As a child growing up in the 50’s, my generation of children was among the first to be mesmerized in front of a television.
If I recall correctly, our first TV was a crank model, which we later replaced with a gas model, and eventually we got an electric black and white. Even back then, in the middle ages of the 20th century, TV was a kind of a babysitter for preschoolers. One of my must-not-miss programs was Romper Room.
It opened with the Pledge of Allegiance. At snack time, before eating, Miss Nancy or her successors, led the children in prayer.
Near the end of the show, the Miss Teacher held up a hand mirror, while totally captivated, she spoke the mysterious chant, while the screen got wavy to signify something special was about to happen.
"Romper, bomper, stomper boo.
Tell me, tell me, tell me, do.
Magic Mirror, tell me today,
have all my friends had fun at play?"
When the screen came back to normal, she would then name the children she saw in "televisionland", saying, for example, "I can see Scotty and Kimberly and Julie and Jimmy and Kelly and Ed and Judy" and so on. Kids were encouraged to mail in their names, which would be read on the air – first names only.
Talk about high tech! We think we have something special when our 56” LCD TV screens are in 3D with theater sound? She could look through her mirror in the classroom studio and see us in our living rooms!
One of the features of the program involved the Do Bee and the Don’t Bee. One grown-up dressed uncomfortably in a bee costume would show us good behaviors to practice. That was the Do Bee. Then there came the Don’t Bee, who showed us examples of the things we should NOT be doing. Right behind the commandments and Luther’s explanation of the commandments, Mr. Do Bee and Don’t Bee are way up there on the list of those responsible for my manners or lack of them, and my behavior.
Bees can be found almost everywhere plants grow, and they play a huge role in farming and production by plants and trees. Honey bees produce one of our favorite foods, and the wax from their hives is used in our best candles, including many candles used in churches. We marvel at God’s creation in making bees so social and organized, with special roles as queen, workers, defenders, and others. We take advantage of the bees’ work ethic, and about the only thing we do for them is provide a wooden frame or home for some of them so that we can take what they have worked so hard to make.
When a man, woman, or child is constantly involved in one or more activities, someone might ask, “Well, aren’t YOU a busy bee?” Most often, it’s a compliment. It means that our industriousness, productivity, attention, or continuous effort has been noticed.
While Paul served among the people in Thessalonica, people were generally on their best behavior. Many had heard his clear proclamation about the death and resurrection of Jesus so that people could have the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. They heard and understood that Jesus would come again, for the second and final time, to close the curtain on this world, and to judge the living and the dead.
Now that Paul had moved out and down the road, there were believers who heard the message of Christ’s return, but then made their own conclusions. They concluded, not that he could come any day, but that he would come in a matter of days. They stopped working their jobs and in their homes, and basically put themselves at the kindness and mercy of their friends and neighbors. Paul writes, “They are not busy. They are busybodies.”
The word has two parts – busy and body. Both are normally good. But a busybody is not commendable and not a good example. A busybody is a meddler – someone interested in the personal life, thoughts, and actions of others that go beyond the boundaries of need, or care, or love. It is unhealthy curiosity and an ongoing effort to accumulate information that is private and personal. Busybodies spend a lot of time doing things that don’t matter.
If the Thessalonians need an example of humble productivity and accountability, Paul is bold enough to nominate himself. As an apostle and Gospel proclaimer, he lived in a fishbowl, just as our pastors and spiritual leaders do. People came to know how he spent his time, not only in teaching and preaching, but also on household chores and in providing for his financial support. Paul was a skilled, professional tentmaker. He very likely set up his shop in a tent he had made, and people could see the quality of his design and workmanship. When we wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Paul was referring to our bodies, but leave it to the tentmaker to use tent terminology!
You can’t read Paul’s letters in the New Testament and follow his missionary journeys on a map without concluding that Paul was a busy person. He had the ability to focus on the task before him while at the same time planning for the next days or weeks or months. His Roman passport was frayed at the corners because he was convinced that the news he had about Jesus was too good to be confined to one group, one community, or one nation. Someone needed to share it, and it might as well be him! When he gets the word that some people are idle and watching others BE the Church, he writes:
“We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”
If they needed a command, they got it. If they needed motivation, they are reminded that they are people IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. They are connected to him. And so are you. They have been bought and paid for by him. And so are you. They have had their sins forgiven through him. And so have you. They have their eternal life guaranteed by faith in him. And so do you. In their sanctified lives as people who have been born again, the way they live their lives -- matters. And so does yours.
Some were not busy. They had moved from action or work, to probing and meddling. They were interfering in other’s affairs. Not only were they not working, but they were preventing others from doing theirs.
Busybodies don’t get good reviews in the Bible. Peter wrote about persecution and suffering for being a follow of Jesus:
15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
Being a busybody or meddling in the lives of others causes us to lose our focus, and it may cause others to lose theirs.
The Christian church is not all talk, but much of what we do involves talk. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior, and we preach that people are saved when they put their faith and trust in him. We are about talk – but we move from talk to action. We don’t just talk about what the evangelism or outreach committee should do or who should serve on it, we commit ourselves individually and collectively to reaching out.
Some of us have spent a long time developing into a busybody or a meddler. It is not a pattern that is easily broken. But our God, through Paul, urges us to deal with it. He urges that we confront the weak in love for the purpose of bringing them back to the mind of Christ. God, through Paul, urges us to never tire of doing what is right.
In Thessalonica, there was a lot of nervous tension among some about Jesus coming again. Jesus IS coming again. Judgment Day is just around the corner. Even if Jesus does not appear in the clouds, there will be people meeting him today and tomorrow, because for some people, it IS Judgment Day.
Are you a busy bee? It’s better than being a busybody. Our work as witnesses to Jesus is important and urgent. No time for idleness. No time to be a busybody or to tolerate the busybodies around us.
Out of gratefulness to God for what we know and for whom we know, let us BEE the Church with energy, never getting tired of doing what is right.