These small group studies of Thessalonians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 Inductive Bible Study
I. Practical Christian Living (9-12)
I. Verses 9-12
If they had no need for anyone to write to them on this topic, why did Paul do it?
What is the “love of the brethren?”
What did Jesus say about it? Why is the “love of the brethren” important?
How can you better practice loving other believers? Can you do better in this area or have you reached perfection? What special things can you do to show love to others? When they are pregnant? Getting married? Have a newborn? Are sick? Have a death in the family?
What regular things can you do to show love to others even if they are not facing any special situations?
What is most people’s ambition? Would the average person be satisfied with this kind of life?
What does it mean to lead a quiet life? To attend to your own business? Work with your hands?
What is the connection between verse 12 and verse 11?
On minding your own business:
1 Timothy 5:13 – They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house.
2 Thessalonians 3:11 – We learn that some among you walk in idleness.
Proverbs 20:3 – It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 – Keep away from anyone who is walking in idleness.
Genesis 2:15 – The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Ephesians 4:28 – The thief should do honest work.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 – If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
Matthew 11:28 – Let him who is weary come to Me and I will give Him rest.
John 6:27 – Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.
1. You have no need for anyone to write you – Paul encouraging them. Even when he is giving them instruction, he is doing so in a way that is encouraging like “You are doing well, keep up the good work.” We can also use this message to encourage the people we know to excel still more. If we compliment them on the good job they are doing, that motivates them to keep on doing it and to do it even better. I remember that one brother came up to me after a service in which I was announcing. He told me that one thing I did in a very good way. From that point on, I tried to do that part of the announcing the same way each time. I had not set that as a habit yet, but his encouragement helped me to set a good habit.
This was not a great area of need for them, but it was still helpful (though not necessary) to share this with them again.
2. The love of the brethren – John 3:34-35. Jesus said that this is THE distinguishing mark which will show the world we are His disciples. Note that it is not our pure doctrine. It is not our programs. It is not our smooth gospel sharing. It is not our buildings or our songs. It is not the sermons. It is our love for other believers. Will unbelievers see this in your life? Unfortunately many times they only see division over doctrinal points they can’t even understand. Or they see gossiping and slandering. Maybe they see large churches will people go, sit, listen, and then go home without ever having one real conversation with others. This is not the kind of love Jesus was talking about.
See Acts 2:42-47. What can you see in this passage about their love for each other? How is this different from how believers act toward each other today?
Today people live very differently. We think that everything we have is “ours.” My time is mine and I don’t have much to spare. My money is mine. After all, I earned it. My life is my private life. We go to church to listen and be seen, not to establish relationships and help others.
Maybe you are doing pretty well already and some of you are, but we can still excel still more. In the next few minutes I want you to write down a list of specific ways you can show love to other believers. Divide your list in to two parts. The first can be for “special situations” such as pregnancy, sickness, death in the family, etc. The second is for showing love to others in everyday life. Don’t write things that are impossible for you (for example if you live in a dorm, don’t write out “have people to my home for dinner.”” Write down things that you are able to do if you give the effort.
Notice that in verse 10 Paul says that they do practice it. Love is not just an “every now and then” thing. It is to be practiced. Parents are not supposed to love their kids sometimes or just when their kids are good. I’ve heard many parents tell their kids when they did something bad, “Then I don’t love you anymore.” (This is a Chinese thing parents do.) But this is terrible. Parents are supposed to love their kids even when they are unlovely. We are to do the same toward other believers.
3. Excel still more – This is the second time he has used this phrase in this chapter. The first time was in verse 1. Here we learn an important principle. Believers are to always keep growing. There is never a point in time in this life (and probably not the next either) that believers can say they have finished growing/learning. No matter how well we are doing, we can always improve. This phrase “excel still more” actually makes a good motto. Do well, but don’t be satisfied with doing well. Push yourself to keep doing better. Complacency is one of Satan’s favorite ways to stunt Christian growth. Have you memorized five verses? Great! Then memorize ten more. Memorized ten? Then memorize a hundred! If you have memorized a hundred, then start memorizing books of the Bible. This applies to every area of our life including our Bible reading and memorization, our prayer life, our service to others, gospel sharing, and our love for the brethren.
4. Make it your ambition – Believers are to have ambition. Our ambitions are not the same as in the world where status, position, career, money, and achievement are the driving forces of life. Show and discuss Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Ambition pushes people to reach higher and higher areas of need on the chart. Some people get stuck on a certain level. But for believers, the calling that God gives to us is the very top of this pyramid. In other words, if we fulfill God’s calling for us, we can be joyful and content no matter how much or how little we have of the bottom layers of the pyramid. Our highest ambition is to serve and obey God and to be content and satisfied with what He leads us to do. This can be shown by the homemaker who quits a very high paying job to take care of her family and children. In the world’s eyes, it is foolishness, but in God’s eyes it is the wisest choice she could make. By doing this she fulfills God’s calling in her life and she therefore experiences the joy and satisfaction only God can give.
5. To lead a quiet life – Interesting. Paul didn’t say make it your ambition to become a president or CEO. A quiet and simple life of obedience to God is enough. Few people in today’s day and age live this kind of quiet life. Ask anybody, “how are they doing?” and what will they say? “Busy. Soooo busy.” How can we apply this verse to the problem of busyness?
I would ask them what they are busy doing. A lot of busyness is just allowing ourselves to get sucked in to culture. Some parents are busy taking their children to piano class, swimming class, soccer practice, choir rehearsal, dancing class, language class, martial arts class, etc. that they have no time for anything else. Dad and Mom are both exhausted just keeping up with all of these classes. Or perhaps they are busy with job. Working overtime day after day. Or maybe it is busy with study. They need this certificate and that certificate. Are these things wrong? See John 6:27. Their busyness is not leading them closer to the Lord or anyone else closer to the Lord. Instead it is distracting them from what is more important (just like Martha was distracted from listening to Jesus’ teaching.)
We should be content with a simple and calm lifestyle. We don’t need lots of things to make us happy. And we certainly don’t need to make ourselves so busy in order to get these things which we don’t need to begin with. People place so much importance on the latest and greatest technology. IPhone 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. How many of the things are there? Is an Iphone 6 really that much greater than an IPhone 5? I remember when most people didn’t even have cell phones at all, much less these smart phones. How much is enough? What will it take to make you happy?
6. Attend to your own business – This point is directly related to leading a “quiet life.” Some people busy themselves getting into other’s business. Believers do this as well. See cross-references about being a busy body. God doesn’t want us to busy ourselves thrusting our noses where they don’t belong. There are a few important principles:
A. Do not overly concern yourself with your image or what others think of you – Do not live your life to please others. Paul already told us in Thessalonians that their motive was to please God. This should be ours as well. A friend recently came to my house to visit. He told me about a missionary family in China. That family blamed him for buying an air conditioner for his home. He said that missionaries should have a lifestyle that is lower than everyone they serve. This family tried very hard to keep their lifestyle very simple so that they would not appear rich to any of the people they shared with. Is this wrong? Well, no and yes. It is not wrong to live simply, as we have seen. It is good to learn contentment. But this family was also poking their noses into others’ business and trying to spread their “doctrine of appearing poor” everywhere around them. If they wanted to do that, fine. But they shouldn’t push others to do it because it is not a clear biblical principle. My friend originally felt guilty about buying this air conditioner. But later he realized that God had provided the funds for it. Without it, his family which was not accustomed to the heat felt miserable. The heat was zapping their energy. For his family, it was the right choice to get it. So he should attend to his own business and not overly concern himself with what others think. You also should keep a clear conscience between yourself and God. God what He leads you to do and don’t worry what others think about it. In fact, your vocation shouldn’t necessarily dictate how you use your money. Whether you are a missionary/pastor or a businessman, what you have has been given to you by God and you are a steward of it and should use it for Him.
Does your wife need a day of rest? It might be OK to stay home from church and have “home church.” If you think that is the right choice, do it and don’t feel you need to make excuses to your Christian friends about why they didn’t see you.
Our heart is what is important. Make sure that you are being motivated by the right things.
B. Don’t meddle in other’s affairs – It is sure that other believers will make different choices than you do. Don’t make a habit of thrusting yourself into issues that you have nothing to do with. If you are a parent, or pastor, or fellowship leader, you may have a responsibility to get involved sometimes. If you do, make sure that you stand on solid biblical ground and are not just preaching your opinions, which are not any more valuable than other people’s opinions.
Sometimes we are quick to judge others.
He is too frugal.
He spends too much.
Her doctrine is bad.
The pastor made a wrong decision.
He should change his job.
The list goes on and on. Remember what the verse said, “attend to your own business.” If it has nothing to do with you don’t get involved. And do not go about talking about those people or those things. Gossiping is sinful. It hurts people. It divides. It can break apart relationships and churches.
This verse does not preclude us from approaching people to give them advice or point out issues in their life. It does give us important guidelines:
A. Our focus should be on ourselves and not on others. Sometimes an issue drops itself right into your lap. In that case, we may have to deal with it. But if trouble doesn’t come looking for you, don’t go looking for it. Some people seem to make it their ambition to correct everyone else they meet. This is being a busybody.
B. Ask if it is your business. You are responsible for your child or student or church members. But you are not responsible for every random stranger or even every other believer. For example I may notice that some ladies are not dressing modestly even at church. That doesn’t mean I should go and tell each of them. Their husband or a close Christian sister should do that.
7. Work with your hands – This verse shows us the proper balance of living a quiet life. Some live a simple life because of laziness. Just as homeschooling is not synonymous with “not sending your kids to school” living a quiet life is not the same as not working. Here we see a clear biblical mandate that believers should be working. This applies to a missionary who is in a foreign country and fully supported by donors. He should be working for the Lord. It applies to the housewife who is at home everyday. That doesn’t mean that she should watch TV all day long.
Working was established by God all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:15. It was established BEFORE the fall. We sometimes have a negative view of work, but this has been part of God’s natural design for us since the beginning. See all the cross-references on idleness. If you don’t want to work, it is because you are lazy.
In addition it says to work with your hands. There is a certain honor in manual labor. We are not precluded to work with our minds, but we are instructed to work with our hands. Children should be trained to do work with their own hands from a young age. This can include putting out the trash, setting the table, sweeping and mopping, washing windows, pulling weeds, mowing the grass, fixing things, painting things, cooking things, etc. It is not oppressing your children to make them do these things. Instead it is teaching them the value of hard work and instilling in them the importance of working with their own hands. These are important skills which they can use their entire lifetime. Nowadays about the only work many kids do with their hands is mashing out instant messages on their smart phone. If your child’s fingers are that skilled for instant messaging, they are certainly able to master the above household chores.
As adults we are not above hard work. Not only should we be willing to roll up our sleeves and put in a good day’s work, we should not look down on those whose jobs are in the manual labor sector. Many young people search for a job for months and months without finding one. Sometimes I question their own job requirements. Perhaps they are looking for an easy job that doesn’t require hard work. Manual labor is beneath them they may think. Well, this verse shows us that it shouldn’t be. Maybe they need to lower their standard, start at the bottom, and work their way up.
8. Verse 12 – These principles have a duel purpose. They show us how we should treat others and they show us how to live a life in contentment without any need. If you attend to your own business then generally you will have what you need and you will not be sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.
Application: In these verses we see that a Christian life needs balance. We should work, but we should not be too busy. We should have ambition, but it should be the right ambition. We should help and encourage others, but we should not be a busybody. We should lead a simple life, but we should not do so just to maintain a certain image in front of others.
Does your life have the right balance? Are you too busy? Are you leading a quiet life? Are you attending to your own business? Are you ambitious for the right things?
What will you do to obey today’s passage? Do you need to make a big change to your life direction or just tweak it a bit?