Minding Our Own Business
Robert Wurtz II
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:20–22 NKJV)
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing. (1 Thess. 4:9-12)
John 21:22 is a rebuke that is a little tough to receive in this sensitive age. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing this verse addressed (though I’m sure many have done it). As a child it always struck me as stern or possibly rude. I figured it probably hurt Peter’s feelings. It is the type of statement that I would try to avoid telling a person. Just being honest. It makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it. However, what if a person really needed to be told “…what is that to you? You follow Me”? It would take a good deal of courage or a very insensitive person to carry it out. Obviously the Lord Jesus courageously spoke the truth to Peter and He did it out of love.
Imagine what may have happened had the Lord not handled Peter’s curiosity the way He did. He may have made a practice of always being in peoples’ business. Even among the “chiefest apostles” that would have been inappropriate and dangerous. Peter may have made a practice of intruding into other Christian’s relationship with God — rather than encouraging them to obey the Spirit’s leading. This is a great problem in the twenty-first century. Too many Christian leaders believe they have a God-given right to intrude into areas of peoples’ lives that are between them and the Lord alone.
Paul spoke of young widows who, unless they remarried, might “(…) learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” (1 Timothy 5:13 NKJV) This was a general concern. The verse is a vivid picture of idle tattlers and gossipers. (A.T. Robertson) People who have too much time on their hands are prone to cause all kinds of trouble. As Proverbs warns us, “where there is no tale-bearer strife ceases.” (Proverbs 26:20) Moreover, “It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.” (Proverbs 20:3 KJV)
The Greek word for idle in I Timothy 5:13 means to be “without work.” In this case they wandered around stirring up trouble. Tattlers (gossips) is from a Greek word that means “to boil up, to throw up bubbles, like blowing soap bubbles.” Busybodies means they are busy about trifles (non-issues) to the neglect of important matters. They say things to people that are not necessary to say. In effect, they are always intruding into things that they have no business being involved in. This is a very destructive habit and must be dealt with.
In the English speaking part of the world where I live the concept of “minding” something is a little strange. For example, In England the subway (tube) cars have warnings to “mind the gap” so that you don’t fall between the train and the walkway and injure your foot or worse. In the central USA we may say, “Mind your parents” or “Never mind what I said.” To say, “mind your own business!” is a stern rebuke. However, Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business…” In other words, we are to stay busy enough that we don’t have time to meddle in other peoples’ affairs that are not our business.
Paul urges an ambition to be quiet or calm, to lead a quiet life, including silence (Acts 11:18). To do your own business (Greek prassein ta idia). To have the habit of attending to our own affairs (Greek ta idia). Restless meddlesomeness is condemned here in 1 Thess. 4:9-12 and Paul alludes to again in 2 Thess. 3:11 in plainer terms. It is amazing how much wisdom people have about other people’s affairs and so little interest in their own. (A. T. Robertson)
There is a contrast in the verse if we look closely. First, there are the people who get busy increasing more and more… laboring in what God has called them to do. These people are fruitful. They are at work doing the Lord’s will and building the kingdom of God. Second, there are people who are tearing the kingdom down as fast as the laborers can build it. They roam around from house to house stirring up trouble… destroying people with their gossip. Some even boast of how much influence they have — to destroy ministries and relationships if they take a notion. They use their gossiping as a means of blackmail and control. In other words, if you don’t dance to their drum, they will destroy you behind your back. You’re at work making a living, while the gadabouts go around destroying the works of your hands. Judging by the way the Lord Jesus responded to Peter (what is that to you? You follow Me), it makes me wonder what He would say to some of these idle tattlers and busybodies?
It is common in secular society to have people meddling in other peoples’ affairs — but it ought not so to be in the churches of God. I recall the story of a logging company in the northwestern United States that once had a problem with productivity. It happens that work had slowed to the point that the owner came to the site to see what was going on. After a short time observing the situation he came to a sad conclusion. Speaking of the site supervisor he remarked, “He is more concerned about running off Dave than he is getting logs pulled.” The supervisor despised Dave. He was always worried about what Dave was doing — even when he was doing a decent job. In fact, it got to the point that no matter what Dave did–he could do no right. The supervisor treated him bad so long and so often that he began to hate Dave. It was no longer about work. It was “personal.” The supervisor was obsessed with “running off Dave” and in the process nearly killed the logging company.
It is a hard saying but I am glad the Lord rebuked Peter the way He did. Not because I want to see Peter put in his place, but because we needed to know that what Peter was doing was wrong. His actions were bad enough to warrant a sharp response from the Lord. If it was wrong for Peter it is wrong for every Christian or minister. He was telling Peter, “You let me worry about John; you worry about yourself.” As Paul put it… aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business. That is good advice — but more than advice. It is a directive from God.