Biblical Commands that Will Never Come from a Conference Stage

1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12 – But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Paul had a little bit of time to instruct the young church in Thessalonica before he was driven out of that city under persecution. But Paul wanted to be sure that the believers there were OK. After all, when he left them, it was hard to know how they would respond to his suffering much less their own.

Sending Timothy back to get a report, Paul found out that the church in this city was thriving, even in the face of hardship. That fact gave Paul joy, and it led him to want to remind them of some very simple instructions. We see things like a call to remain pure and avoid the sexual immorality so prevalent in their culture (4:3) and to continue to love one another as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ (4:9).

Then we see a three-fold bit of counsel which got my attention. Paul, writing to a young church about what they need to be doing, tells them to live quietly, mind your own affairs, and work with your own hands. I wonder, does this surprise you? When you think of the kinds of commands that you would send a church functioning under a bad government and facing persecution, do these come to mind?

The reason that this surprises me simply has to do with the way that it sounds so different than much of the language out there about what the church is supposed to be. Go to any denominational meeting. Go to any church growth seminar. Go to any big-time conference about building up a strong church. I assure you that this is not the counsel you will get. You will hear people tell you how it is your job to transform the world. You will hear people tell you that it is your job to become prominent in your community, an indispensable asset. They’ll tell you that you need to get your church branded so that people recognize you.

In other theological corners, we will find folks letting us know that it is our job to bring about political change. Perhaps we need to lobby Washington. Perhaps we need to march and protest. Perhaps we are simply going to transform the world through our powerful evangelism.

The truth is, I’m not against being a good neighbor in the community. I’m not against making sure people know that your church is there. I’m not against voting for good candidates, even campaigning for good leaders. And we have every right to join in appropriate protests. But, and this is what gets me, the commands that we see quite clearly in Scripture look different.

Love one another. Live pure. Then, as we see above, live quietly. When have you ever heard a pastor or church growth guru tell you to live quietly? Keep your head down and be faithful to the Lord. When does anybody say that? Mind your own business. Paul tells us this, but I do not see that modeled in our social engagement or in our social media engagement. Get a job and work hard to be as self-sufficient as you can in your society. I am starting to hear a little more of that command.

Share the gospel, that is a biblical command. Make life better for the persecuted and the genuinely oppressed. But do not forget the word of God that was actually written to churches in passages like the one above. Love God. Live pure. Love one another. Live a simple life, a quiet life. Mind your own business. Feed your family. And continue to faithfully worship the Lord together.

I’m not writing this to call anybody to abandon their heart for evangelism or for changing the world to the glory of Jesus. I’m just writing this to remind us that we want to follow the commands that we actually see in Scripture. Here is a church that is under bad government, facing persecution, in a world that is not welcoming to the faith. And here, God saw fit to give that church a calling that would never be embraced on any big platform in any big conference in modern evangelicalism.

Do your Land Good and Live as an Exile

From 606 to 586 BC, the people of Judah were conquered by the Babylonian Empire. At different times, different groups of Jews were taken to live in Babylon. In all, the nation would spend 70 years in exile under the judgment of God. But God promised that, after that exile, he would return the nation to its land.

Of course, there are many false prophets who urged the people not to willingly go to Babylon, to try to avoid the exile. These evil men tried to get the people to believe that God would restore the nation to the land within 2 or 3 years. But God’s word for the people was a call to go to Babylon, settle down, and live godly lives.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 — 4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

God had a word for the people who were in exile. Build a house. Have a family. Get a job and feed your family—the whole concept of growing a garden. Pray for your new city. Do good for the city. As you help the welfare of the city, you help yourself. Even if this land is not your ultimate home, do what you can to live a godly life and do the land good.

While modern Christians are not Jews in the 6th century BC, we sometimes feel similar things. WE look around in our land, in our city perhaps, and we feel like strangers and aliens in a foreign land. The nation does not value what we value. The nation can be harsh to our beliefs. The nation participates in grievously sinful acts. What are we to do?

I would suggest that God’s word in Jeremiah is pretty close to what his word would be for us today. WE are not to run away and hide. Nor are we to embrace the sinful worldview of our culture. We are to live godly lives in the real world. Set up a home. Have a family if the Lord provides that opportunity. Work a job. Pray for the nation. Share the gospel. Bring about God-honoring change when you can. Do what you can to do your city good, for in doing your city good, you do yourself good.