Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler.
-1 Peter 4:15
How can Peter list meddling along side three other sins that seem much worse. Or are these four successively less damaging sins?
What does meddling mean?
This is what the dictionary says:
Meddle: to busy one’s self with or in something without warrant or necessity (as, “I will teach them…).
The Greek word in 1 Peter 4:15 is ‘allotriepiskopos’. What does it mean mean? Strong’s says, “One who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others and in no wise to himself, a meddler in other men’s affairs.”
The NET Bibles notes says, “The meaning of the Greek word used here is uncertain. It may mean “spy, informer,”, “revolutionary,” or “defrauder, embezzler”. But the most likely meaning is “busybody, one who meddles in the affairs of others, troublesome meddler.” The translation given in the text (NET: troublemaker) in intended to suggest this general idea.”
The Cambridge Bible notes say this, “Literally, the word (allotrio-episcopos) describes one who claims an authority like that of a bishop or superintendent in a region in which he has no right to exercise it. As such it might, of course, be applied to the schismatic self-appointed teacher, and “a bishop in another man’s diocese,” though too modern in its associations, would be a fair equivalent for it. Such an one, however, would hardly be singled out for punishment by a heathen persecutor, and we must therefore think of the word as describing a like character in another sphere of action. It was, perhaps, a natural consequence of the higher standard of morals which the Christian disciple possessed, or imagined himself to possess, that he should be tempted to interfere with the action of public or private men when he thought them wrong, intermeddling in season or out of season. Such a man might easily incur the penalties which attach to what, in modern language, we call “contempt of court,” or “obstruction of justice.” If a passing word of controversial application be allowable in a Commentary we may note the reproduction of the character of the allotrio-episcopos (1) in the permanent policy of those who claim to be the successors of St Peter, and (2) in the meddling fussiness which leads laymen, or clergy, to interfere in matters which properly belong to the office of a Bishop, or to the jurisdiction of an authorized tribunal.”
Matthew Poole wrote this: “Or as a busy-body in other men’s matters; either a covetous person, that looks with an evil eye upon what others have, and is ready to catch it as he can; or rather, one that goes beyond the bounds of his own calling, and invades the callings of others, pragmatically intruding into their business, and making himself a judge of those things which belong not to him.”
John Gill wrote this: “or as a busybody in other men’s matters; “or as a bishop in another man’s diocese”; that concerns himself in things he has nothing to do with, and neglects his own affairs, and lives in idleness, and upon the spoil of others; or takes upon him to manage, direct, order, and command other men’s servants, or persons that do not belong to him, to do his business, or whatsoever he pleases. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “a desirer of other’s goods”; and the Ethiopic version, “a covetous desirer of other’s things”; and so is led on by an insatiable thirst for them, to obtain them in an evil way, either by secret fraud, or open violence and oppression. To suffer in any such cases is scandalous and dishonourable, and unbecoming the character of a Christian.”
Marvin Vincent wrote this: “One who usurps authority in matters not within his province. Rev., meddler. Compare Luke 12:13, Luke 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11. It may refer to the officious interference of Christians in the affairs of their Gentile neighbors, through excess of zeal to conform them to the Christian standard.”
Wayne Grudem wrote this: “The sense ‘meddler’ (NIV; cf. ‘troublesome meddler’, NASB) seems best, since the separate parts mean ‘one who looks carefully on others’ affairs’ (or: the possessions of others), and the general idea would then be that of wrongdoing by meddling in affairs which are not properly one’s concern.”
Various ways that this word is translated:
a troublesome meddler interfering in the affairs of others; (AMP)
a mischief-maker (a meddler) in the affairs of others [infringing on their rights]. (AMPC)
try to control other people’s lives. (ERV)
prying into other people’s affairs. (TLB, NLT)
one who makes trouble or as one who tries to be the boss of other peoples’ lives. (NLV)
as an inspector into other men’s matters; (YLT)
infringing other men’s rights. (Knox)
a spy upon other peoples business. (Mon)
interfering in matters which do not concern Christians. (TCNT)
“Let none of you suffer”, is what the verse starts with. In other words, the meddler does not suffer for Jesus. There is grief and pain in trying to manage or control what is not yours to do so
Here is the context:
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name.
-1 Peter 4:12-16
It’s safe to say that meddling or being a bishop towards people of whom you are not their bishop, is not the way of Christ. Christians are not called to be the world’s arbitrators, even when they approach us and ask us to be so. We are not called to tell people what to do or how to live, even if they appeal to us to do so, but to tell them who to follow, who to give up everything for, and who to bow to as King. Preaching repentance is not meddling. The person being called to repent may take it as meddling. The message of repentance is a call to turn and bow to the King. Meddling is supervising or trying to control someone else’s life. Elders (bishops or overseers) in the church are not given the right to meddle in peoples lives, but are shepherds and servants, who do manage and supervise the household of God, but in the love of Christ and through the tempering of the Holy Spirit who gives the grace to lead people gently, with humility and meekness.