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Mind Your Own Business

Has anyone ever said to you, "Mind your own business”?  When you were a child, you might have heard this instruction from your father of mother because you were complaining about your brother or sister.  As an adult, someone may have said this to you when you offered some unsolicited or unappreciated advice.  Regardless of the reason, you probably didn’t enjoy being told to mind your own business, but it was probably what you needed to hear.

Human beings have a natural interest in one another, which is good, but that interest can become meddlesome.  Finding the balance between being a good neighbor, as Jesus illustrated in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), and a meddlesome troublemaker can be difficult.  If we stand too far off from others, then we become careless and cold, refusing to be our "brothers’ keepers” (Gen. 4:9).  On the other hand, if we insert ourselves where we are not welcome, then we may only make bad situations worse and provoke others to anger and resentment.

The Scriptures advise us against being meddlers and busybodies.  A meddler (Gr. allotriepiskopos, "another’s overseer”) is one who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others and not to himself.  Regarding meddling, the apostle Peter wrote, "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (1Pet. 4:15).  A busybody (Gr. periergazomai or periergos, "about business”) is one who busies himself with trifling, needless, useless matters and is inquisitive about other’s affairs that are none of his own.  When the apostle Paul heard that some of the Thessalonian Christians were acting like busybodies, he commanded them to "work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (2Thess. 3:11-12).  This was a repetition of an earlier commandment he had given when he wrote, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1Thess. 4:11-12).  Paul also condemned meddling, busybodiness, and gossiping (a sin closely associated with meddling) when he wrote about idle widows, saying, "At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (1Tim. 5:13).  These passages should lead us to mind our own business and stay out of the business of others.  By doing so, we do ourselves and others a service, for Proverbs 26:17 says, "Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.”

So then, how can you be helpful to others without becoming a busybody?  Before inserting yourself in any situation, it may be good to ask a few questions about the people and issues involved.

1.      Is it any of my business?  If not, then I probably should stay away.

2.      Did someone ask for my advice, help, or opinion?  If not, then I should probably not offer anything specific.  Maybe just a generic expression of care and concern would be appropriate.

3.      Am I considering the best interest of others, or is my involvement more about myself (Phil. 2:3-4)?  Maybe I am just being nosy, looking for more "dirt” for gossiping, or finding some way to gratify myself.  If that is the case, then I need to stay away and tend to my own shortcomings.

4.      Will what I have to offer be well received?  Even if my intentions are good, they may be perceived as otherwise.  I don’t want to make the situation worse.

5.      Is this a spiritual matter that demands my concern?  If a person’s soul is in danger, then I have a mandate from my Lord to give the proper warning and the proper instruction, especially to my fellow Christians (Gal. 6:1; 2Tim. 4:1-2; Jas. 4:17; 5:19-20).  This mandate trumps all other concerns, but it must be administered in love (Eph. 4:15).

Certainly, there are other ways of evaluating a situation before becoming involved, but the main point to be learned is that we must exercise great discretion before inserting ourselves in anybody else’s business.  In most cases, the best policy is to "mind your own business.”  This is not just a matter of staying out of other people’s business, but it is even more so a matter taking care of our own.  If each of us will do this, then there will be no danger of crossing that line into areas where we really do not belong.

Stacey E. Durham



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