The #Bible’s New Testament: 1 Thessalonians: Test Everything

I was a very gullible kid, and some of this mindset followed me into my adulthood. Especially when it came to how much attention I paid to the fruits and vegetables I ate.  Specifically, I tended to drop whatever I bought from the store—broccoli, green beans, asparagus—right into the pot or pan to steam while I prepared whatever else was for dinner. One of my good friends—who has spent a lot of time researching healthy foods (read: organic) and proper food cleanliness—was horrified when she saw me do this.  “You’re not going to wash any of that before you cook and then eat it?”

I paid her little mind.  I had felt that she went a little overboard (at times) with her insistence (or perhaps extreme preference) for organic foods.  No, what I bought at Thriftway was fine. Besides, why would you have to wash vegetables, I wondered?  Surely, the packaging ensured product cleanliness, right? I almost prided myself in blindly accepting what was being sold to me without taking any precautions whatsoever.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul is concerned that his audience is not testing enough of what ideas they are being fed.

This Bible book is apparently one of Paul’s earliest letters (dated around 50 or 51 A.D.), and in it, he offers a number of different ideas to the members of the church he left behind and has not seen for some time.

Apparently, Satan prevented his return (2:18).

Anyway, he offers some nice advice to these people, many of whom are anxiously awaiting Jesus’ return. To these people he reminds them of the rules he has already passed on (4:1, 3-6) but implores them to do more than they’ve already done—he’s a little evasive on what would be asked of them, however. Coming from a person who advocates that people need to think more about what they are being told—perhaps some specifics would help this directive along?—this seemed a bit ironic.

Still, one of the highlights of this book—for me—is what he says next: people should strive to lead a quiet life, to mind their own business, and work with their hands.  By doing this, they will be self-sufficient—i.e. dependent on nobody (4:11-12).

This emphasis, clarified as self control (5:8), is a big idea for Paul.  I wonder why this is not something that is emphasized again and again—in fact, it seems like this is the first place it surfaces in the Bible with such emphasis.  But his warm ideas continue as he encourages people to live in peace with one another, and generally be good, open-minded people (5:14-15).

In the end, Paul is impressing upon them the difference between the right way and the wrong way to prepare for Jesus’ return. In anticipation, some have already checked out, so to speak, quitting their jobs, etc. as they await Jesus.  Addressing this issue (which Paul disapproves of), he cautions his audience to not treat prophecies with contempt (5:20), that they should be prepared for when Jesus does return and not quit living life in the mean-time.  Basically, people need to test everything (5:21), that they should not buy into false ideas about whether or not Jesus has come as some individuals suggesting the exact date.

Here, the “test everything” stands out. This seems a bold idea to impress upon followers of a religion that requires faith—i.e. NOT testing but rather accepting. Now, I believe Paul has noble intentions; however, how does someone know the difference, really? Sure, some people clearly offer good information while others don’t. He’s expecting people to know the difference and trust him.

I have done a better job in my eating life selecting better produce.  I have learned more about how harmful some food protection (pesticides, etc.) can be for one’s body, so I pay the extra money and buy my apples and lettuce from Whole Foods.  I still wash everything, though.  I don’t care what’s on the label—organic or otherwise—I trust my own preparation. Although I doubt I’ve ever admitted this to my friend, but I did learn this from her.

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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