Years ago, my oldest daughter (not very old at the time) hand-wrote and decorated a special-to-me Bible verse. The framed piece still hangs on the wall behind my desk because 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 still outlines how I aspire to live:
But we encourage you . . . to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands . . . so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.
“Leading a quiet life” is a startlingly un-modern motivation. Who wants to be a nobody instead of famous, or just prosperous enough rather than in the top 1 percent of the rich, or appreciated only by significant others and obscure to the world at large?
Yet, abiding an unobtrusive life may be among the healthiest ways a person could choose to be different than everyone else.
Perhaps that’s why the Apostle Paul nudges believers in Thessalonica toward subdued living. He doesn't tell them to grow a great church for God, to win the world, or build wealth for the good of His work. No. He says to live a quiet life.
And he commends two specific benefits of quiet living:
(1) So that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders.
(2) And not be dependent on anyone.
Earlier, he had used himself as an example of a person who worked tirelessly so as not to be a burden to anyone (1 Thessalonians 2:9), and he doesn’t want believers to live from handout to handout, dependent on other people.
But why “walk properly” in the presence of outsiders? Why would he want the Thessalonian church to look good to those who don’t profess Christianity?
A History of Good Examples
I suspect Paul tells his readers to "walk properly" because he wants them to set an example of what people should aspire to—not to seek grand, worldly things. Otherwise, how are they being different than those whose god is the world?
Seeking riches, power, fame, “success” are typical aspirations. So, if we choose otherwise, that’s different. That will get attention.
The church fathers and many saints in history reflect the rewards of this kind of Different. Maximus the Confessor, Athanasius, Anthony the Great, Gregory the Theologian all spent time in the wilderness apart from the mainstream in order to hear from God. It was that time away—not aspirations to greatness—that set them apart in the eyes of the world and guided them into lives different enough to be remembered centuries later.
Even in this century, Quiet Life might be the very success formula you need.
(To get weekly ideas and action steps for doing Different, subscribe to this blog—
and get a free copy of my e-book, Better than Perfect.)
©2021 Greg Webster. All rights reserved.