The KJV uses the word “busybody” or “busybodies” three times in the New Testament.
(1) 2 Thessalonians 3:11, “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.”
(2) 1 Timothy 5:13, “they learn to be idle, wandering house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”
(3) 1 Peter 4:15-16, “let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed…”
There are actually two different original words so translated “busybody”. (1) The word in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 is periergazomai. Vine’s says, “lit. to be working round about, instead of at one’s own business (peri, ‘around,’ ergon, ‘work’)… This is found in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 … This may be produced in a free rendering: ‘Some who are not busied in their own business, but are over busied in that of others.’” The passage in 1 Timothy 5:13 is an adjective form of the same verb. (2) The word in 1 Peter 4:15 is allotrioepiskopos. Vine’s says, “from allotrios, ‘belonging to another person,’ and episkopos, ‘an overseer.’” Thayer says, “one who takes to the supervision of affairs pertaining to others…”
What’s not Meant
The injunction against being a “busybody” does not mean that we should not involve ourselves in the spiritual welfare of others. Numerous passages teach otherwise. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” Galatians 6:1, “Brethren if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” Hebrews 3:13, “exhort one another daily…” Hebrews 10:24, “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…”
1. One word (periergazomai) means, “to work around”. (a) This word is used in connection with personal idleness (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:14). Some busy themselves in the affairs of others, and do not busy themselves in their own affairs. (b) The word is also connected with being a tattler (gossip NKJV). Some, instead of managing their own lives, gossip about the lives of others.
2. The other word (allotrioepiskopos) means to “oversee” what belongs to others. In observing this word you might notice “episkopos” which is the term translated “Bishop” or “overseer” elsewhere in scripture. We each should realize that there are certain things that are not ours to oversee. Examples: (1) I once knew two sets of parents in one church. Their children dated. The first set of parents had a strict curfew. They also believed in discipline. The second set of parents had no curfew for their children. They also did not discipline their children. The second set of parents involved themselves in the oversight by the first set of parents. They tried to convince the young man who was dating their daughter that his parents were “oppressive” and “mean,” and that their rules were “stupid”. The truth is they were meddling into something they had no right to oversee. (b) I once knew a man whose property looked like a junk yard. He was always buying junk cars and repairing them for resale. His income was very small, but he was able to support his family. They were happy. Another man in the same congregation was always grumbling about how the first man conducted his life. What the second man should have realized is that such really was none of his concern. (c) I have even heard of some who become controlling of where others live, what type of car they purchase, and where they spend their vacations!
Yes, there are matters in which we should involve ourselves. We are to involve ourselves in the spiritual welfare of others. Love may prompt us to give advice in other matters as well.
However, let us remember that some things are not under our oversight. Remembering this will prevent many problems in the church.