COMMENTARY ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
" 4:10 . . . and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing." NKJV (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)
In this text we are provided insight into the practicality of spiritual life. It is both public and private. Those in Christ are knit with one another, yet lead intensely personal lives in which they learn to trust in the Lord-a seeming contradiction. It is an indication of considerable advancement in the faith when this can be seen. Much of the religion of our time and place has been so institutionalized that it is no longer personal. Further, the affiliation with the group is largely formal, and is not driven by a love that is taught by God. We will learn from our text that those in Christ Jesus are extremely versatile, and capable of much more than they imagine. They can increase "more and more" in their strong points-areas where they have been personally taught by God. They can abound toward brethren in a large area-believers with whom they do not have regular contact. In a noisy and distracting world they can learn to be quiet. In covetous surroundings, they can work with their own hands to appropriate what is needful. In the midst of enemies, they can conduct themselves properly toward those on the outside. With the devil aligned against them, and enemies pressing hard upon them, they can "lack nothing." In all of this, the believer is granted a level of satisfaction and peace of which the world knows nothing.
LOVING AND INCREASING MORE AND MORE
" 4:10 And indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more." This is an extension of the previous verse, in which it was declared that the Thessalonians were taught by God to love one another. This will declare the outcome of that instruction. It will also affirm that even when we are taught by God, we must be stirred up by exhortations to burst through the barrier of mediocrity, and move beyond the normal. The Kingdom of God is "forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" by aggressively moving forward in the Spirit (Matt 11:12).
ALL THE BRETHREN. Other versions read, "indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia," NASB and "in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia." NIV Thessalonica was a city, Macedonia was a region. This was a large area to which the Lord had called Paul and those with him, to "preach the Gospel unto them" (Acts 16:9-10). Other cities in Macedonia included Philippi and Berea, and Thessalonica was its capital. Macedonia was one of the four vast kingdoms into which Alexander's empire was divided. It was a fairly large region-nearly 200 miles square. So when Paul said the Thessalonians practiced love toward all the brethren throughout Macedonia, he said quite a lot. That would be equivalent to saying we practiced the love of the brethren throughout a region extending North to Butler, MO, South to Fayetteville, AR, East to Springfield, MO, and West to Tulsa, OK. Even in a day of advanced technology, Internet, telephone, and rapid transportation, this is a staggering consideration. The very idea does not blend at all with the average concept of loving the people of God.
Among other things, this reveals the preference of the saints for kindred spirits, as well as an acquaintance with them. It did not mean they met regularly with these people, although I do not doubt they would have taken advantage of any opportunity to do so. They were aware, however, of any occasions to do good to the saints. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the "churches in Macedonia, "in a great trial of affliction," welled up in deep generosity toward needy saints. Of them Paul wrote, "For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints" NIV (2 Cor 8:1-4). It is my understanding that the Thessalonians were among those liberal souls.
The "all the brethren" mentality is not at all common in our time. Sectarianism has robbed the body of Christ of much of this. That has introduced all manner of weaknesses and deficiencies within the church. There is no substitute for a fervent love for God's people.
WE URGE YOU. Mind you, the Apostle is speaking to a people who were already doing well-far above what one might consider "normal." Yet, because we are not living in a vacuum, and because Satan tempts the saints to relax their efforts, urging and exhortation are constantly required. Showing the strength of this word, other versions read "we beseech you," KJV "we exhort you," RSV "we entreat you," Duoay-Rheims "we call upon you," YLT and "we beg you." NLT Here is an activity (beseeching, urging, exhorting) that has all but been removed by stilted religion. I feel myself to be deficient in this area, and am quite discontent with that circumstance. Urging is a sanctified activity in which the saints of God are pushed, so to speak, to higher levels. It is not an abusive activity, but is accompanied with a tender heart and a profound interest in the welfare of God's people. It is the kind of spirit evinced by Paul and Barnabas when they "persuaded them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43). Urging involves strong appeals to the hearts of men to be "steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor 15:58). It is used of God to break through the crust of indifference that is caused by exposure to "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4).
INCREASE MORE AND MORE. There is no point in spiritual life where we "peak-out." In this world, as well as throughout eternity, we will never reach a point where the freshness of life, growth, and advancement, become obsolete. The "more and more" mentality can be experienced by believers today. It is the kind of growth involved in being changed "from glory unto glory," going "from strength unto strength," and moving "from faith unto faith" (2 Cor 3:18; Psa 84:7; Rom 1:17). Our love for the brethren is to be characterized by this trait: "increase more and more." While that involves deeds, it is not the point of the admonition. This is speaking of our heart's preference for the saints, desire for their welfare, and profound appreciation for them. Those who have such qualities will surely be the first to minister in the times of need. Such love will result in an abundant harvest for those increasing more and more. It is ever true, "he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6). There are few areas where this is as evident than in the matter of loving the people of God.
A QUIET AND INDUSTRIOUS LIFE
" 11 That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you." Other versions read, "to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business," NASB and "aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs." NRSV At first, this may appear to contradict the exhortation to increase more and more in the love of the brethren. In view of current "Christian" emphases, it also has a rather strange sound - at least to those who are not accustomed to living by faith.
ASPIRE. The KJV uses the word "study," which emphasizes being eager, or earnest, to do something. Here is a commendable kingdom trait: aspiring. The word "aspire" means to strive earnestly, to be ambitious about something, and make it our aim, or goal. It infers there is progress that can be realized, and that we want to make it. The strength of aspiration, or ambition, is seen elsewhere in Scripture. "Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" NASB (2 Cor 5:9). It is noble for believers to have spiritual ambitions, or godly aims. It involves applying ourselves to the specified area, and being eager to make some advancement in it. It will be interesting to behold the areas in which the Spirit urges us to have aspirations and strong ambitions.
A QUIET LIFE. This is a life characterized by peace. The individual is not running here and there, becoming involved in the matters of others. This is a life that does not cause disturbance for others. It is a life that is not disruptive, intrusive, or unsettling. Quietness involves being silent, living peaceably with our own families. It is the opposite of "talebearing," "whispering," and "backbiting" (Lev 19:6; Rom 1:29-30). This involves behaving ourselves so as not to cause disruption in our neighborhood or city. It is to "lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim 2:2).
A "quiet life" is the result of having personal "quietness." Isaiah affirmed that "quietness and assurance" are the "effect of righteousness" (Isa 32:17). This is "being still," and knowing that God IS God (Psa 46:10). In this condition, we realize the effects of receiving wisdom "from above," which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated" (James 3:17). Such individuals do not agitate those about them, but are "peacemakers."
At its root, quietness is an aspect of faith. In it, we trust in the Lord, and, as a result, the believer "shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid" (Jer 30:10). It is still true, "in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength" (Isa 30:15). It is not enough to simply know these texts. It must be our aspiration for them to be fulfilled in us.
MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS. Each believer has a full plate with which to be occupied, without intruding into the affairs of others. While it is not popular to speak in this manner, the Spirit often makes a point of this. The second letter to the Thessalonians confirms the need for this exhortation. "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies" (2 Thess 3:11). The Spirit speaks of young widows who "learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house" (1 Tim 5:13). Solemnly we are admonished to not be "a busybody in other men's matters" (1 Pet 4:15). Minding our own business is bearing our own burden. As it is written, "for each one should carry his own load" NIV (Gal 6:5). That statement follows a seemingly contradictory one: "Carry each other's burdens" (Gal 6:2). There is a facet of our lives that can only be maintained by ourselves. There is grace and personal fellowship with Christ to be proficient in these areas.
In its broadest sense, minding your own business is "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12). In its most detailed sense, it is devoting ourselves to the area in which God has placed us. Servants, for example, are to "be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ" (Eph 6:5). Wives are "to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit 2:5). Husbands are to "provide for their own" (1 Tim 5:8), love their wives (Eph 5:28), and bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord"(Eph 6:4). Each person is to take their own life seriously, doing all within their power to avoid deficiencies and disruptions in the lives of others. In minding your own business, be "fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord" (Rom 12:11).
WORKING WITH YOUR OWN HANDS. Working with our own hands is the opposite of idleness, a curse to be avoided. When God consigned Adam to a life of toil by the sweat of his face (Gen 3:19), it was more than a curse. It was also therapeutic, assisting men to avoid sinful lusts. In such work, there will be provision for supporting the weak (Acts 20:35), and providing for the needy (Eph 4:28). In times of need, Paul himself, though an Apostle worked with his hands (1 Cor 4:12). The rule of God is, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess 3:10).
WALKING PROPERLY AND LACKING NOTHING
" 12 That you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing." Other versions read "walk honestly toward them that are without," KJV "behave properly toward outsiders," NASB and "your daily life may win the respect of outsiders." NIV
WALKING PROPERLY. To walk properly, or honestly, is to "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (Rom 12:17). It is to live so our "good" is not "evil spoken of" (Rom 14:16). An excellent example of this kind of living is seen in the way early believers had a rather large offering delivered to the needy brethren. Titus accompanied the offering, coming of his own free will. Another brother, who was praised by all the churches because of his labors, was sent along with him. He was chosen by the churches to accompany Titus, and actually carry the offering. All of this was done "in order to honor the Lord." In addition, this explanation was given for their deliberate and careful action. "We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men" NIV (2 Cor 8:20-21).
Walking "properly," or honestly, involves allowing our moderation, or gentle spirit, to become evident to everyone. As it is written, "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand" (Phil 4:5). This is our outward lives-what men see of us. A self-seeking society scoffs at such a notion, caring nothing for what others think of their conduct.
When we walk "honestly," we are living with God in our view, and with a conscience that does not condemn us. Such a life is like a bright and shining light. As Jesus admonished, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). It involves paying our debts and respecting those in high places. As it is written, "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" NIV (Rom 13:7-8). Although not often mentioned, these things are important. It is good to remember the kind of society and government prevalent at the time they were written.
THOSE WHO ARE OUTSIDE. This is a description of all who are not in Christ Jesus. They are "outside" of the love, blessing, and salvation of God. All of the benefits procured by Christ's death, resurrection, and enthronement in glory, are inaccessible to these people. They are "outside" the household of Christ (Heb 3:6). Jesus referred to such people as "those who are outside," declaring it was not given to them to know the mysteries of the Kingdom (Mark 4:11). Paul referred to them as "them also that are without" (1 Cor 5:12). These are the "others which have no hope," mentioned in the twelfth verse of this chapter. They are the ones referred to in the qualifications of an elder: "Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1 Tim 3:7). These are the people who are "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). They are people with whom we have to do, and before whom we live.
One might imagine it is of no consequence what these people think of us. From one point of view, that is true. We are not to allow their unbelief to modify our faith, diminish our zeal, or lessen our quest for glory. We are not to fear what they will do to us, or so shape our lives to avoid their persecution. However, believers are not to live in a sloppy manner before them. We are to live "that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed" among these people (1 Tim 6:1). Our lives are not to be in conflict with our doctrine, "that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit 2:5). Inconsiderate Jews were sharply rebuked because "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you" (Rom 2:24).
When mighty David sinned with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, God judged the matter, not allowing the child born out of that occasion to live. The explanation for that judgment shows the importance of our text: "However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die" NKJV (2 Sam 12:14). Let every believer take this admonition, and work it out in their life.
LACKING NOTHING. This is a most wonderful expression, though slightly obscured by the language. Another version reads, "and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs." NLT Unless surrounded by unusual circumstances like poor Lazarus, believers are to live without being dependent upon others. Such a life comes by devoting ourselves to living quietly and in a non-disruptive manner, being industrious in our work, and conducting ourselves properly before unbelievers. The person who takes these admonitions seriously will be honored by the Lord, and will "lack nothing." Let every person say with Paul, "I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself" (2 Cor 11:9).