How to Keep out of Trouble
Charles Naylor, 1920
Old Uncle John was not as spry as he had once been. There were only a few black hairs left among the many gray ones. His limbs were shaky and his steps faltering. He was "no good for work any more," he said. But there were two things that he kept on doing right along — he seemed to be always smiling and he seemed to be always praising the Lord. "Happy John," people called him, and he certainly deserved the name. He did not seem to have much of this world's goods to make him glad. His lot in life did not appear to be more than usually pleasant, nor was there anything in the way of external evidence to show whence his happiness came. I had often sat and gazed upon his placid face lifted in devotion to God. He never seemed to get into trouble. No matter what happened, Uncle John seemed to have no part in the trouble. With others, troubles came and troubles went, but Uncle John still smiled and praised the Lord.
One day I was standing outside the meeting-house with a little company of brethren, when Uncle John came walking out, smiling as usual and praising the Lord. One of the brethren said to him, "Uncle John, why is it that you are always so happy and never seem to get into trouble?" He stopped and looked at the speaker with a broad smile, and answered, "I just praise the Lord and mind my own business."
He turned and walked away, but his words lingered in my ears and were indelibly impressed upon my memory. His secret was very simple, but very effective. And thus he went on smiling, praising the Lord and minding his own business, and he was "happy John" even to the end. Many years ago he went to his eternal reward, but the lesson that I learned that day has never been lost.
Uncle John's rule for keeping out of trouble seemed very simple. It looks very easy to mind one's own business — but it is one of the hardest things in the world to do, because it is one of the hardest things in the world for us to be willing to do. The Scripture says, "Every fool will be meddling," and it is so hard for some folks not to act like fools, anyway in this particular respect, even though they are ever so wise. The affairs of others are so interesting to them! This is a very human trait — but it sometimes leads to unpleasant consequences.
God knew the failing of people on this line, so he said, "Study to be quiet, and to do your own business." 1 Thessalonians 4:11. You have, no doubt, studied a great many lessons, but have you studied this particular one? It is evident that many have not yet learned this if they have studied over it. Probably they did not know that it requires studying. Possibly they never thought of it as being an object for study. But it is. We shall never graduate in the school of wisdom, until we study this lesson and learn it thoroughly.
"Study to be quiet, and to do your own business." That is the lesson. Have you learned it? Some folks are always talking, talking, talking. There seems to be no end to their talk. When people talk so much, they are sure to talk of some things that should not be talked of. Some people simply talk too much, and as a result they have a great deal of spiritual trouble that might be avoided. But, then, they are so interested in their friends and neighbors — how can they help talking about them? Why, just let them spend their time in studying to be quiet. Let them give themselves a few lessons in minding their own business.
Peter had that ugly trait. He was interested in what John was going to do. When he asked the Lord, "What shall this man do?" he received an answer. He did not have to wait for it. It was this, "What is that to you? Follow me."
I have known many good Christian people who became mixed up in neighborhood or family affairs and got into a great mess of trouble because they failed to mind their own business.
If there is a dog-fight going on, all the dogs in the community seem to want to join in it. There seems to be something in humanity that is very much the same. If there is trouble in the community, they want to mix into it some way or another. Trouble is a thing that is much easier to get into, than it is to get out of.
I suppose that more people get into trouble through the wrong use of their tongues, than through any other means. The wise man says, "He who keeps his tongue keeps his soul from trouble." He also says, "The beginning of strife is as when one lets out water." You know how water runs in every direction, so that you cannot gather it up again nor confine it. Never meddle with the strife of others. You are sure of an abundant crop of trouble if you do. It is written, "He who passes by and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears." You know how that is — if he holds fast he will get into trouble, and if he lets go he will get into trouble.
There are some people who are religious and who seem to get along pretty well until their children get mixed up in trouble with someone. Just as sure as that happens, they are in the trouble, too. They think that their children could not be to blame. They take the children's part, and trouble is the result. And when they have gotten out of the trouble, if they do get out — they have dishonored both themselves and their religion.
There are others who can never let trouble alone if their friends or neighbors are in it. They will mix in. They feel that they must defend their friends, and they are often so partial in their feelings toward them, that they cannot believe them to be in the wrong. They become all heated in the thing, and before they know it they have a big case of spiritual trouble on hand in addition to the other trouble.
When people get into trouble, they like to tell others about it. If you have sympathetic ears for trouble, you can hear plenty of it. When you hear such things, it is very easy to pass them on to someone else. Never let yourself he a news-carrier for trouble. You will have trouble of your own, if you do. The only business that a Christian has in relation to such troubles is as a peace-maker, and even then he must be very cautious and wise, or he will become involved.
Few people want to take God's way out of trouble. They will do anything to have their own way out. We are told to leave off strife before it is meddled with. That is the only safe way. While you are out, keep out; and the only way to keep out is to mind your own business.
Try Uncle John's rule. It will work very well. It is a splendid preventive of trouble.
Would you be happy? Would you have the confidence of your neighbors and associates? Would you be free from worldly entanglements? Would you have a contented heart and a cheerful mind? Would you be worthy of the esteem of the people? Would you be different from worldly people? Would you be a sunshine-bearer for your neighborhood? There is just one way to do it. You must do as "happy John" did — smile, praise the Lord, and mind your own business!