“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all heard that question as children and sometimes even as adults. The question is born in curiosity, and the answer is often heard as an indication of ambition. My answers morphed over the years, starting with a cowboy, then a truck driver, followed by a soldier, and I entered college set on becoming a doctor. However, I can’t recall one time that someone suggested or I consciously considered pursuing “a quiet life.”
Yet that’s exactly what Paul told the Thessalonians. First, he urged them to love one another and all of God’s family even more (1 Thessalonians 4:10). Then he gave them a general admonition that would cover whatever specific plow they put their hand to. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (v. 11). Now what did Paul mean by that exactly? He clarified: “You should mind your own business and work with your hands” so outsiders respect you and you’re not a burden on anyone (vv. 11–12). We don’t want to discourage children from pursuing their giftedness or passions but maybe we could encourage them that whatever they choose to do, they do with a quiet spirit.
Considering the world we live in, the words ambitious and quiet couldn’t seem further apart. But the Scriptures are always relevant, so perhaps we should consider what it might look like to begin living quieter.
How does Paul’s phrase—“mind your own business”—sit with you? Who comes to mind of someone who lives a quiet life that you might emulate?
Paul’s first letter to the believers in Christ at Thessalonica was one of his most pastoral letters. In chapter 2, he repeatedly refers to them with affection, calling them “brothers and sisters” (vv. 1, 14, 17). Additionally, the apostle describes his own care for them in vivid terms, saying he and his team didn’t come to them authoritatively, but as “young children” (v. 7). Also in verse 7, Paul actually describes himself as being like a “nursing mother” who lovingly nurses her children. As further evidence of his great love for them, Paul speaks of his labor for them in the gospel and ultimately closes the loop of family descriptors by portraying himself as a father caring for his children (vv. 8–11). All of these examples combine not only to make this one of Paul’s most pastoral letters, but one of his most personal as well.