Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before (NLT)
In the case of choosing an English translation that reflects what the Greek text says, the New Living Translation does a good job rendering 1Thess. 4.11. Of course evaluating translations can only be done on a case-by-case basis. However, it must be said, over all, some translations get it right more often than others. The NIV gives a similar rendering as the NLT by use of a colon after “quiet life” to indicate what a quiet life consists of: minding one’s own business and doing the manual labor which was necessary in that pre-industrialized era. The NLT excels, in this case, by its smoother flow and better translation of verse 11’s last clause.
What really strikes me from Paul’s command to the Thessalonian congregation is the secular parallels in works from the same time. Both Tacitus and Plutarch record numerous instances referencing “quietness.” In these secular works, the idea of “quietness” is identical to Paul’s definition of “minding one’s own business” in matters of civil government. In other words, the term, in secular usage, refers to not agitating for change from the civil status quo. Therefore, what Paul seems to be saying is to not be outspoken for having one’s own preferences. The scope of this command seems to be all areas of life since 1Thess. 4.12 speaks of gaining the approval of outsiders. A more comprehensive way of conveying this idea would be The Savior’s command to take up one’s cross and follow Him in such places as Lk. 9.23.
To this command, application certainly exists today for Christians to put down their placards and retire their activist hats in numerous areas. I know of many instances where Christians are using the world’s means to achieve, in their minds, worthy results. Perhaps this reminder and command in 1 Thess. 4.11 will inspire some to wait on the Lord in all things. Psalm 37.7-9 also calls for the Lord’s people to rely on Him: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land (NIV).