And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business….
— 1 Thessalonians 4:11
When I was a young boy, Grandpa and Grandma Renner lived two blocks from our house. Almost every day, I’d go visit them. When I’d arrive at the back gate, I’d yell out, “Grandpa!” — knowing that he was probably somewhere in the backyard or doing something interesting in his garage. When he heard my voice, Grandpa would quickly appear from seemingly nowhere and cheerfully open the back gate so I could follow him to see what he was doing in the yard or garage.
I also always knew, without even asking, where I would most likely find Grandma Renner. I could almost be sure to find her talking on the telephone — a beige rotary telephone that sat right next to a notebook filled with the names and phone numbers of her dearest friends. I can vividly remember hearing her say, “Hello…this is Ethel….” Within minutes, the gossip would begin — something she was committed to as seriously as Grandpa was to his yard and garage! Then as soon as that conversation ended, she’d pick up her pencil, put the eraser end into the circles on the rotary dial, and begin dialing the next girlfriend on her list to start the whole gossipy conversation all over again.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
There was Grandpa — working contentedly in the garage and minding his own business, fully satisfied. Meanwhile, Grandma was in hot pursuit of knowing everyone else’s business! As much as I loved Grandma, it was just a fact that she was continually repeating what she had just heard from someone else and expressing her opinions about people’s personal issues that were none of her business.
Unfortunately, talking about other people’s private affairs is a characteristic of the fallen human nature. I shudder to think how many people’s reputations have been scarred or stained because of false information spread from person to person by those who didn’t know what they were talking about or who really had nothing to do with the matter. Even if they had “inside information,” it still wasn’t their business.
This inclination of human nature to stick its nose where it doesn’t belong is not new. Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business…” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). What does it mean to study to be quiet?
The Greek word for “study” is philotimeomai, a word that means ambition. This means Paul was actually telling readers to be ambitious about being quiet. Before we proceed further, let’s look deeper at this Greek word and learn more about what it means to you and me when used in conjunction with the idea of being quiet.
This word philotimeomai pictures an individual who is totally committed to obtaining or achieving a specific goal. He is determined to reach it, and he is enthusiastic about his pursuit of it. He has a strong, inward yearning to attain it that drives and motivates him — propelling him toward his goal. He is absolutely fixated on obtaining the object of his desire and will not stop until he gets it. He simply won’t let go of his commitment to attain it.
Although we usually think of ambition of this sort in a negative sense, Paul used it here in a positive context to describe a person who is totally committed to do whatever it takes to be “quiet.” The word “quiet” is the Greek word isuchadzo, which refers to keeping to your own business instead of prying into other people’s affairs. By using this word in this verse, Paul was calling on his readers to refuse to be busybodies. Someone whose behavior fits that description might be known for eavesdropping, snooping into other people’s business, intruding into others’ personal matters, prying into the affairs of others, and gossiping about other people. In other words, someone who behaved himself in this manner would definitely fall into the category of a busybody!
We are to follow Paul’s admonition: “Make it your ambition — that is, give it your fullest and most enthusiastic effort — to stay out of other people’s business.…” Then he continued, “…And to do your own business….” In other words, instead of poking around in matters that have nothing to do with us, we are to keep our mouths shut, keep our eyes from wandering, and focus on our own personal affairs. We don’t have a right to delve into the private matters of other people for whom we have no responsibility. In such cases, we need to take a firm stand and refuse to allow gossip or hurtful information to enter our ears. Period.
This must have been a problem for a few believers in the church of Thessalonica, because Paul addressed busybodies several times in his first letter to them. In each case, he reprimanded them, even telling others to disassociate with those who acted in such a manner.
Today I ask you to look at your own life and see if you need to make an adjustment in this area. If people were talking about and delving into your private affairs, wouldn’t you appreciate it if they stopped it — completely refrained from doing it? Of course you would! So I encourage you to decide today to obey these scriptures and give the same courtesy to others that you would want them to give to you.
And if there are people in your life who do this — those who try to use your ears as garbage receptacles to receive trashy information — politely tell them that you’re not going to listen any longer. This may offend them at first, but it will also make them think twice before they open their mouths. And remember, if people gossip about others to you, they won’t think twice about gossiping about you to others. It’s just so much better to obey God and determine to never let yourself get into that kind of conversational trap!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I repent for the times I’ve allowed my tongue to communicate words ignited by the flesh and forgiving place to devilish discussions that were not inspired by the Holy Spirit who indwells me. Words of gossip and slander proceed from a polluted heart. To speak such words destroys reputations and relationships — and taints the hearts of those who hear them. Holy Spirit, I ask You to cleanse me from all defilement and from twisted speech and inappropriate communication. Please set a watch over my lips and create in me a clean and quiet heart.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Therefore, I will not use my tongue to insert hell’s suggestions into people’s ears, but rather speak God’s will and promote God’s perspective. Because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, I choose to fill my heart with God’s words, and I cultivate a quiet spirit that is trained to wait upon God. I will heed His direction concerning when to speak, what to say, and when to remain silent. In that blessed quietness, confidence and discernment shall be my strength. I do not speak about or involve my opinion in matters that are none of my business. And I do not allow others to bring gossip to me wrapped in the guise of a prayer request. Like Jesus, I speak only the words I hear my Heavenly Father speak. His words are love-filled and life-producing, releasing health and strength in me and in the hearts of those who hear them.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you been guilty of talking about other people for whom you have no responsibility and therefore no reason to discuss their personal lives? If your answer is yes, what actions are you going to change as a result of reading today’s Sparkling Gem?
- Often when people talk about others, they dress up their negative words in the guise of a prayer request. Isn’t it possible to address a prayer need without talking about another’s private affairs? How can you request prayer without divulging private information or delving into other people’s personal matters that don’t concern you?
- What would happen if you told those people who gossip that you aren’t going to participate in that kind of conversation any longer? After all, it’s almost certain that they are also talking about you.