“Those who have received the gospel, are to live according to the gospel…. If we are idle, the devil and a corrupt heart will soon find us somewhat to do. The mind of man is a busy thing; if it is not employed in doing good, it will be doing evil. It is an excellent, but rare union, to be active in our own business, yet quiet as to other people’s.” ~Matthew Henry
As we’ve seen, idleness and a corrupt heart are a bad combination. They lead to all kinds of dangerous, gospel belying behavior. A better two-some, as Matthew Henry suggests, is to be “active in our own business, yet quiet as to other people’s” Busy at work, not busybodies (2 Thess. 3:11). This is the twin-goal we must keep before us when using social media.
How we use social media matters because of the gospel. “Those who have received the gospel, are to live according to the gospel”—on Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere we go online. We must never forget that we have been cleansed from former sins (2 Pet. 1:9). We must always remember that we have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).
We must tweet and message, post and comment, according to the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What does it look like to be busy with our own business? We find the answer in the verses immediately preceding 1 Timothy 5:13. Instead of meddling, we are to be devoted to every good work. Here’s a post that Janelle wrote a on these verses a few years ago:
“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”
This verse explains which widows are eligible to receive help and care from the church if they have no other means of support. But its application is for all of us, because it is a description of the life and character of a godly woman. I want you to take a look at the final phrase—“has devoted herself to every good work”—At first glance, it may appear to be a little vague. Kinda like what happens when I can’t come up with a concluding sentence for one of my posts, so I just tack on something nice-sounding but essentially meaningless.
Not the case here! There is nothing vague about this concluding remark. Paul is making a very clear point. In case we got the idea that we could check off one of each of these good works and qualify as a godly woman, Paul raises the stakes considerably. He says the godly woman is devoted to good works. As one commentary describes it, she is “energetically and diligently giving herself” to this stuff. I can imagine this woman constantly looking and listening, ready to serve upon discovery of the slightest need.
Do you remember the t-shirt that was popular a few years back with the slogan that read, “Tennis (or Basketball or Fishing) is Life. Everything else is just details”? Well, here Paul is saying that the godly woman’s outlook is: “Devotion to Good Works is Life. Everything else is just details.”
Bringing up children, showing hospitality, caring for the afflicted—these aren’t things the godly woman does one time, like a community service requirement. Good works are what she is giving her life, energy, time, and heart to. Good works are what she is all about.
But there is one other word that makes this phrase even more powerful. Yep, it’s that little word “every.” “Every” quite simply means “every.” It doesn’t mean “some” or “most,” but every. The godly woman doesn’t limit herself to good works that are easy, or get her the most attention, or are her top favorites. She practices good works of all kinds. And we can safely assume that they aren’t all pleasant.
Not such a vague phrase after all, huh?
I think John Wesley’s well-known quote expands nicely on what Paul is saying here:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
Cause everything else? It’s just details.
(You can download a PDF of our entire “Good Works” series)
“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” 1 Timothy 5:13
Each time we go online, we feel the pull of idleness. We may log on to the Internet with every intention of accomplishing a task, only to get curious about what other people are doing, and so neglect what we should be doing. And before we know it, we’re on the slippery slope to becoming a gossip or a busybody.
While we may draw the line at spreading gossip, we may easily get drawn into reading gossip on the Internet. And the effect on our souls is poisonous: “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Proverbs 18:8)
But maybe our idleness inclines us more toward the busybody—that unattractive character we considered yesterday, peering at other people through her computer screen, overly curious about their lives, meddlesome, maybe even quick to criticize or correct.
“If not doing one’s own business, one is apt to meddle with his neighbor’s business. Idleness is the parent of busybodies.” (Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Bible Commentary)
The close relationship between idleness and busybodiness (if I can coin a word) is highlighted again in 2 Thessalonians 3:11: “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness” Paul says, “not busy at work, but busybodies.”
Not busy at work, but busybodies. Is that what Paul would hear about us today? Are we not busy with our own business, but busy with the business of others?
This temptation confronts us every time we go online: to neglect the business God has given us to do today in favor of reading about, and in some cases, meddling in the business of others.
But we can resist busybody behavior by simply doing the work God has called us to do; busying ourselves with our own hearts and not the hearts of others, our own homes and relationships and not the homes and relationships of others, our own work and not another’s work.
By avoiding idleness online we can steer clear of the slippery slope that leads to the busybody.
Whitney Carpenter is on the case:
“I am suspect that the neighborhood busybody, the beloved stock character of film, television, and literature, is going extinct. That familiar face, leering at us from between parted blinds, has disappeared…Why would the busybody, so comfortable in her housecoat and hot-rollers for the last hundred years, choose this decade to disappear?
The answer? Whitney doesn’t think you’re going to like it:
If this stock character is vanishing from pop culture it’s because the elements that she satirizes — the judgmental attitude, the gossiping, and the obsession with domestic conflicts — do not apply to her demographic in modern society….The busybody isn’t gone from our midst; she has merely expanded her ranks so quickly and surreptitiously that we haven’t noticed….the busybody is everywhere and everyone.
And how did the busybody become so ubiquitous? The Internet, of course.
The going cliché is that the Internet, and social networking in particular, is making the world a smaller place. I would take that a step further and suggest that social networking is roping our personal worlds — all of our acquaintances spread across our lifetime and the globe — into one blue-and-white small town. And peering through the blinds at our neighbors and crushes from middle school isn’t some old lady. It’s me, you, and everyone we’ve ever met.
Ouch. But she goes on:
The busybody, our patron saint, was ostracized because she was just too interested. Well, we’re interested and we aren’t likely to stop being interested any time soon
…[E]very time I start a sentence with the phrase “I saw on Facebook…” I remind myself that I’m sporting the verbal-equivalent of a housecoat and hot rollers.
Makes you think twice about starting a sentence that way! Even though this article was written a couple of years ago (and not from a Christian world-view, as far as I can tell), it is a vivid and relevant illustration of 1 Timothy 5:13. We’ll revisit this verse again, tomorrow.
We thought this was a fitting Friday Funny given our Connected Heart series and #lessformore challenge.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Nicole for the girltalkers
HT: Kevin DeYoung