“By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.”
1 Peter 4:15
We must not presume that God blesses every possible kind of suffering a Christian may become involved in.
It’s quite obvious that some sufferings and trials are not part of God’s plan for us. Believers should never suffer because they’ve murdered, robbed, or done evil. But in today’s verse Peter mentions a fourth category—“a troublesome meddler”—whose meaning is not as apparent and whose application might be more in dispute.
“A troublesome meddler” interferes with everyone else’s business, and Paul says we should avoid such persons (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Tim. 5:13). But I believe Peter also uses the term to refer to a political agitator, someone who actively tries to disrupt the normal function of the government. If this understanding is correct, then Peter is commanding Christians to be good citizens in their non–Christian cultures (cf. Rom. 13:1–7). We are to go to work, live peacefully, witness to others, and exalt Christ.
Believers are not to act like radicals who are intent on overthrowing existing authority or imposing Christian standards on society. Getting into trouble with your employer or being fired by him because of disruptive activities, even those done in the name of Christ, is not honorable but disgraceful.
Most believers would never even consider the possibility of being involved in militia groups that are engaged in separatist activities and are violently opposed to all legitimate governmental authority. Yet some Christians wrongly see validity in strategies of civil disobedience and violence as they oppose some government–sanctioned acts, specifically abortion. They are not satisfied with simply providing biblical counsel or material and educational assistance at a local pro–life agency, as many believers have done over the past twenty–five years.
Therefore, if we would seek to promote what is right and redress injustices, we must use scriptural discernment regarding which strategies to implement or support. Similarly, the Lord wants us to evaluate all our trials and sufferings and be sure they are placing us in the center of His will. Otherwise, we can claim to suffer righteously when we are not and merely be “a troublesome meddler,” which is not pleasing to God.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that your church would always have biblical reasons for supporting any efforts at redressing social wrongs.
For Further Study: What areas does Peter include in 1 Peter 2:11–19 when he encourages obedience to authority?
Not all suffering brings Holy Spirit relief. Trouble stemming from lawless actions obviously does not constitute suffering for righteousness. If any believer is a murderer, or thief (capital crimes in the ancient world), he or she has no right to complain about being punished, nor any right to expect the Spirit’s graces. The same applies if any should suffer as an evildoer (kakopoios), a more general term that encompasses all crimes without exception (cf. 2:14; 3 John 11).
The surprising inclusion of the term rendered troublesome meddler (allotriepiskopos), used only here in the New Testament, and at first seemingly minor in comparison to Peter’s previous terms, shows that all sins, not just crimes, forfeit the Holy Spirit’s comfort and rest. The word literally means, “one who meddles in things alien to his calling,” “an agitator,” or “troublemaker.” Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians illustrate the word’s meaning:
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you. (1 Thess. 4:11)
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thess. 3:11–12)
Christians are never to be troublemakers or agitators in society or in their places of work (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1–3; Titus 3:1–5). They may confront the sins in the lives of other believers, help administer church discipline, challenge unbelievers with the gospel, and exhort fellow saints to greater levels of godliness; but regarding others’ private matters that do not concern them, believers should never intrude inappropriately. More specifically, Peter was referring to political activism and civil agitation—disruptive or illegal activity that interferes with the smooth functioning of society and government. Such activity would compel the authorities to mete out punishment (Rom. 13:2–4; for a broader discussion of these issues, see chapter 13 of this volume). It is wrong for believers to view that punishment as persecution for their faith. If they step outside the faith and bring trouble, hostility, resentment, or persecution on themselves, they have no more right to expect Holy Spirit relief than if they were murderers. That Peter here includes allotriepiskopos in his list of sins may mean that some disciples, in their zeal for the truth and resentment of paganism, were causing trouble in society for reasons beyond a sincere and legitimate concern for the gospel.
I remember a conversation I once had with a Russian pastor who had suffered greatly under Soviet communism. I asked if he or his fellow Christians ever rebelled against that form of government. He replied that it was all their convictions that if they were ever resented and persecuted by the secular authorities, it would be for the gospel only. The Russian church actually grew strong in that environment, and he wondered how pastors in America could have holy people without their suffering for the gospel.
- If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
“If you suffer.” In an earlier context Peter teaches that God sends governors to punish those people who do wrong (2:14). Paul, too, teaches that a ruler “does not bear the sword for nothing,” but to punish the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4).
Peter mentions three categories: the murderer, the thief, and the evildoer. He implies that for someone to be so designated he must engage in criminal activities that are punishable by law. He warns that a Christian ought to live such an exemplary life that he can never be classified as a criminal who is guilty before a court of law. Perhaps the warning reflects the earlier life of the Christians to whom he is writing this letter. Now they are no longer part of the world. However, should they suffer for criminal deeds, they would no longer be a testimony for Christ.
“Or even as a meddler.” Peter adds still another category: meddler. Because this word appears only once in Greek literature (including the New Testament), scholars are not certain of its meaning. In fact, translations range from “meddler” (NIV, MLB) to “spy” (Phillips), “informer” (JB), “revolutionary” (Moffatt), and “embezzler.” We assume that Peter advises the reader not to be a busybody. By interfering in the lives of others, a meddler disrupts the peace and harmony in the local church and community.
15 Earlier in the letter, Peter intimated that not all suffering is because of Christ; it is possible to suffer because of wrongdoing (2:14, 20; 3:17). For this reason the believer is called to self-examination, in order that no one suffers “as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” Three of the four categories of wrongdoing are specific, but, more important, the list moves from heinous crime to common fault, i.e., “meddling” (allotriepiskopos, GK 258) in the affairs of others. Suggested in this descending order is the fact that we all can easily become open to criticism by actions or attitudes that undermine our faith—criticism that in fact is deserving.
4:15 A Christian should never bring suffering upon himself for wrongdoing. He should never be guilty of murder, stealing, evil in general, or meddling in other people’s matters. There is no glory for God in this—only shame for the testimony of Christ.
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 254–255). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 177–178). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 350). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2278). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.