By Connie W. Adams
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters (1 Pet. 4:15).
The folly of such a practice was identified by Solomon when he said, “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17). It is dangerous to take a dog by the ears. If you turn him loose, he is apt to bite you. But you can’t hold on to him forever! You are in a predicament. So it is with one who implicates himself in the affairs of others. Before you know it, you are in deeper than you want to be and getting out of it may prove troublesome.
The Lord has given all of us plenty to do to mind our own business without trying to attend to the affairs of others.
What Is Not Meddlesome
It is not meddlesome for parents to seek to guide their children in the way that is right. Parents have a right to know where their children go, with whom and what sort of activity takes place there. That is parental responsibility.
It is not meddlesome for elders to guard the flock. “They watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17) and must give account for it. That does not mean that elders have a right to pry into the private affairs of Christians and to take over the management of their homes and lives. Sinful attitudes and actions need to be corrected in the interest of growth and for the welfare of the while congregation.
It is not meddlesome for gospel preachers to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2), nor to declare “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). It is their God-given duty to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2-3). That is included in doing “the work of an evangelist” and making “full proof” of their “ministry” (2 Tim. 2:3-5). It is not meddlesome to warn of dangers that threaten souls. Paul “warned everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). It is not out of place to insist on sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1,7-8) and to oppose those who bring “another” or a “perverted” gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). It is not wrong to warn of errors which are swirling about and which may, in time, become a threat to the well being of brethren who, as yet, have not been affected. Much of the New Testament teaching was preventative in nature. A constant dose of sound doctrine, balanced presentation of the whole truth, is the best preventive. Long before elders arose “speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” Paul warned of it (Acts 20:29-30). It is not meddlesome to lock the barn door before the horse gets out.
It is not meddlesome for the “spiritual” to “restore” those who are overtaken in a fault (Gal. 6:1). We are our brother’s keeper and his spiritual well being should ever be our concern.
What Is Meddlesome
It is meddlesome to intrude our personal opinions upon the lives of others. Your standard of living is your business unless it is evident that you have sacrificed your soul to maintain it. Family choices do not require a quorum of congregational consensus. How a family handles its own financial affairs, where it educates its children, the use of personal time, the choice of a job, are off limits to the rest of us unless it is clear that heaven is being sacrificed in the process.
It is meddlesome to intrude into the affairs of another local church. When a congregation openly teaches error, or supports it, it is in order to openly point that out where the spiritual welfare of others may be involved. But all of us need to respect local church autonomy. We do not know all the circumstances involved in public disciplinary action in other congregations. We do not know all that is involved when local churches have troubles over elders and their decisions, or over the termination of the work of a preacher.
It is meddlesome for preachers to come into an area for a meeting, and without knowing all the circumstances and after hearing a considerable amount of gossip, to then attempt to take this dog by the ears. What often happens is that men stir up a problem that local brethren either have handled, or are in the process of resolving and either hinder the process or else make it impossible to resolve. Then, the visiting expert goes home and leaves a mess for others to adjust.
I do not understand why some preachers are privy to so much personal correspondence over the country. They are continually in the eye of a storm involving the affairs of other brethren. Why is this? Who appointed them as mediators and adjustors of other men’s matters? Is it not meddlesome to scour the private correspondence of others to find something to file away and drag out later to use in building a case? I have never found it necessary to send several dozen copies of my personal mail to brethren scattered over the country to get their input on it. That serves to publicize things which might be resolved more easily were it not brought to such a wide audience in the beginning. Over the years I have had my share of controversial correspondence. You cannot publish a paper long without that happening. Sometimes in the course of private correspondence two brethren will confide in each other things that were never meant for public consumption. The publication of these things would prove a great embarrassment to those who thought they spoke, or wrote, in confidence. Sometimes, in private correspondence, we will make unguarded statements which could come back to haunt us if they were publicized.
The end does not justify the means, even in the use of private correspondence to try and build a case against a brother whom you regard as on a dangerous path. Sometimes churches circulate to other churches information which was understood to be between them and the individuals who communicated with them. Brethren, I believe there is a principle of honor here that ought to be respected.
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are yet” but if you get into trouble for meddling in other men’s matters, it is a shame. The cause of Christ is dishonored and the resolving of difficulties is hindered.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 17, p. 3-4
September 1, 1994