The Expository Files

Concerning Brotherly Love

1 Thessalonians. 4:9-12

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing. (1 Thess. 4:9-12, NKJV)

The Greeks despised manual labor and it seems that there were those in the church at Thessalonica that were willing to sponge off the brethren there instead of honestly toiling for their bread. Paul worked with his hands and encouraged others to do so. It seems that the idea among these brethren that Jesus was returning very soon caused many of them to set aside the daily routines (including work) and simply wait on His return. (2 Thess. 3:11,12) This lack of activity by some was sure to cause unrest both in the church and among those without that were owed money or labor by the non-workers.

Part of our love of the brethren (“having a tender affection for” – Vine) includes our recognition of their good deeds and our encouragement for them to “increase more and more.” This “brotherly love” is to reach beyond our own congregation and extend to as many saints as we can contact. While we encourage our brethren so that their love might increase, we must realize that our love must be improved upon as well. Those of us that have been taught by God to the extent that we have become obedient to His will should have come to the realization that “brotherly love” is not an option, but a command – one that none of us have learned (or are practicing) perfectly. This “unfeigned love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22) stands as proof that we have shed the old man and have been regenerated as a true child of God.

Perhaps Paul is recommending that we can “increase more and more” in our love of the brethren by aspiring to the following characteristics:
1) - to lead a quiet life,
2) - to mind your own business and,
3) - to work with your own hands.

Additional results of a Christian possessing these characteristics is that non-Christians will also be treated properly (and perhaps come to obey the Gospel through our example) and they will help us to “lack nothing.”

Aspire to Lead a Quiet Life
Human nature seems to indicate that man left to his own will not be quiet. It is a godly characteristic that must be learned. The emphasis is on quietness of mind and heart, the inner peace that enables a man to be sufficient by walking in Christ’s footsteps. Additionally, Paul is encouraging his readers to “make it their ambition” to not cause trouble unnecessarily, either in or out of the church.

Mind Your Own Business
Those that are busy minding other people’s business probably do not have any worthwhile business of their own. Instead of being quiet, they are busy causing “great disturbances among their neighbors.” (Henry) (See 2 Thess. 3:11; 1 Pet. 4:15.) Believers that are about their Father’s business (Lk. 2:49) will not have the time or desire to get mixed up in the affairs of others – either within the church or without. If we are to “walk in wisdom towards those who are without,” (Col. 4:5) then we must be willing to apply God’s wisdom and not our own.

Minding our own business does not absolve us of the responsibility of correcting an erring disciple or encouraging and exhorting a weak brother or sister. Paul makes it clear in Gal. 6:1 that part of our love of brethren includes restoring one “who is overtaken in a trespass.” Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal. 6:1, RSV) B.W. Johnson suggests that for those who are spiritual to restore this brother not by judging them or seeking to cut them off, but by “seek(ing) lovingly to lead them back from their error.”

Work With Your Own Hands
The busybody needs to get busy with his own work. Just because we are Christians does not relieve us our duty to work and support our families. The tendency towards laziness has far reaching negative consequences, while the diligent worker makes their own way and builds their self-esteem from the accomplishment. Christians or congregations that do not pay their bills cannot act as “the world’s Bible.” (See Luke 16:11.) Besides supporting our own families, the believer has other good reasons to work. We must show the unsaved that we are willing to work just as hard (or harder) than they. We need to work so that we can assist those that are truly in need.

Additional Results

So We Shall Live Creditably
It is when we live a quiet life, minding our own business and work that we will walk honestly, decently, and creditably towards not only our brethren, but also towards non-Christians as well. The possession of these characteristics will go a long way in keeping charges of hypocrisy at bay. This good report among non-believers is consistent with the reception of the first church by the people in Jerusalem (Acts 2:47). When those without see Christ in our lives they will either oppose it or desire to possess it themselves. Regardless, God will be glorified.

We Shall Live Comfortably, and Lack Nothing
The Christian that maintains these characteristics will not become a burden to the brethren and will not be a cause of scandal in the eyes of outsiders. By possessing these characteristics we will show proof to our brethren and to the world that we indeed have “put on Christ.”

1- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 6, pp. 631-32.
2- Warren Wiersbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary – NT, Vol. 2, pp. 177-78.
3- Eerdman’s Handbook of the Bible, 1973 ed., p. 615.

By Carey Dillinger
From Expository Files 10.6; June  2003