Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Virtuous Ambition

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

~1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV).

Many children in this day, as they grow to adulthood and receive their driver’s licences, are receiving cars from their parents without having to pay for them. Some also receive vast sums of money on turning 18 or 21. I often wonder what the parents of these now-grown young adults are trying to impart—what they are trying to teach them. I deduce after a moment’s thought it can’t be much. No one learns much without at least a little sacrifice.

And it was the same for some of the Thessalonians. Even though they’d experienced the persecuted side of faith, these Greeks either looked down on manual labour or they were simply waiting upon Jesus’ return.

Paul’s underlying focus in both his letters to the Thessalonians was collectively these two issues; the believers there were tempted to take things easy and wait for the ‘ceremonial arrival of their imperial delegate’—Jesus. Their focus had shifted from where it needed to be.

And the kids of today who’ve received everything—and this is especially manifest in the grown kids—often do not have the correct focus, and who could blame them? They haven’t had to learn to work for their own things. It is common cause and effect.

In Acts 20:35, as Paul is farewelling the Ephesian Elders, his last recorded sentence tells them:

“I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

‘More blessed’ in this context is a personally felt grateful reality. When young people grow up without the expectation that a shiny car should greet them as a ‘rites of passage’ sort of gift, they seem happier in the long run and more adept at working with their own hands—in the long run. They are happy with what we know to be the right thing.

We know this implicitly and intuitively somehow. We’ve all experienced the sense of humble satisfaction of earning our pay and then wisely investing of our money in the things we now own—those things that are special. And yet, there are also times when we’ve been given things—big things—and we haven’t truly appreciated them as much as if we’d earned them, dollar-for-dollar, ourselves.

Virtue’s ambition for us then is to work quietly and diligently with our own hands without casting even a quarter of an eyeball over our shoulders at the less diligent. Like us, they’ll get theirs—everyone does. Let us not become distracted, and in everything simply focus on the person of Jesus:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

~Hebrews 12:2 (NIV).

This single-minded and simple focus allows us to achieve the respect of outsiders, as well as help those in need, and it brings us the ‘more blessed’ state simply in leading the quiet life, minding our own business.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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