A Quiet Life

The apostle Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, called for quiet Christian living:

    But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 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, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)

Sounds nice but a bit boring, right? Read on.

Later, when they heard that some in Thessalonica were living an “undisciplined life, doing no work at all.” Paul, Silas and Timothy again exhorted such people “to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” (2 Thessalonians 3:12). Instead of using your energy to be a busybody, they wanted Christians to quietly stand on their own two feet. Instead of being lazy, they urged Christians in the very next verse “not to grow weary of doing good.” (3:13).

Years later, Paul had not changed his mind. He tied praying for authorities with the desire to lead “a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Meanwhile, Paul Silas and Timothy lived anything but a boring quiet life. They were literally all over the map preaching up a storm wherever they went. Paul in particular was vocal, provocative, bold and brave. He led a life that was perilous, painful, and controversial. Every time he entered a town, he headed straight to a synagogue, lecture hall, or marketplace to wrangle and reason with the locals over issues that often got him into trouble. He suffered multiple imprisonments and countless beatings, and was “often in danger of death.” (2 Corinthians 11:23). Take it from Paul himself:

    Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? (2 Corinthians 11:24-29)

And this was just one snapshot midway through his missionary career. In calling for a quiet life, was Paul advocating for a Christian life that looked nothing like his own? Maybe we should look more closely at the New Testament Greek word for “quiet” (hesuchos).

In the gospel of Luke, a form of the word hesuchos was used for what some faithful women did on the Sabbath just after Jesus was executed. They “rested.” (Luke 23:56). Filled with grief on Saturday, it must have been torture to rest quietly. Little did they know what God had in store from them (and us) on Sunday.

When Paul’s companions begged him not to go to Jerusalem where he would surely face trouble, Paul could not be deterred. His friends finally “rested” (hesuchos) their case and said, “The will of the Lord be done!” (Acts 21:14). Luke equated surrendering to God’s will with hesuchos.

The apostle Peter, a married man, praised the quality of hesuchios in Christian women. He admired “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,” (1 Peter 3:4), which is precious in the sight of God. Our culture may call this quality boring or repressive, but not our Lord.

So, whatever a “quiet life” means to you, for Paul and Peter (in context) it did not mean a lazy, passive, undisciplined, free-loading, isolated life. Paul wanted hesuchos to be our ambition! Excel in it (1 Thessalonians 4:10). Hesuchos means working hard to “attend” (an active verb) to our own business so we can be more effective in reaching outsiders (1 Thessalonians 4:12). It did not mean being complacent. To Paul, it meant being tireless in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

Clearly, Paul was not calling for a cushy life when he used the word hesuchos to challenge his readers. He was indeed calling them and us to a life of restful tranquility and quiet stability, but not without hard work, discipline, personal responsibility, and effective vocal and practical outreach to others.

I “rest” my case.

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