unique phrase, “study to be quiet.” In fact, it is a very descriptive phrase. It is given us to counteract all slothfulness and laziness. “Study to be quiet!” The term “quiet” here is to be applied to all of life in general, the way we conduct our lives in this world. The idea, then, would be to lead a quiet and peaceable life, a life that is even and smooth. Actually, this is a picturesque term here. It draws the picture of a person quietly and calmly conducting himself in relation to others. One who is untroubled with quarrels and upheavals in relation to those about him. A quiet life is a simple and private life unencumbered with strife and tumult. A person who leads a quiet life is one who goes to work each day and returns home again routinely. His life at home is also characterized by serenity, where wife and children live peaceably with each other. This is one who is quiet. And we are enjoined by the Word of God to study to be quiet.
Now, that does not mean, of course, that we should go out and buy all kinds of books in order that we might study them in order to learn how to lead a quiet life. The term “study,” rather, implies concentrating on living a quiet and peaceable life, striving earnestly in all we do and say to lead a quiet life. In fact, the term literally means “to be ambitious.” We as God’s people must ambitiously strive to walk in such a way that our lives in our homes and in our dealing with others are not busy and loud, but calm and even.
This graphically portrays our lives as God’s people in this world. It is over against this that we must examine our lives as well. How would we judge our own personal lives and that of our families when comparing ourselves to this Word of God? How busy are we in matters that really do not belong to us? How often do we find time to sit down in quietness and peace with ourselves and our families? How gentle and quiet are we in our dealings with others in the church and outside the church? Are we always pushing and shoving to be heard and noticed, always finding ourselves examining the lives of others?
II. The Manner
Paul describes for us the manner in which we can accomplish studying to be quiet in verse 11. Notice: “that ye study to be quiet and to do your own business.” The conjunction “and” in our text would be better translated “even.” Then our text would read: “that ye study to be quiet, even to do your own business and to work with your own hands.” In other words, the sense here is that Paul further explains how to study to be quiet. The first of these ways is to do or tend to our own business. When we do our own business, we are studying to lead a quiet and peaceable life. Paul refers to the affairs of life in general. Each of us is called by God’s Word here to do that which is peculiar and proper for our lives in particular without meddling in the affairs of others. Or, to use the words of Paul himself in I Corinthians 7, “let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called.” We are called to attend to the business of our own lives without thrusting ourselves into the lives of other individuals and families. We may not under the pretense of affection and care take upon ourselves to manage the business of others. In other words, Paul means what he says: “Mind your own business!” That, first of all, is the way to a quiet and peaceable life: mind your own business!
Well, this Word of God comes to us today! We are called not to be busybodies in other people’s affairs. This is a timely admonition! In our present society we are so, so susceptible to falling into this sin. And sin it is, a sin that can oftentimes cause much disruption in our lives and the lives of others, disturbing our quietness and theirs. We in our present society are more susceptible to this sin, more than any other society, past or present. I say that because of the modern technology of our day. In today’s world it is easy to be busybodies in other people’s matters. We have all our modern conveniences that make life simple. Chores that took a full day to do in the past now take up but an hour or so of our time. The result is, first of all, that we have more time to become involved in all sorts of matters other than our own lives and work. The affairs of life and labor can be dealt with in short order, leaving us with time for becoming involved in business that does not belong to our own personal life and labors.
We also have the modern means of communication. Everyone has a cell phone—and, with this, almost everyone is linked to one or more types of social media. We keep up with the lives of hundreds of people—believers and unbelievers—closely scrutinizing and examining what they are doing with their lives. In turn, so many openly share their every move and their every thought and desire with the hundreds that are tuned into their lives. Social media has made the whole lot busybodies in other people’s lives. With no prick of conscience, they ignore the injunction of God’s Word, “mind your own business,” and heartily make everyone else’s business their own. With that not only comes the knowledge of what goes on in other people’s business, but also the judgments that we make. We judge the right and wrong of matters that are none of our business—judgments that we freely pass along to others. The result is tumult and confusion, anger and strife, upset and upheaval.
All that as opposed to those things that make for peace and quiet in our lives and in the church. There is one sure way to study to be quiet in our lives: mind our own business. We must consume our lives in our own affairs and the affairs of our families. Forget about the hot news that is circulating out there! We must be busy with our daily labors in the workplace and in the home. We must be busy with our own husbands and wives and children.
The other way in which we study to be quiet in our lives is by working with our own hands. Here our text focuses on the problem with some in the Thessalonian church: they were idle. Under the pretense of waiting for Christ’s return they became idle, and idleness breeds meddling in the affairs of others. When we have so much time on our hands, then it becomes so easy and tempting to enter into the affairs of another’s life. When we are slothful, when we are idle, when we are lazy, then the temptation is there—let us face it—to turn our attention to the lives of others. And that is when we get ourselves into trouble. We have heard it often enough and it is true: idle hands are the tools of the devil. When we are idle, not keeping ourselves busy, Satan is there, and he directs us into the way of backbiting and gossip. This causes dissension and unrest in the church and in our personal lives as well. That is reality. To counteract that reality, Paul says “work with your hands.”
Now, he is not instructing us here to become manual laborers, as if manual labor, working only with the hands, is the only cure for idleness. It probably was true that many of the members in the Thessalonian church were common laborers or skilled artisans. They worked with their hands. They did not spend their time in a study as I do, or in the office of a professional as many others do by occupation. This is probably why Paul uses the type of language that he does. Nevertheless, this Word of God applies to all who labor. In other words, the simple command of God’s Word is: work! Work hard and busily. Then, when you are not at work, go home where you and your family can share a few hours together before retiring. Be busy in your labors so that you will not have the time to become busy with other people’s business.
Besides, we must work because this is our calling in life. Man is called to labor by the sweat of his face. God does not intend us to be idle. God told man to replenish the earth and subdue it, having dominion over all things. Man must therefore “pray and work,” as the common Latin proverb tells us. Pray and work. God did not place man in this world to spend his days in fun and recreation. God has placed us here to work!
III. The Purpose
In what will this result? What will be accomplished by all this? What is the purpose in studying to be quiet? Why work? Verse 12: “that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without.” Of course, when we labor diligently, when we mind our own business, when we are quiet and peaceable, looking well to the ways of our household, we will be a witness to those who are without. Do not forget, the wicked are watching God’s people. These are those who are without—those outside the realm of the church, those who are unbelievers. They watch us as Christians! When we lead a quiet life, minding the affairs of our station and calling in life, and working diligently, they see us. Our walk is honest, that is, “in good form.” Our walk causes no offense.
And that leaves them an example to follow. Is that not true? When we are busy with our own matters and working with or own hands, then no one can raise his eyebrows at us. No one can question our integrity. Instead, they see peace and orderliness in our lives. Even ungodly neighbors will say: “Now that is a nice family.” We leave a godly witness in our lives that the Spirit of our risen Lord dwells in us and is guiding us into an understanding of our calling and life in this world.
The other purpose for studying to be quiet and to work with our own hands is that of proper provision. We labor diligently, minding our own business and working with our own hands in order that we might take care of our responsibilities. In this way we have lack of nothing. And we have that which is necessary to give to kingdom causes as well.
By accomplishing all this from a practical point of view as far as our labors are concerned, we serve God rightly. That is what we ought never to forget. Everything we have considered today is not just some good practical advice the Scriptures give us. All this belongs to the life of holiness and sanctification that characterizes the believer. All this flows out of our faith in Jesus Christ. Just as fleeing fornication, putting aside all cheating and defrauding, and loving the brother are a part of our sanctification, so also do living a life honestly and working with our hands the things that are good belong to a life of holiness. Such holiness is in turn the fruit of the precious work our Savior has performed for His people on the cross. Let us study to be quiet—ever looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us labor with our hands, doing our own business. In this way we abound and overflow in brotherly love.