What Does It Mean to be a Busybody?

What Does It Mean to be a Busybody?

Whether at the workplace or in the home, God gives men and women noble work to do. Without anything to do, we could learn to become busybodies and be unduly drawn into the affairs of others, perhaps even criminal in nature. May God help us to mind our own affairs, diligently do what He commands, and, if we suffer, suffer not for sin but for Him alone.

Three verses in the New Testament refer to a busybody—2 Thessalonians 3:111 Timothy 5:13, and 1 Peter 4:15. The following briefly explores the meaning of busybody in each verse.

2 Thessalonians 3:11

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

“Busybodies” in this verse stems from periergazomai, a verb meaning “to be intrusively busy” (BDAG). Broken into parts, this verb literally means “to work around” (peri, “around”;  ergazomai, “to work”). One commentator puts it this way: “the scornful characterization is produced by the preposition peri, ‘around,’ prefixed to the second participle, ‘working around,’ giving it a bad sense, since that which encircles anything does not belong to the thing itself, but lies outside and beyond it, going beyond its proper limits.”1 In other words, a busybody is someone who busies himself with what does not belong to himself. He goes beyond the proper limits of his own matters to busy himself with the matters of others.

In the context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, Paul’s remedy for this person is simple—this person can either work quietly and earn his own living or not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:1012). Diligent work leaves little time for minding the affairs of others. For everyone else, they should avoid this lazy busybody or admonish him to live as he ought (2 Thessalonians 3:613–15).

1 Timothy 5:13

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

“Busybodies” in this verse stems from periergos, a noun related to the verb periergazomai above.

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