What does "living quietly" and "minding your own affairs" mean in 1 Thessalonians 4:11?


Salvete, omnes!

I was just wondering what, precisely, Paul means when he advises the Thessalonians to “make it their ambition” to “live quietly” and to “mind” their “own affairs”?

This would almost seem like the quintessential verse that the Amish use to live their highly isolated and rural, self-sufficient lives.

Does this mean, then, say, that Christians are not permitted to become so-called “famous”? So, then, they cannot be well-known artists, singers, media types, politicians, etc., etc., because, not only is this not living a “quiet life”, but it is also, in some sense, not keeping strictly to one’s own affairs? However, one could argue, I suppose, that the popes and even Jesus Himself was “famous” as many knew/know of Him/them. So, apparently, being “famous” per se is not evil, though, of course, seeking to be famous solely for the sake of fame is surely sinful. However, Paul here seems to say that we should all make it our ambition to “live quietly”, no exceptions. So, then, what does this mean? You can’t be involved in the public eye in any capacity and truly “live quietly”. So, then, what are we to do?

Another part ofthis verse, “minding one’s own affairs”, essentially, minding one’s own business, is also problematic. In the fields I mentioned above, we are inherently involved in the affairs of others. Indeed, even in any kind of charitable endeavor, we are involved in the lives of others. Some might argue that this means being “unnecessarily” involved in the affairs of others. So, then, are we not to read fictional stories? Are we not to watch TV? Are we not to even read non-fiction merely out of curiosity, say, about the lives of real people or about various other things in the world that we are merely curious about? After all, in all these things, we are getting ourselves involved, it could be argued, unnecessarily in the affairs of others. So, should Christians not read or watch TV for the sake of curiosity about others and about the world, even if most think such curiosity is perfctly wholesome? (Mind you, I am not speaking of the gossippy kind of curiosity we so often see involved in reality TV. I am talking about, say, reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin or watching a program about how the universe works. I am talking about reading a work of classic literature such as Don Quixote or watching a funny and wholesome sitcom on TV. Are we even to avoid these kinds of things, so that we strictly mind our own business?

Mind you, I know many Christians, Protestant and Catholic, who engage in all the occupations/activities I’ve mentioned above and the Church seems to not be making an effort to stop them. As far as famous practicing (and even devout!) Catholics go, I can think of someone like the politician Rick Santorum. In the news, I can think of the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo (not to mention his entire politically-involved family). As far as being involved in and (evidently also consuming) entertainment, I can think of Stephen Colbert, of Conan O’Brien, of Jim Gaffigan (sp?). All of these are both involved in being “famous” and in occupations that the passage here in question might prohibit because people are not “minding their own affairs” (news, entertainment, politics, etc.).

I mean, I myself see no real problem with any of these activities in and of themselves. I only see a problem if they become distractions in such a way that they hinder one’s spiritual development or even supplant it in terms of priority. I just see no problem with curiosity for its own sake. After all, did not God make a very fascinating world? I also see no problem inherent in being so-called “famous”, again, unless fame is the only reason you desire to become famous. If becoming famous leads to reaching out to more people ind oing what you love, then what is the problem in that, so long as it does not “go to your head”?

Or, is Paul, rather, talking about some early form of asceticism/religious orders that were already taking shape? Was he perhaps simply giving an alternative way of life, saying, basically, that you should not seek glory for its own sake but that you might, rather, make it your ambition to live in the way he suggests in the religious life.

So, 1) are Christians permitted to be “famous”? 2) How much, if at all, are Christians permitted to take interest in the affairs of others? Or, should all Christians ideally be living like the Amish?

Please help me with this. I am thoroughly confused.

Gratias vobis.


No. It means none of the things you wrote.

And, Catholics do not take one sentence in the bible and fabricate a fanciful meaning out of context.



The verses you speak of are tied to 2 Thess 3:6-10, Neglect of Work.



Number 10 states this issue exactly:

" #10 In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat."

Point is that if a person is unwilling to put forth any of his effort to do any work as in get up early, if unemployed do everything he/she can to find work to pay their bills to be able to pay their own bills, buy food and do everything it takes to financially support their family or the person themselves if they have no family. I am trying so hard not to judge however, there are families where one or more relatives who will do what it takes to sponge off of others, mooch off of the family or close friends when they are physically and mentally capable of working for wages but the person is just too lazy to do anything.

It is the unwillingness to work; they have no desire to work so they will not go out and get a job. They try to get others to feel sorry for them.

Sorry if I went off on a tangent.

God bless you all.




It doesn’t mean any of those (which could have been bullet points if it really came to it).

In addition to the gainful employment thing highlighted by Jeannie it meant they are not to set themselves up as authorities over each other like the super-apostles of II Cor or “bewitch” each other like happened to the Galatians.

Think “700 Club” and even some grandstanding archbishops. Are your parish catechists always nagging you to fall into line in some way (perhaps to join their “campaign”) or are they affirming your gifts and talents?

Those to be guarded against were highly motivated and skilful people, they had wrong values towards their fellows. False ideas over Jesus’ next coming like the rest of the letter deals with would be an ideal part of the yarn these folks would spin, to distract their fellows and claim spurious authority as a superior elite more “in the know” and therefore more to be looked to.


MMM - I like your questions… much more subtle than the average “was-this-a-sin thread” and whatnot. :slight_smile:

Others have posted good responses, I’ll here just point to the example of our Lord, who preferred the smaller encounters to the encounters with the masses, who frequently retired to be alone in prayer, and who spent 10 times as long (30 years) in obscurity as He did in the public eye. One could surely go on with more examples, these are just a few.


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