Minding Our Own Affairs
Revisited (Original Publication 2016)
Robert Wurtz II
But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own affairs, 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)
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)
Understanding what it means to mind our own affairs, it’s helpful to recall how we use the word mind. In the United Kingdom, the Tube (subway) warns you to “mind the gap” so you don’t fall between the train and the walkway. Midwesterners may say, “Mind your parents” or “Never mind what I said.” In these contexts, the word “mind” carries the idea of “paying close attention to” or “focusing on.” So to say, “mind your own business!” is a bit of a rebuke.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “to mind your own affairs.“ That was nearly two thousand years ago. Meddling in other people’s affairs isn’t a new problem. Paul urges the Thessalonians to have the habit of attending to their own affairs (Greek ta idia). The word means “one’s own.” Restless meddlesomeness is condemned here in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. The renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson commented on this verse, “It is amazing how much wisdom people have about other people’s affairs and so little interest in their own.” (Robertsons Word Pictures, A. T. Robertson)
I recall the story of a logging company in the northwestern United States that had a problem with productivity. Work slowed until the owner came to the site to see what was happening. After a short time, he came to a shocking 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 focused on what Dave was doing — even when he was doing a decent job. No matter what Dave did–he could do no right. It was no longer about work; it was personal. The supervisor was obsessed with “running off Dave” and, in the process, nearly ran the logging company into the ground.
Meddling in other people’s affairs reveals more about the meddler than the people they criticize. But unfortunately, it also leads to conflict and harm. Have you ever been on someone’s “radar?” Have you ever been someone’s punching bag? Sadly, some people are so used to criticizing others and putting people down that it’s almost second nature. They can’t see it for the sin that it is.
So Paul commanded the Thessalonians to aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind their own affairs, and to work with their own hands. If we have time to meddle in other people’s lives, we have too much spare time on our hands. Why not do something productive? Why not spend our energies being a blessing to people and lifting them up?
Being critical is not the same as being spiritual. The spiritual person considers their own weaknesses and restores in meekness others who struggle (Galatians 6:1). Most importantly, we should focus on our own relationship with God before meddling in other peoples’. Basically, this is what Jesus told Peter.
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.”
Notice these words, You follow Me. In other words, don’t worry about John; you focus on following Me yourself. Why did Jesus tell Peter this? Because if Jesus didn’t challenge Peter’s meddlesome outlook, it would cause problems among the disciples for years to come. Why? Because meddling isn’t productive. Too often, it’s a case of trying to get the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye when you have a log in your own.