And to 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 may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NASB)
The Great Depression went on for 10 years (1929-1939). Those were desperate times. My Grandpa Smith would tell me the story of how he managed to keep food on the table for his wife and young son (my dad). Dad was born in 1932 in the midst of it all and then they would bring a daughter in to the world in 1937. My grandmother fell down a flight of stairs which caused her water to break. My aunt was born 2.5 months early and, in those days, was not expected to live. She beat the odds and they brought her home in a shoebox to a tiny guest house on Georgia street in San Diego. This little house was on the back of my great-grandparent’s property. It was made of plywood and had no insulation at all. My aunt was born in December and they brought her home in late January to a very cold atmosphere. 35 years later I would live in that same little house with my husband and baby son. Grandpa put in a wall heater for us so in the cold months we all huddled in the living room to sleep. The nights got so cold my Prell shampoo tube would freeze in the bathroom. Andy and I used to sit on the couch in the morning and watch the birds skate across the frozen bird bath! Yep, it was pretty darn cold.
During that depression time grandpa was a 19 year old man with a wife and infant son. There was no work to be had. He would do odd jobs for people around town as he was well known as a hard worker, reliable and strong. Everyone knew that Sid Smith was a man of his word just like his father Samuel. My great grandmother Sally took in ironing and would bake for the wealthier folks living around her. Fortunately they were able to keep that house on Georgia St. as all of the 12 children chipped in to help.
Grandpa and grandma as well as my great grandparents were faithful members of the First Baptist Church that was just behind their house. They all lived a quiet life, took in strangers, provided hospitality with “such as they had”, attended to their own business, worked with their hands and dearly loved the Lord.
Grandpa told me that every day he went out in his thread bare slacks that grandma had repaired too many times, a shirt that she tried to keep as white as possible, a tie and his dress shoes with cardboard stuffed inside to keep his feet dry from the holes worn in the sole. He always said to look your best you never know what God will give you that day. Any given day could bring a job in a bank or digging a ditch. Either way dress up. You can always dress down if need be. He showed up at his usual spot to be a day worker kind of like the men we see today at Home Depot waiting to do an honest day’s work.
Day after day he waited and he could see the jobs drying up right before his eyes. Men were getting angry, frustrated, mean. Grandpa stood his ground as folks tried to cut their way in line to be next up to work. There was no work for days. As he walked home he saw men digging ditches. He walked over and asked how he could get a job. The man in charge told him he had enough workers. Grandpa thought that if the supervisor could see his hard work and fast, accurate digging that surely he would give him a job. He saw his opportunity as a shovel became available. Jumping in the ditch he removed his tie and went to work digging. The pay was $1 per day cash and a soup lunch.
He did not get paid that first day because the supervisor told him there was no more room on the payroll but that did not discourage him at all. He showed up early the next morning only this time dressed in jeans and a tee shirt but still had on his dress shoes because he did not own any other shoes. He dug hard and fast causing blisters on his hands. The foreman walked over and asked him what the heck (my word not his) he was doing! Grandpa said he was working to provide for his wife and young son and his parents. He said “looks like there is a job to he done, I am young, strong and reliable and I can dig rings around all of these other fellas. If you give me a chance I will show you. I worked yesterday for no money and didn’t even ask at the end of the day. I wanted you to see my work and know I was a man of my word.” Grandpa was hired on the spot. That started a lifetime of hard work for this man of ethics. His example to us was my plumb line for hard work and diligence in anything I ever did. If I said yes to a project I would always think of Grandpa Smith if I wanted to give up. He never did give up.
Paul is telling the Thessalonians to “make it your ambition” to lead a quiet life. Some of the Thessalonians had made it their business to stir up controversy. Satan is hard at work to bother us. He wants us to be discontent to work quietly. His ambition is for us to be dissatisfied, gossips, take from others, be the victim, hoard what we have and not share, always expect a hand out not a hand up. As humans we, in our old sin nature, are prone to that behavior as were the Thessalonians. That is why Paul used the word ambition meaning a strong desire to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. It’s a job to live a quiet life! They were so used to their former ways of living that he implored them to work hard at minding their own business, providing for themselves and being a good example to outsiders.
Are you a good example to those watching you? My prayer is that I would learn over the years to live that quiet life, work hard and be a godly example to those around me. That is my prayer for you precious one reading this today. God bless you as you strive to be that person God meant for you to be. ️