Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4.10-12 (NIV):
Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and 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.
παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον, καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς χερσὶν ὑμῶν, καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν,
ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε.
Erasmus ad loc., from Paraphrase on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians
(tr. Mechtilde O'Mara, with her notes):
I will not urge you, therefore, to do13 what you are
doing of your own accord, but rather to surpass yourselves in what you are
doing at the prompting of the Spirit, as you move forward always to what
However, you should take care that your tranquillity be not disturbed
by idlers and busybodies, but that each person look after his own business.
If anyone does not have sufficient means, let him provide for himself with
his own hands resources both to support himself and to share with others
in need, just as we have instructed you previously also.14 In this way you
will be able to behave with dignity towards those who are outsiders to the
profession of faith in Christ, for to beg for alms among them,15 or to act
shamelessly on account of need would bring dishonour on your profession.
Instead of this, let each person provide for himself with his own hands so
that there be no need. And there will easily be enough for the one who is
content with a little.16
13 to do what you are doing of your own accord] First in 1532; previously, 'to
do of your own accord what you are doing'
14 Although the paraphrase here apparently follows the biblical text of 4:11 in
referring to instruction during Paul's earlier visit to the Thessalonians, the
injunction is also found elsewhere in the Epistles. Cf 1 Cor 4:12 and Eph 4:28.
For Paul's own example, see 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8–12; and Acts 18:3, 20:34.
15 Erasmus' 1516 annotation on 4:11 (ut vestrum negotium agatis) betrays hostility
to the mendicants: 'He [Paul] dissuades them from seeking what belongs to
others, and from idleness to which many, even then [in Paul's day], were
inclined under the pretext of religion. Now the world is crammed full of this
sort of fellow.' In a 1535 addition, Erasmus goes on with biting sarcasm to
implicate monks in the charge of mendacity. For Erasmus on beggars, see CWE
50 26 n5. Theophylact Expos in 1 Thess (on 4:12) PG 124 1309d also criticizes
Christians who live by begging.
16 To be content with a little is praised also by Horace Satires 2.2.110.
On minding one's own business cf. Euripides, fragment 903 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
I would be foolish if I took care of my neighbours' business.
ἄφρων ἂν εἴην εἰ τρέφοιν τὰ τῶν πέλας.
Greek words for busybody include ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος
, and πολυπράγμων
. See Jeannine K. Brown, "Just a Busybody? A Look at the Greco-Roman Topos of Meddling for Defining ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος
in 1 Peter 4:15," Journal of Biblical Literature
125 (2006) 549-568, and
Isaac Barrow, Sermon
XXI (On Quietness, and Doing Our Own Business). The world would be better off if more people obeyed the Biblical injunction
πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια.