6 Proverbs for Ambitiously Leading a Quiet Life

6 Proverbs for Ambitiously Leading a Quiet Life May 5, 2024

Photo by Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash. 7 Proverbs for Ambitiously Leading a Quiet Life
Photo by Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash.

This week I found myself reflecting on six profound sayings from the book of Proverbs that shed light on what an ambitious pursuit of leading a quiet life looks like.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul is inviting the Thessalonian churches, and ultimately us, to live permanently in a state away from the strain of normal societal human encounters and activity. It is not an invitation to escape, but an invitation into stillness (time, dependency, and relationship) with God the Father. This ambitious way of living quietly, minding our own business, and working with our hands in a way that connects us to simplicity, the earth, and reality. It is an invitation into a way of life that faithfully and prophetically embraces and lives out the ways, works, and words of Jesus, and to move away from performance, busybodying, and dependence on others and systems to merely sit with the sustaining presence and whispers of the still small voice of God’s Spirit. 

In my pursuit of what it truly means to lead a quiet life, I’ve come to understand that this slower way of life is not about retreating; it’s about embracing a deeper encounter and a more empowered way forward. Paul’s encouragement to live quietly isn’t about disengagement but about finding a countercultural way of living. This countercultural way of living is found in the sustaining rhythm of stillness in God’s presence, guided by God’s Spirit, by the refusal to be lured into busyness or busybody activity. Instead of rushing about in a culture of self-interest programming and duties, it’s about moving simply, obediently, and dependently with God.

Elton Trueblood, in his book The Lord’s Prayers, beautifully captures this idea of advancement rather than retreat. He writes that “sometimes Christ separated the Apostles from the strain of human encounter by taking them apart with Him, when the need was sufficient…These withdrawals do not involve failure, or any backward motion, but rather a gathering of resources for renewed encounters. They are really advances rather than retreats.” In this quote, Elton Trueblood’s insight illuminates not just Jesus’ actions but Jesus’ invitation to experience the transformative outcome of such intentional pauses. These pauses are about existing in the sustaining presence of Jesus, where the yoke is easy and the burden is light, away from the hurried and strained human encounters and activities.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul’s invitation, or timeless challenge to the Thessalonian churches, is similar to Jesus’ practice of taking the disciples apart. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 is both a challenge and an invitation to disconnect from the relentless demands of the world and into a way of living that experiences deeper communion with God. It’s an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the simple presence of the Father, to dwell on the teachings and example of Jesus away from human complexities, and to listen in dependence only for the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

More and more, I find myself wanting to be away from the strain of human busybody encounters and meaningless busyness, but I do not mean that I want to live in a way of seclusion or escapism. In no way do I want to live a way of life that loses the prophetic and evangelistic incarnational investment of place and the missional life that God desires for followers of Jesus and the church community. However, I want to serve from a place in which I am sustained by the Kingdom, power, and glory of God more than my own might and naturally inherent self-seeking activity. For the past few weeks, I have been contemplating the enduring wisdom and adages of the book of Proverbs, and how it helps us to understand what it means to live a quiet life, to mind our own business, and to work with our hands being dependent on no one. The theme of Paul’s challenge in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 is echoed in simple yet profound ways of guidance and conviction throughout the Book of Proverbs, offering insights into leading a purposeful, peaceful, and diligent life. 

Let’s explore how some of these ancient words of wisdom challenge our frenzied and overly engaged post-modern lives. In these six profound sayings from the book of Proverbs, we see a light shed on what an ambitious pursuit of leading a quiet life looks like.

  1. Instead of a busy life, we pursue tranquility and self-restraint. In Proverbs 14:30 (NIV), we read, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” We are reminded that prioritizing the simplicity of peace over a hustle that is driven by envy will bring contentment and inner richness and vitality that brings life to our bodies. Discontentment leads to envy, which leads to busyness, which leads to problems with our health and state of life. 
  2. Instead of meddling in others’ affairs, we focus on our own responsibilities. In Proverbs 26:17 (NIV), we see that “like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” This proverb reminds us to be mindful of our own duties, and what is before us on our path, in a way that the respect of others will help to foster harmony. Involving ourselves in the business of others will lead to a marred image of God and turmoil for ourselves. 
  3. Instead of seeking quick gains, we embrace patient diligence. In Proverbs 13:11 (NIV), we encounter a wise adage that says, “Dishonest money dwindles, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” This proverb reminds us that we aren’t looking to compete with the success factors of the world around us, and gain in unwise and manipulative ways, but we are looking to provide for ourselves through the steady pursuit of goals that will yield learning and long-lasting effectiveness and fulfillment. 
  4. Instead of gossiping, we guard our words and maintain integrity. In Proverbs 11:13 (NIV), we’re reminded that “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” In this passage, we are reminded why we are not to be busybodies, minding the business of others, and that is because upholding honesty in speech cultivates trust and honor, fostering deeper connections with others, and being a good witness to outsiders. 
  5. Instead of arrogance, we value humility and wisdom. In Proverbs 11:2 (NIV), this proverb cautions that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Embracing humility opens the door to deeper understanding and personal growth. 
  6. Instead of idleness, we engage in productive work with our hands. We are advised in Proverbs 10:4 (NIV) that, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” In this line we are reminded to be dependent on no one, to work with our hands with diligent labor leads to prosperity and fulfillment, enriching both our lives and those around us.

As I reflect on the profound wisdom encapsulated in these verses and insights, I’m struck by the timeless relevance they hold for our modern lives. I hope these six profound sayings from the book of Proverbs shed light for you on what an ambitious pursuit of leading a quiet life looks like. In a world consumed by busyness, distractions, and the relentless pursuit of success, the call to lead a quiet life resonates with a quiet yet powerful conviction. It’s a call to step back from the chaos, to embrace stillness in the presence of God, and to align our hearts with God’s timeless truths. It’s an invitation to prioritize what truly matters, to not run away, but disconnect in a way that cultivates inner peace amidst the noise, and to live with intentionality and purpose. As we heed this call, may we find ourselves enriched by the depth of God’s presence, empowered by the Spirit of God, and guided by the wisdom of God. Let’s embark on this journey of quietude and discover the profound richness it brings to our lives, our relationships, and our souls.

About Jeff McLain
Through Lead a Quiet Life, Jeff McLain explores his pursuit of simplicity in a tumultuous world as he serves as the Director of Pastoral Ministries at Water Street Mission and as pastor at River Corner Church. Jeff's commitment to Jesus has been shaped by an unconventional journey from activism to hitchhiking, which is reflected in his academic pursuits and throughout his involvement with various initiatives. Residing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Jeff, along with his wife and three daughters, embraces family moments outdoors, while his love for baseball, boardwalks, beaches, and books adds depth to his vibrant life. You can read more about the author here.

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