While many people associate success with accumulating wealth or prestige, one woman had a different type of dream. After years of being unhappy in her high-pressure, prestigious government job, she sold her suburban home and moved to the country. Her ambition? To open a farm stand. For her, living a quieter, simpler life held the greatest reward.
In today’s passage, Paul discusses the virtues of hard work and living a life of quiet integrity. This is actually a further extension of the virtue of loving one another (see yesterday’s devotional). Paul, for example, had shown love by working hard so as not to be a burden on the young church (1 Thess. 2:9). He’d not been too proud to work with his hands, and neither should they be.
A “quiet life” does not necessarily mean moving to the country. It can be described as taking care of one’s own responsibilities (4:11), as opposed to meddling in others’ affairs. Such a person is peaceable and respectful of others, not someone who stirs up trouble. An ethic of individual integrity in this sense does not contradict the community-oriented and interdependent nature of the church. Rather, both are true simultaneously.
This godly ambition produces two outcomes (v. 12). First, such a life wins the respect of outsiders and therefore aids Christian witness to a watching world. Second, self-reliance or not being dependent on others is a virtue in itself. Sometimes we all need help, and we’re commanded to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), but idleness and taking advantage of others displeases the Lord.
Why was this reminder needed? It seems some Thessalonian believers were living off the charity of wealthy church members. Whatever the case, they didn’t take this hint to heart and Paul had to address this problem more sternly in his next epistle (see 2 Thess. 3:6–12).
>> Today, consider your own work-life balance. What is your personal ambition? How does this passage challenge you?
Lord, please prevent us from sabotaging our witness by loathing our earthly responsibilities. Teach us to worship you even in the most mundane details and duties.