1 Thessalonians 4:11
And that you study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
Christianity has something to say on the industrial life. It has been charged with discrediting industry. No calumny could be more false. It certainly discourages engrossing worldly cares, and bids men remember their heavenly citizenship. But it only inculcates a more faithful discharge of earthly duty by insisting on lofty views of life and the pure principles which should inspire it. Three duties in regard to the industrial life are here urged by St. Paul.
I. AN AMBITION TO BE QUIET. The word "study means literally, be ambitious." This is a remarkable collocation of ideas - ambition and quiet. It is as though the apostle said, "You have been ambitious to make a noise in the world; reverse your aim: be ambitious of quiet." This striking piece of advice is urged in close connection with directions regarding the industrial life. Probably the Church at Thessalonica was largely composed of working-men. There was a danger lest the new privileges of Christianity should make some of these men foolishly anxious to make themselves conspicuous.
1. We should aim at doing much good without attracting attention to ourselves. The Christian should not clamor for recognition. He should be content that his work prospers, though he remains obscure.
2. We should be too busy with work to have much time for talk. Busybodies are generally drones. How silent is the work of God in nature! Silently the forest grows. So let our work be done.
3. We should work peaceably. The noisy man is too often the quarrelsome man. In the ambition to sound a name abroad, bitter envy and jealousy are excited.
4. Ignorant people should not suppose that the privileges of Christian brotherhood qualify them to teach others. "Be not many teachers" (James 3:1).
II. A DOING ONE'S OWN BUSINESS.
1. The claims of the Church are no excuse for the neglect of a man's secular business. It is wrong to become so much the slave of business as to have no time or energy for mission work, Sunday school teaching, etc. But it is also most certainly wrong to fail in our duty in the secular sphere. The Christian should be the most punctual, prompt, and energetic man of business. He should serve Christ in it. If he is responsible to others, his religion should strengthen his fidelity not to give eye-service as a man-pleaser.
2. Religion does not remove a man from the station in which he is placed by Providence. It may so improve his habits of work and may bring such blessings upon him as may enable him gradually to rise in the social scale. But it may permit no such external change; it should not be expected to do so in every case. And however that may be, religion can make no sudden change in a man's circumstances. The Christian slave was in outward circumstances a slave still. The artisan remained an artisan.
3. Christianity forbids us to be envious of the more prosperous condition of other people. It is not for us to snatch at their privileges to the neglect of our own duty. Every man has his Divine vocation It is the Christian's duty to find his special vocation and to follow it, whether it lead him up the Beulah heights or down through the valley of humiliation. In the Church let each man find his own place and do his own work. There is a diversity of gifts. One has a gift of speech, another a gift of deft handiwork. Let neither be ambitious to usurp the place of the other.
4. Christians should be too busy with their own work to have time to judge their neighbors. We are workmen, not judges. To his own Master each man stands or falls.
III. AN HONEST DILIGENCE IN MANUAL LABOR. This duty is clearly brought out in the Revised Version, which omits the word "own" before "hands," so that we read the clause, "Work with your hands." Thus we have a direct recommendation of manual labor.
1. Manual labor is necessary. There is hard, rough work of this kind that must be done. It is cowardly to shirk it. Cultivated people do not object to hard work for amusement, e.g. rowing, Alpine climbing. Why should it be shunned when it is useful?
2. Manual labor is honorable. Any work done with a good purpose is honorable. The work of the carpenter is often more honorable than that of the financier. The dirtiest work is not always done by the roughest hands. The crowding of the sons of working men into the ranks of clerks is not a healthy sign if it betokens a shame of honest toil.
3. Manual labor is wholesome. The punishment of Adam is no curse. It is a blessing that man has to "eat his bread in the sweat of his face." While the early monks were busy, building, digging, weaving, monasticism presented a picture of pure Christian living. Riches brought superiority to physical industry, and corruption speedily followed. The best of Christ's apostles were working men. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;