1 Thessalonians 4:11 says,

and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,

If this was a blanket statement to everyone, people like Billy Graham would be sinning by living famous lives in the public spotlight.

Is that true? What is the real command here? How has this issue been addressed elsewhere in the Old & New Testaments, or by scholars and theologians?

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    To interpret it that way, all the apostles were disobedient. – Ryan Frame Jul 16 '13 at 12:44
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    And the apostle Paul himself would have been sinning as well, since everywhere he went, riots broke out. – Narnian Jul 16 '13 at 12:45
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    Ha! Good observations! For what it's worth, I don't think it is meant to be interpreted that way, and that is why I asked the question. – Jeff Jul 16 '13 at 12:48
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    Why should I have to limit responses to a certain tradition? I would appreciate a Catholic answer as much as an Orthodox answer as much as a Protestant answer. – Jeff Jul 16 '13 at 13:57
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    @Jeff Site purpose. That's why. – svidgen Jul 16 '13 at 13:58

The clue to understanding this is found in verse 12.

1 Thessalonians 4:12 (NLT) Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

  1. Living a quiet life: Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth to live peacefully and not fight among themselves. When the non-Christians see the peace among the Christians, they will be respected by the community. Christians should maintain good characters.
  2. Work with your hands: Paul wanted them to be independent and prosperous so that they don't have to beg/ask from others. He encouraged them to work hard, make their own living without disturbing society. Paul did not want them to be lazy.
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  • right, so then what can we say that Billy Graham or Paul was sinning? How does this work? – Greg McNulty Jul 16 '13 at 20:34
  • As per this answer, "living a quiet life" seems to be taken out of context by the questioner. – Mawia Jul 17 '13 at 4:21

Living a quiet doesn't necessarily mean being a quiet person.

If we look at Paul's 1st and 2nd letter to the Thessalonians I think we get more context on what Paul means

1 Thessalonians 4:11

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,

2nd Thessalonians 3:12

11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

In the 1st scripture he particularly says "your own business". Then in the 2nd scripture he is saying that people are walking around doing nothing, just busybodies, basically meaning meddlesome and in other people's business, and not being productive.

So instead quiet here means someone who minds their own work and not meddling in other people's affairs. (read this definition from the original greek: http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/gwview.cgi?n=2271)

Now to contrast that we have this command from Christ:

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

We are supposed to go into the whole world and proclaim Christ, and that is the business we are to be about. ("I must be about my father's business" - Luke 2:49). I would say it is "business" versus "busyness"

So I think the key here is the definition of what Paul means when he says "quiet", which according to context isn't referring to silence.

So in short Billy Graham did what was right.

Now if Billy Graham was just a traveling meddler, that had no work of his own and just meddled in other people's stuff, he would've been wrong, but he was actually doing what Paul commanded, he was busy doing the work (the work of the Lord), and working with his own hands.

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I see in Explanatory Bible of Lopukhin following explanation.

We should think that generous Christian charity caused big abuses and created class of people who preferred to live at the expense of other people, which left quiet and independent working life. Being free of work and job responsibilities, they devoted themselves completely to agitation, and, possibly, were the cause of abnormal grow eschatological expectations of Thessalonian citizens. Their fussiness, restlessness was destroying the quiet and peaceful lives of Thessalonian Christians and involuntary was undermining Christians amongst the pagans, making pagans look at Christians as gathering of idle and harmful people involved in sky-high dreams only.

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1Th 4:11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;


ἡσυχάζω hēsuchazō hay-soo-khad'-zo

From the same as G2272; to keep still (intransitively), that is, refrain from labor, meddlesomeness or speech: - cease, hold peace, be quiet, rest.

The King James translation of this verse is not very good. Strong's G2270 does not really mean to be quiet thats part of it but in other places it seems to mean stop argueing.

Act 21:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

Act 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Luk 14:3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? Luk 14:4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;

All the words cease and peace in the three above verses are the same Greek word. Looking at its usage you can see it means to stop being annoying or nit picking.

Luk 23:55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. Luk 23:56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

It also is used once to mean just flat out rest like they were commanded to do on the sabbath.

So this one isolated text from the King James does not mean you must be quiet not at all. It means you must not argue or bother other people.

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  • Why was this answer down-voted? – Jeff Jul 21 '13 at 22:01

"Quiet life" is not the point. "...do your own business and work with your own hands...." is the point. So many newer translations say "...mind your own business..." which I think has wrongly been interpreted as not to be a busybody. This verse is telling us to work our own business, as opposed to someone else's business. Use our God-given talents and gifts to do OUR OWN business. I was so inspired by this recent epiphany that I had to own it, or rather WEAR it. HA. Check out my creation at http://teespring.com/we-are-all-entrepreneurs

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  • Be careful with your future posts... this is borderline spam. If you could edit this and present more evidence for your interpretation that would help. – curiousdannii Apr 18 '15 at 4:21

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