1 Thessalonians 4: 9-12 (NRSVA)
9 Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, 11 to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, 12 so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.
Hansel and Gretel, some argue, is a fairytale which teaches children not merely to be cautious about strangers offering sweets, but also how to be independent and self-reliant. Abandoned in the forest, the children search for food. In desperation they succumb to the temptation offered by the witch’s gingerbread house. They are punished for this dependence with capture, but recover enough self-reliance to escape from and kill the witch. One problem with this argument is that Hansel and Gretel are not precisely independent, instead they are mutually dependent on each other.
Self-reliance can be a useful quality. Paul advises the Thessalonians to lead a quiet life, minding their own business, being independent and thus winning the respect of others. But crucially, Paul’s advice is based on the awareness that those he addresses are securely based in the interdependence of a loving family of God.
Lord, sometimes I long for a quiet life
A life in which I am a bother to nobody and nobody bothers me.
I am happy to ‘mind my affairs’. I am not interested in the affairs of others, and why should they be interested in me?
Do no harm. Make no waves. Draw no-one’s attention. Depend on no-one but yourself.
Is that a quiet life, or an empty one?
I think, perhaps, your quietness is richer than that.
I think a quiet life with you means not the quiet of the cell, but the quiet of still waters, waters teeming with life and connection. Mutually dependent, nurturing each other, held within your stillness and calm.
Lord, lead me by still waters and re-connect my soul with all that lives.