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Grace Notes

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When Is A Busybody Not A Busybody?
by Philip Owen

Nobody appreciates a busybody, someone who meddles in the affairs of another.  The Word of God agrees with that opinion.  The words busybody and busybodies occur three times in the epistles. In no case is the activity of a busybody recommended or encouraged.  Armed with that knowledge, believers must be ready to acknowledge that the Scriptures do commend certain activities between believers that might, to the immature or carnal, appear to be the activities of a busybody.  Notwithstanding, if we are going to obey God rather than men and if we truly love our brethren, we will give earnest heed to these activities—whether we find it necessary to be on the giving or the receiving end of such actions.  Note the reciprocal nature of the following appeals.

“Teaching . . . one another” (Col. 3:16).  The word teaching needs no further definition.  It means what virtually everyone commonly understands it to mean.  Paul continues by explaining that one way of accomplishing this teaching is by means of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  But the next verse suggests that this instruction might include doing “whatsoever” we do and saying “whatsoever” we say “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17).  In short, God commands believers to conduct our lives in such a fashion that what we say and do, both consciously and unconsciously, both directly and indirectly, serve as positive instruction for the believers around us.

"Admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16; see also Rom. 15:14).  The verb to admonish means by implication “to caution or to reprove gently.”  Whereas the idea of teaching one another is so generic as to be largely inoffensive, giving someone an admonition may result in the admonisher being labeled a “busybody” by the recipient of the admonition.  Of course, when giving admonitions, we must guard our own spirit:  admonitions should be given in a spirit of love, out of concern for the spiritual well-being of the recipient, and with a desire to be faithful to the Lord.  But that having been said, it is the holy, scriptural duty of Christians to caution and gently reprove one another as occasion demands—and to graciously receive such as occasion demands.

“Exhort one another” (Heb. 3:13; see also Heb. 10:25).  To exhort means to call near, to invite, to invoke.  Given the thrust of the entire verse—“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”—this exhortation invites cries of “busybody,” or worse against those who obey it.  Who really wants to receive—or for that matter, to give—daily exhortations?  And yet, believers are exhorted to do so.  Good parents do not find it difficult to regularly and repeatedly exhort their children.  In fact, love compels them to do so.  A similar love should provoke Christian brethren to both give and receive exhortation.

“Consider one another” (Heb. 10:24).  The verb consider means to observe fully.  Anyone faithfully fulfilling this verse is in danger of being deemed intrusive.  Of course, God is not calling on believers to act like private investigators, trying to dig up as much dirt as possible about others.  But it does call on believers to weigh the known and knowable lives of the brethren in order “to provoke [them] unto love and to good works.”  A believer who does not love and serve the Lord is in danger of great loss, and the one who knows that yet ignores it is no friend to God or to his brother.  By the same token, we should gladly receive the loving consideration and provocation of our brethren.                                                         

We must not be busybodies.  But we must, with God’s help, overcome our natural fear of being accused of trying to run the lives of others so that in charity, meekness, and humility we can faithfully fulfill our God-given responsibilities to teach, admonish, exhort, and consider one another.  And the same virtues are needed when we are the recipients of such faithful godly ministries.  May we allow neither Satan nor the flesh to dissuade us from doing God’s holy will in all things.

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