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“Lifestyle” is a relatively recent concept. For millennia, people did not choose careers, locations, or communities—they were born into them and generally accepted the way things were. In our postmodern world, that sounds repressive. Lifestyle choices abound, from careers to light fixtures to designer babies.

God does give us choices and the wisdom to make decisions. But because God has something much greater in mind than personal freedom, He also gives us clear directions. Regardless of what family or education or inclinations we have, Christians are to have an identifiable lifestyle. Holiness is not a vague idea—it is actually quite practical. It has a shape and a pattern and a sound.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives the church clear and simple instructions. We should aspire to live quietly, mind our own affairs, and work with our hands (1 Thess. 4:11). The first letter to Timothy echoes this: “Lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). We’re also told there to pray for political leadership, for “all who are in high positions.”

This does not mean that we are limited to these activities, or that we cannot work in an office or be politically involved. Different gifts and circumstances play into vocation. But for all of us, our lives are to follow this biblical pattern. These are not suggestions but inspired mandates.

Living quietly sounds simple, doesn’t it? But our hearts and the world militate against it. Big jobs, big money, and big vacations are the culture’s mantra. Fame is held up as a worthy goal. Even in the church, we’re told that we need to do big things for Jesus. It plays to the selfish ambition in our hearts. But living quietly does not kill ambition—it sanctifies and channels it. Living quietly isn’t apathy—Scripture is no friend to sloth and lukewarmth. Living quietly is an expression of meekness.

If quiet living is a way to control ambition, working with our hands is a way to fight sloth. Doing laundry, mowing the lawn, washing the car, and making a meal for someone are ways that even those in the highest positions can follow this directive. Christianity gives us a holistic view of vocation, not merely of a career. A large part of Christian service is done with our hands, whether that’s cleaning a foyer or giving a widow a ride. All useful work has value when it is done for Jesus (Matt. 10:42), and the most basic, the most needed work we do with our hands. All of us must be involved in that.

Living quietly does not kill ambition—it sanctifies and channels it.

“Mind your own business!” my mother used to warn me. She knew that meddling with my sisters and brothers would inevitably lead me to conflict. The same is true for adults, only the stakes are higher. This is why Paul warns us to “mind our own affairs.” Do you know of a relationship damaged by social media? Has gossip ever come back to bite you? Have you ever been edified by a tabloid? Do you think of a busybody as dignified? Control of our curiosity not only keeps us out of trouble; it also allows us to live more quietly and get more work done with our hands. Too often, we start with other people’s problems, the world’s problems, when Paul says to mind our own.

Interestingly, Paul views prayer for everyone, especially leaders, as our business. We’re to mind our business by petitioning our King. The text is very specific: we are to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” (1 Tim. 2:1). If we desire to live quietly and work with our hands, prayer for political leaders is an important, and largely neglected, way to obey.

However, God did not merely lay out these directives. As our good Father, He kindly explains His reasons. He gives us perspective. Because a lifestyle is not an end in itself; it is a means. There are three goals that motivate this faith-shaped lifestyle.

The first is that living in the way that these epistles prescribe actually pleases God (1 Thess. 4:1). He delights in our obedience. As God’s children, we want to please Him, and He clearly tells us how. These passages describe a concrete Christlikeness: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21–26).

Second, this kind of living blesses the church. It is an expression of love (1 Thess. 4:9). Can you imagine a church without gossip? A church where members serve each other by manual service? First Thessalonians 4:12 points out that hard work keeps us from being a financial burden to other Christians. Quiet, dignified lives also keep us from burdening the church relationally and emotionally.

Third, this kind of living is a witness to the world. It is brotherly love manifesting itself in a way that becomes known outside of the congregation. Honor toward God and love for each other adorn the gospel. People around us are hungry for real, selfless love. And dignified lives stand out in our culture because they are rare. Jesus tells us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Earlier in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul states that God’s will for us is sanctification (v. 3). Living biblically brings maturity. Self-sacrifice, service, mindfulness of others, and prayer are all things that strip away self-centeredness, which is immaturity. The life that Paul describes is one of directed subjugation of the self.

This self-control doesn’t come from within. It is divine. Paul says clearly that the believers were “taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). We need the same. And God will give it to us, just as He did to our fellow believers two thousand years ago.

Our culture rejects any attempt to tell it how to live. But what the world cannot see is that this life is freedom: “A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.”

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From the August 2019 Issue
Aug 2019 Issue