Monday, November 16, 2009

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

V9-12 –9Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Paul encourages brotherly love to those who are already good at exhibiting brotherly love. They are already doing it well, loving “all the brothers throughout Macedonia,” because they “have been taught by God” (v9). Calvin says, “The Holy Spirit inwardly dictates efficaciously what is to be done, so that there is no need to give injunctions in writing.” And Paul wants them, strongly urges them, “to do so more and more.” It’s appreciation, commendation, encouragement, and exhortation, all in one. Elsewhere, Paul urges Timothy in a similar way, acknowledging that God will help him (and us) understand Paul’s words – since they are in fact God’s words – and put them into practice: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (2 Timothy 2:7).

In v11-12, Paul says, “Make it your ambition…” This Greek word for “aspire” was culturally used for the wealthy to gain honor through generosity. The footnote of my Reformation Study Bible says, “Paul’s use of the term turns it on its head: the Thessalonians should be zealous for the honor that comes not through self-assertion or an ostentatious show of personal greatness, but through humble, industrious, and unimpeachable behavior. This exhortation…had a particular urgency in Thessalonica where the Christians had already been falsely accused of sedition (Acts 17:6-9). By living lives that were respectable and unpretentious, the Christians were to allay any lingering suspicions.” In fact, we might understand Paul to be saying, “Strive not to strive,” or “Be ambitious to be unambitious.” And this command is given in preparation for the coming teaching on eschatological matters. This command is for those who have taken to idleness, or laziness, out of grief for lost loved ones and/or the expectation of Christ’s imminent return. Maybe they’ve started meddling in other peoples’ business. But as Paul addresses that in the next section, he pre-warns them here that leading a quiet life, minding your own business, and working with your hands (there is no doubt that one’s manual labor earns respect from those who once thought him or her lazy) will “win the respect of outsiders.” On the other hand, idleness and being a busybody will not (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:13).

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