'"But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more; and that
ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands,
even as we charged you; that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without,
may have need of nothing." (1 Thess. 4: 10-12)
True religion can be practiced in work clothes at all hours of the day, any
day in the week. It is practical life. It has a place in all work and all play
of a legitimate character. It is something else besides a Sunday face and a
Sunday dress. It
is not an arbitrary code for polished piety and holiday use.
A truly religious man is one who is doing the will of God. God wills that men be happy and useful. He alone is familiar with the requirements. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." All divine urgings and prohibitions are for man's
good for time and eternity. He does not arbitrarily restrict man's happiness. He is good. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8) At the time Paul wrote to them, the Thessalonians had
only recently turned from idols to God. They had shown notable progress in some of the graces of the Christian life. Paul encouraged them to go on and not become easily satisfied with their attainments, and he instructed them in the practical activities of genuine religion.
A Strange Ambition
Some of his suggestions are surprisingly simple. They do not remind us of thunderstorms
and tempests. He advocates a strange ambition: "Study to be quiet."
That is, be ambitious, make it your aim to be quiet. Some had misinterpreted
the nature of their calling. They were noisy and disorderly. One would think
they belonged to the spiritual tribe of Gad instead of the church of
Christ, the way they gadded about, idling away their time, gossiping and meddling. They were injuring the cause of true religion. Christians should "lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2-4)
That ambition which is motivated by worldly pride leads to sin and ultimate
disappointment. Ananias and Sapphira were seeking notoriety when they were led
into the sin of lying against the Holy Spirit. False ambition will make them
lie. Pharisees and hypocrites sounded trumpets, prayed long prayers, and dressed
peculiarly, "to be seen of men." Christ condemns such conduct among his disciples. They must not "love the chief place at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the market places, and to be called of men, Rabbi." (Mt 23: 6-8)
"Study to be quiet." Genuine humility is too scarce among disciples of today. We deserve anew the reproof of James: "My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him? But ye have dishonored the poor man." (James 2:1-6)
It is possible that we make too much ado over certain individuals in our assemblies today for reasons that are out of harmony with the expressed will of God. It is the spirit of the world. It befits "the sound doctrine," "that aged men be temperate, grave, sober-minded, sound in faith, in love, in patience: that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed: the younger men likewise exhort to be sober-minded." (Titus 2: 1-6) This is real religion, and it is real life, too. It is not gaudy or fussy. It is as divinely natural and beautiful as a sunset. The colors of life blend perfectly when men obey God.
This ambition for quiet would have made peace reign where discord and hate brood over the tragedy of disrupted churches. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God " A selfish seeking for notoriety has driven many a schismatic on his destructive course. It explains much of the wild and unreasoning sensationalism in religion. "But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes. And the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves." (2 Tim 2: 23-25) Truth is often more like the still small voice than the breaking of the rocks and the rending of the mountains.
Religion in Business
Religion is not idleness. He is far afield who thinks he should be freed from the ordinary demands of life, that he might devote his time to religion. It is a great blessing that most people have to work to live. "If any will not work, neither let him eat." Pity the man who has nothing to do but hold his hands and be pious. The apostle of true religion says: "Do your own business and work with your hands." Did you ever hear of a man who did not have time to be religious? He is like the man who couldn't see the forest for the trees or the city for the houses and people. If he has time for honest work, he has time to be religious. Lord Tennyson defined a living poet as "a reed through which all things blow into music." Another has paraphrased his language and defined a living Christian as "a reed through which all things blow into religion." We can live like the angels when we become as the angels. While we are on earth, it is God's will that we live as men. Religion glows in the activities of a busy, useful life. It is practical enough.
The apostle offers good and sufficient reasons for the practical religion he enjoined upon the Thessalonians. Their idle, fussy, excitable ways were having a bad influence. "Walk becomingly toward them that are without." The church has a character to sustain. It should command the respect of "them that are without." This demands that Christians lead quiet, peaceable lives and attend to business. It is God's will that Christians be thrifty enough to be independent, "have need of nothing." There should also be a surplus to be given for those who are not so fortunate. There may be good reasons for poverty, but it is nothing to boast of. It may be actually disgraceful, considering the good health and opportunities of the pauper. The beauty and practical nature of texts like these explain why the Bible maintains its vigor.
By Cled Wallace– Bible Banner, Jan 1943
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