I had an opportunity to preach during a chapel service at my alma mater, Concordia University Chicago, a couple of weeks ago. The service also included the installation of a new member of the staff. Perhaps a message directed at a group of academics and college students will bless you, too.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and greetings from your brothers and sisters at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mokena.
“Mind your own business.” I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase in a variety of contexts before. Perhaps it was in the form of a post-punk rock song playing over an Apple ad that lauds the company’s commitment to your privacy and the security of your personal information. Maybe it’s in the context of a French knight, standing atop the battlements of a castle, smack dab in the middle of England, having a terse but hilarious conversation with Arthur, King of the Britons (Monty Python fans will understand). Or, perhaps you’ve found yourself in the unenviable circumstance of having a friend, a roommate, or classmate telling you off with those words, signaling with their language and the anger behind it that you’ve crossed the line into their personal business, where you don’t belong. Mind your own business!
Now, I don't think this is what Paul is intending when he speaks these words in our text for today. “Mind your own business/affairs” is not part of a frustrated bid for privacy, but more like an admonition to build a solid foundation for life, a platform on which the love of Jesus can be displayed. This portion of Paul’s letter to the Jesus-followers in Thessalonica marks out the shape of the Christian life, and his admonition and encouragement is to live a quiet, peaceable, and productive life, free of gossip and prideful ambition.
At a time when ambitious Roman citizens often sought to elevate their social status through skilled oratory, by socializing and through trade, all the while expecting others to bear the load of sustaining their household, Paul’s encouragement to live counter-culturally reinforces what he has already taught them personally. Instead of using their time being loudmouths and busy-bodies, He expresses the way of Jesus, the consummate Servant Leader, who comes to serve those around Him instead of being served.
Jesus always stays on task, being about His Father’s business of seeking to save the lost…and this is a template for us. He lays the groundwork for the movement of the Early Church, all the while staring down the specter of the Cross. His focus on bringing the Kingdom in all its forms is so clear during His ministry that when He does arrive at His destination on Good Friday, His followers have a striking picture of God’s love on full display, as Jesus spreads His arms to embrace a hurting world, even as it hurts Him and kills Him. A gallows is a platform, and elevated on this platform, Jesus’ message is clear: “There isn’t anything I’m unwilling to face to demonstrate the length of my service to you, the depth of My love for you.”
So where does that leave you and me? How shall we “mind our own business?” When you’ve built a firm foundation for your life, living in peace, studiousness, and industriousness, you’ll have the bandwidth to be able to serve others the way Jesus did. Selflessly. Sacrificially. Tirelessly. Does that mean you must force yourself to be more focused on your work, to be diligent and self-controlled? Yes, certainly. It does.
Let me put it to you this way: as I think back on my time here at Concordia, I can remember moments when I should have made myself available to those around me, to serve them and care for them, to be fully present. But my next class or rehearsal or lesson or assignment was calling my name, and I rushed past countless gift-wrapped opportunities from God to be fully present with a friend or classmate who needed the inviting presence of Jesus. We will all struggle with the commitments that God has lovingly placed into our stories as we pursue the vocations He gives. He gives grace upon grace upon grace as we seek to be like Him and love sacrificially like Him…to be about His business.
Now, I’m sure that you’ve got plenty of other “business” to attend to when you walk out these doors, and I’m sure that most of it is great and is what God is calling you to. My prayer for you is that this brief sojourn you’ve taken with Jesus here will encourage you to continue setting your life in order in such a way to free you up to embody Jesus in whatever room you step into today…and always. Whether you’re being installed in an official capacity or it’s simply another day in the classroom, the King and the Kingdom are calling you into service…and He’s a king so much greater than Arthur, King of the Britons. May God richly bless you as mind His business. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.