The Busybody
1 Peter 4:12-16
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:…

It is very common to compare ourselves with other men, and to draw flattering conclusions from the fact of their conduct being marked by more of open flagitiousness than our own. Yet it may be the very grossest of self-deceptions. The degree of criminality must evidently depend, not only on the sin committed, but on the amount of temptation and the measure of resistance. I am not necessarily better than another, unless better under precisely the same circumstances; and it is impossible for me to know and to judge what all those circumstances are. It is not necessary that we suppose the busybody to be equally criminal with the murderer and the thief, but at all events there must be much greater criminality in the busybody than we are accustomed to suppose; otherwise an apostle would hardly have so combined offenders as they are combined in our text.

1. Now it is certainly far from the design of the Christian religion to separate us one from another, to shut us up in our individual capacities, and confine our attention to our individual interests. Christianity, on the contrary, enjoins universal brotherhood and love; brotherhood and love, which are entirely at variance with the supposition that we take no concern in the affairs of our neighbour. The great general rule, in this as in every case of Christian casuistry, must evidently be fetched from the motive by which we are actuated. If it be honestly our aim to promote the Divine glory by promoting the good of our fellow men, we can scarcely go wrong, whether in the measure or the manner in which we concern ourselves in the affairs of other men. Whensoever there is opportunity of doing good to another, whensoever, more especially, his soul may be benefited through our instrumentality, then and there indeed it were worse than absurd to suppose it playing the busybody's part to concern ourselves in his affairs. Let no one, therefore, think to shelter himself under the plea that non-interference is a duty, and thus excuse himself from all public endeavour at discountenancing vice, defending truth, relieving misery, or propagating Christianity. It is at a far remoter point that interference becomes sinful. And we may begin our investigation by stating that probably St. Peter had respect to a species of meddling, which is sufficiently common, though hardly thought criminal. The one compound word in the Greek (for there is but one), which is rendered by us "a busybody in other men's matters," might be more literally rendered — a bishop in another man's diocese; as though what the apostle specially wished to denounce were that interference with constituted authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, which in those days and countries exposed men to punishment Just because those in power bring not forward the precise measures which these men think the best, they will break at once into injurious expressions; as though they must be better judges of what is good for an empire, who have no means of looking into all the intricacies of the machine, than others who are placed at the wheel, and have the power of observing the most secret springs. But it is a more private sort of meddling with which the busybody is generally occupied; he, or she, is prying into family secrets, as well as into state, and presuming to adjust the affairs of neighbours as well as the intricacies of government. The man who, unasked, obtrudes his opinions on others in matters in which they alone have any concern, who infringes the liberty of others where they have undoubted right to follow their own inclination, who sets up on every occasion for a teacher of others, as though he must be wiser and better informed, who is always for adjusting his neighbour's business, and is so disinterested that he will do it at the neglect of his own: such an one — one who is guilty whether in any or in all of these particulars — is emphatically a "busybody in other men's matters." The woman who plays the spy upon her neighbours, as though she were the constituted inspector of themselves and their households, who is not easy except she knows every particular of their domestic arrangements, who, if she have a visit to pay, is sure to talk over the affairs of the family she last left, only leaving herself time to find out something to tell at the house to which she goes next, who is critical alike upon character and upon dress, so that she will pronounce with equal fluency what people ought to do and what they ought to wear: such a woman is undeniably a "busybody in other men's matters."

2. But now you will inquire what great criminality, after all, attaches to the busybody, or with what show of justice he can be associated with those whom even human laws sternly reprobate and punish.

(1) The busybody violates justice; because, by meddling with other men's affairs, does his best to deprive them of their office, which is certainly to manage their own business.

(2) The busybody, again, is conspicuous in arrogance; for he who is always obtruding his advice is always proclaiming himself wiser than others.

(3) The busybody neglects himself, and those affairs which are specially his own.

(4) And who does more harm than the busybody? Half the dissensions in a neighbourhood are his or her work. The parties into whose affairs the busybody pries are naturally incensed or irritated by the interference; and in this feeling is evidently laid the foundation of enmity. Besides, what is found out by the inquisitiveness of the busybody is sure to be propagated by the industriousness of the tale bearer; so that the secrets of families become public talk, and chief friends are separated by injurious reports of things which were perhaps never done, or remarks which were perhaps never made. There is another assassin besides he who kills the body — he who wounds the reputation; and who does this more than the busybody?

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

WEB: Beloved, don't be astonished at the fiery trial which has come upon you, to test you, as though a strange thing happened to you.

Righteous and Evil Suffering
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