Mind your own business, not your neighbor’s

The question I want to ask is: Having given us free will, did God intend that some men should sit on his throne, in his stead, and enforce his will by violence upon other men? Clearly, Jesus did not commission his Church to use compulsion to make men believe or behave, or even to pay the tithe. Notice the gentle persuasion employed by St. Paul in his letter to Philemon:

“I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed be voluntary and not something forced.” Phil. 1:14.

The Church may persuade, but she does not use violence to compel obedience. Nor does the Church use violence to force its members to pay the tithe. There is a humbler approach in Jesus’ teaching to his apostles:

“You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.” Mark 10:42-43.

In the humble example of Jesus and the Church, there is no place for initiating force or compulsion against our fellow man. Other scriptural passages condemn our meddling in the affairs of others.

This not to say that—when others threaten or harm us—we have no right to protect ourselves, our property and our loved ones. We do, and it is our affair. We may even come to the aid of a stranger who is being robbed, but always mindful that the further we are from any situation, the more we must pause before interfering with matters that do not concern us (and which we may not understand). This is never truer than when others behave in ways we disapprove but are not harming anyone, except perhaps themselves.

People who meddle in others’ business we call busybodies, and the scripture has nothing good to say about them.

The mildest biblical reproach for the busybody is when King Solomon declares him to be a fool. Prov. 20:3.

Elsewhere Solomon advises that he who meddles in another man’s quarrel is only buying trouble for himself “like the man who seizes a passing dog by the ears.” Prov. 26:17.

The New Testament is harsher, describing such people as lazy idlers: “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.” 2 Thess. 3:11. They are meddlers going from house to house with gossip “talking about things that ought not to be mentioned,” rather than being productive. 1 Tim. 5:13. St. Peter, calling them “intriguers” (or mischief-makers), classes them with thieves, murderers and other criminals. 1 Pet. 4:15.

Compare this condemnation with St. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians “to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody. 1 Thess. 4:10-12. There is a common thread here: Mind your own business.

As Hank Williams’ lyrical version wisely suggests:

If you mind your own business, you’ll stay busy all the time”

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