Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “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” (NASB). For “ambition,” ESV uses the word “aspire” and the Reformed Study Bible notes make the comment, “The Greek word for this term often denoted the attempt to garner civic honor and recognition through outward displays of generosity by the wealthy. Paul’s use of the term turns it on its head.”
Paul told believers to do the opposite of what current culture said which was that the Greeks hated and deplored manual labor and made sure that their good words were seen. Paul (and Jesus, of course) said the opposite: work with your hands in quietness and without fanfare.
As I read this, my thought was, “Yeah, but, Paul is saying to do that which society doesn’t even value. They think it’s stupid. Yeah, it’s the right thing to do from God’s perspective but no one values it. What kind of impact can that be?”
My objection wanted an answer. And my next thought was, “So there must be something within people that knows the right thing and is attracted to it anyway.”
Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether someone approves of what we’re doing because our approval should come from the Lord, but I was still curious as to why “attending to our own business” is a good testimony.
I think it just goes to prove that inside every person, whether they want to admit it or not, there is a standard which they respect.
Larry and I care for his 91-year-old mother who has dementia. She lives almost full time in our home and when other people hear about this and the challenges it brings, they usually say, “why don’t you put her in a home?” That is the current societal perspective and there’s nothing wrong with it–many loving people I know have their loved one in a place where they can be cared for. For Audrey whose dementia incorporates paranoia, her best place is with us because she gets very upset otherwise. Believe me, we tried!
Even as people hear about our care of Audrey, there is the same reaction, I think, that the Greeks must have had toward those Christians who worked with their hands and didn’t try to get attention: “UGH! Doesn’t make sense to me but if that’s what you’re doing, I guess it’s OK. Maybe it’s even admirable. I guess maybe I should think more about it.”
I think that’s what Paul wanted the Thessalonica believers to represent: a perspective that made no sense to those unbelievers around them but who sure paid attention to those “crazy Christians’s” unusual ideas and attitudes. And most likely the best part of all: they noticed the joy, contentment, and God’s provision that characterized their lives.
Let’s let our lights shine even in a world that doesn’t understand “light” as a concept.