“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” 1 Peter 4:15
Peter is preparing me for suffering in this world and not just the regular suffering, but suffering because I believe in Jesus and follow You with my life. His whole point is that I can expect ill treatment, unfair treatment simply based on the fact that my life is being lived in accord with You, Lord. I will be insulted and more because of the way Your Holy Spirit leads me, because You are so different than the rest of the world and Your glory is foreign and scary to those who live according to the ways of self and the world.
But suffering because of my walk and relationship with You isn’t the only kind of suffering in this world. There is suffering I can bring on myself, by defying Your will and by breaking man’s laws. So Peter warns me. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” Come on now, aren’t those extremes? How do we get from murderer to a meddler as though they are all as bad? But sin is sin. Peter knew what Jesus had spoken on the topic. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22) So at first, maybe I read Peter’s words and I say, “Oh, I’m o.k. here. I won’t ever murder anyone. But what if I examine that according to Your interpretation, Lord? How do I handle my anger? Do I allow it to “kill” my love for someone? Do I allow it to “kill” how I see a person, that I might judge them wrongly in other ways? Does it “kill” my desire to lift them up and encourage them and instead I insult them? Have I “killed’ their image in my eyes and traded them for a “fool” and “kill” them before others as I share that image? Murder comes closer to home thinking of it this way, doesn’t it?
Wait, I’m a believer, I’m born-again, I’m saved, I’m a Christian. I don’t steal any more. I’m not a thief. Maybe when I was 5 and I walked out of the store with that “For Sale” sign in my hand and my parents realized I still had it and they hadn’t payed for it by accident. I’m careful now. But am I?
Don’t suffer as a thief. “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) It’s one of the ten commandments. And by easiest terms, it was thought of as stuff. So we could simply understand, we thought don’t steal stuff, don’t take for yourself what belongs to someone else. But is it just about stuff? Can I be guilty of stealing other things that don’t belong to me? Could I steal someone else’s glory by not giving them credit but accepting the credit as my own? Could I steal someone else’s dignity by my actions toward them or words to or about them? Really, I know this is true because You, Lord, said of the prophets, “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.” (Jeremiah 23:30)
What does that mean? How could a prophet steal Your words, Lord? They would say what they want to say and attach it to the phrase, “thus sayeth the Lord” or “the burden of Jehovah.” Those were what the true prophets would use to signify that what they were saying were words coming from God and not their own. But these prophets were stealing God’s “authority” and making up their own words as though they were Yours. They were misleading the people they should have been shepherding. They were lying because they were saying they were Your words, when really they were just teaching what they wanted and not Your truth at all. They waggled their own tongues the way they wanted to waggle them to deliver their own messages to people and pretended it came from God. In so doing, they robbed the people of the truth. They robbed the people of knowing and living in God. They robbed God of His authority and His mercy. I mean, Your authority and mercy are always Yours, Lord, and no one can take that away, but they robbed many people of knowing it.
So, if that is an example of stealing, could I be guilty of stealing another person’s glory, or chance for mercy, or words, or something more? Am I guilty of robbing You, God, of Your glory, authority, mercy, because I overstep my boundaries? Do I steal from You by stepping in where You should be?
And hey, me, an evildoer? What? You gotta be kidding! Me, a bad doer? Me, a criminal? Me, a malefactor? I don’t commit crimes, do I? Am I guilty of violating laws? Have I put myself in a place where I have to come under public prosecution or punishment? Wait a minute! Have I ever been issued a speeding ticket? That’s breaking the law, isn’t it? Am I supposed to think nothing of that? Am I supposed to lessen any “bad” thing? If I lessen certain “bad things” according to man’s law, am I liable to lessen those things deemed “bad” by You more easily? If bad is bad, do I have the right to make any bad good?
And then we come to being a meddler, or in other terms “a busybody in other men’s matters.” At first that seems a far cry from murder, but now not so far after all. It’s actually based on a really big Greed word allotriepiskopos. It’s a compound word too. This is the only place in scripture where we find it. Peter maybe even made up this word to get across what he wanted to say and wanted us to understand. It means, “not one’s own overseer.” It’s part of the same word translated sometimes as “shepherd.” Think of it as a steward of an estate. They are assigned to take care of another persons things or matters, right? But this is a negative word and implies the person isn’t doing the job they were authorized to do, but they were taking it upon themselves to interfere in ways above their “calling.”
It’s like when James asks, “Who are you to judge another?” Yes, stewards are to judge but final judgment is not theirs. Final judgment belongs to the master. A steward can step out of his boundaries of authority and meddle in too much.
It’s like a busybody. The words in Greek mean to “work about, or to work around.” You get busy with trifles. Like you have a job mowing the property but you keep stopping and running off puttering around with this or that and you don’t finish the mowing. We can be too busy with other people’s lives, other people’s faults to be taking care of our own life, our own walk. I can be so busy watching over others I don’t watch over myself. I don’t grow. I don’t change. I lose joy. I miss out on You because I’m too busy stewarding what I’m not supposed to be stewarding. I step out of my province into the authority of another and act as though I’m the authority. I can be just too concerned with the affairs of others so that I don’t look at the affairs of my own heart. I piddle with everything but my own lawn. I attempt to fix the problems of others but my own yard stays in shambles, only partially mown. Hey, but everybody else’s stuff looks great and I did that, right? Only, my real responsibility is left wanting, growing weeds, left in need.
I can’t help think that this is about wrong judgment. Not like judging someone wrongly, but like judging your own self and responsibilities wrongly. I think it still has to do with seeing that splinter in someone else’s eye and running to get it out when you’ve got a log in your own eye that you don’t take care of because you are too busy running after other people’s splinters. Then you become a hypocrite and maybe no one else knows it, because you’ve become so skilled at taking care of other people’s business and avoiding the real business you should be taking care of.
Yeah, it’s like avoiding the issues at home because it’s easier to help other people than to make the necessary changes for peace and unity at home. It’s like throwing yourself into ministry because it’s easier than investing in the problems at home. It’s a habit that’s been going on for so long that the neglected grass at home is so overgrown, you no longer even know where to begin.
When my daughter was young, she would let her bedroom get out of control like that. And as she was cleaning, she would let herself get distracted by a book or something as she was going along. It made the job so much harder and longer to finish and the heart just wasn’t in it. So, I would help her focus on one area at a time, and together we would get the job done. The problem wasn’t on the day she cleaned. The problem was that she didn’t keep up her room. There were other things that held her attention more and she let the problem build and build. But now she’s an adult and married. Now, because she loves her husband, she doesn’t let the rooms get like that any more. And if, because of her little ones, she doesn’t get to it, it still doesn’t get to that overwhelming point. Her husband is there to pitch in as well. They don’t run over to clean other people’s houses first. They don’t look at it and leave to clean elsewhere. They take care of their own dirt first. Then they are better equipped to help others rightly.
I need to know that I am taking care of the real things You have placed under my authority and not just making up my own agenda. I need to know that I am being the steward you’ve called me to be of my home and family, without ignoring it and running to pitch in elsewhere. And if I find that I’m ignoring the hard stuff, the real stuff you’ve given me, the grass I want to avoid, then I pray that I would make the commitment to do a be what and who You created me to be to the people I ought to be caring for.
Sometimes, the problem is that the grass is greener elsewhere. But it’s really not, except for the fact that we’ve ignored our own grass for so long that it’s overgrown with weeds and hard to get back in shape. And who’s fault is that? But it’s fixable. It’s just going to take wholehearted, undistracted attention and love. See, this isn’t persecution. This was caused by choice. That’s why it’s lumped in with murder, stealing, and evildoing. You chose this act. You chose this path. But you don’t have to stay here. You can choose to be the steward of what God called you to steward first. And you don’t have to do it alone. “Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Maybe it’s time we made sure our “persecution” wasn’t coming from our own neglect, brought on by our own choices.