Are you busy or a busybody?

Today I’d like to do a little Bible study on a verse that speaks as loudly today as it did 2,000 The Bible tells us there's a difference between being busy and being a busybody. Visit my blog to learn the difference.years ago: 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

But first, let me welcome anyone who is visiting for the first time after reading my devotion today on Encouragement for Today.

Before we get to the verse, I’d like to make a cultural observation. In that past few years, the idea of being busy has gotten a bad rap. In fact, I like to say “busy” is now a four-letter word (hopefully you’ll enjoy the irony of that).

But when I read the Bible, I see a very different view of “busy.” Rather than a shameful condition indicating one has lost control of one’s life, it is set as a model of living.

The problem isn’t being busy.  There are actually two problems 1) Not knowing when to rest and 2) being busy with the wrong things.

Second Thessalonians 3:11 addresses the 2nd problem.

 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.

As Paul wraps up his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, he does so with a strong admonition to the believers to work, and work hard. In fact, Paul sets himself and his companions (Silas and Timothy) as role models. According to the Scripture, they worked night and day so as not to be a burden to anyone.

Apparently, there were some believers in the new church who weren’t pulling their weight. Some theologians suggest they believed the Lord was returning soon, so it wasn’t necessary to work. Perhaps they felt manual labor was beneath them. Regardless of their motives, Paul calls them  “busybodies.”

This passage in Greek is literally translated: “Doing none of their own business, yet overdoing in the business of others.”

Idleness is a the source of much trouble. When we neglect our own responsibilities, we are quick to get involved in things that really don’t involve us.When this happens, we may look and feel busy, but it’s not the right kind of busy.

Other New Testament passages tell us gossip was one way the first Christians were busybodies. In 1 Timothy 5:13, Timothy admonishes the younger widows to marry, because,  “… they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.”

It’s so easy and enticing to become over-involved in the business of others.  In fact, it’s one of the number one pastimes in our world today.  And this idea of going “house to house” sounds like today’s social media. Whether on TV, magazines, social media, the news or the Internet in general, we have an open door to learn about the lives of others. Then we love to talk about it.

If I’m the least bit dissatisfied with my life, it’s much more satisfying to watch the lives of others.

When I was writing my book, Taming the To-Do List, I realized that so many of us live over-busy lives because of this very same principle of being a busybody.  Maybe we’re not obsessed with the “stars” of today, but we allow the demands and priorities of others to direct our agenda.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. When I’m not careful, I allow my emails to set my schedule for the day. Every email represents a question or need from someone. When I spend the best part of my day, and my most productive hours, on other people’s needs, my priorities suffer.

I end up regretting all the things I don’t do or rush through, like:

  • spending more time in prayer and God’s Word
  • date nights with my husband
  • spending fun, unscheduled time with my kids
  • lunches with my mother or sisters
  • showing hospitality to others
  • investing in hobbies that make my heart sing
  • answering God’s most challenging assignments

I simply don’t want to live with more regrets than I have to. That’s why I’m trying so hard to be busy with the right things, and not be a busybody.

As I wrap up this short study on 2 Thessalonians 3:11, I want to point out two things.

  1. Paul is careful to not apply this admonition to those who “can’t” work. Verse 10 says, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’” But those who are able, should be busy about their own work and help care for those who can’t work.
  2. Sometimes we are called to be about the business of others. We are called to care for each other sacrificially and with love. That’s not the problem Paul is addressing here. He’s calling out those who avoid their own work by getting involved in things they aren’t called to do.

What this verse doesn’t address is the other problem we have with busyness, and that’s knowing when to stop. I’ll write a blog post on Thursday about this important concept of rest. If you’re interested in getting my blog posts, please enter your email address in the box on the right sidebar.

And one more thing. I’d love for you to join us in a free study of my book, Taming the To-Do List. We’ll start the study next Tuesday, September 8. You can sign up on the Online Bible Study page at P31. If you’ve wondered if this study is for you, just give it a try for the first week. My publisher is making the first 3 chapters available at no charge.

I’d love to have you join us!



P.S. I’ll be doing a live call on Tuesday night to answer questions about my book and the study. Watch my social media pages or the P31 OBS social media sites for all the details.