Lesson 11


Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

4:9 But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, 4:10 for indeed you do it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more; 4:11 and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we charged you; 4:12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.


Today's Lesson

Yesterday's scripture dealt with the differing attitudes between Greek culture and the Judeo-Christian ethic. In this section, the apostles deal with another, less troublesome difference, the differing attitudes toward work. But, before that, there is another admonition toward the expression of love in the Christian life.


The type of love that Paul encourages the Thessalonians to express more and more in their lives is a different kind of love than he has mentioned so far. The Greek language the New Testament documents were written in has several different words that can be translated into the English word "love". Throughout this letter Paul has spoken of the love of God. God's love is almost always expressed in the Greek as agape. Agape love is a self-sacrificing love and is the highest expression of concern and caring between humans.


The type of love that the apostles are encouraging here is sometimes called philios after the Greek root word used here. Philios love is the love of one brother to another. And there is a very high compliment here. They say that the Thessalonians have already been "... taught by God to love one another..." Not only are they already expressing this kind of love, but they show every indication that God Himself has been their instructor. Continue to do this, it is important. Only allow yourself to love more and more.


This type of love is especially appropriate in this book. Remember earlier that the apostles have used images of the family to express the relationships of Christians to one another. We loved you as a nursing mother loves her children. We instructed you as a father instructs his children. You are our brothers, loved by God. So now, the apostles continue to say that since you are brothers, love each other with the love that one brother has toward another.


And now, to the matter of work. In the previous lesson we noted the differing attitudes about sexual immorality. The Greek culture also had a different attitude toward work than that of the Jews. A cultured Greek citizen frowned upon work with the hands. The educated class had slaves or employees to do the menial task of everyday living. The Greek artist and philosophers were mostly of the rich, upper class.


So, when Paul says to "...do your own business, and to work with your own hands..." such a charge would have been offensive to their cultural values. Such a person was little better than a slave in their society. He is asking them to make a sacrifice for their relationship with God. But, Paul and Christ are not above asking us to sacrifice something to our relationship with God.


"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life..." So many times our lives continue spin out of control because we forget this admonition given so many years ago. Make it your ambition to not be so ambitious. Do your work that God has placed in your life. Be dependable for other people. Walk properly and honorably toward strangers. Rid your life of all the "things" that you think you "need". Love God, and love your neighbor. On these two things, all the law (and all of life) hangs. The simplicity of the Christian life is profound. Are you willing to allow that simplicity to affect your life?


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