- You can purchase The Gospel Project study on The God Who Saves here.
- You can see the entire blog series on The Seven Daily Sins here.
I once told a friend, “I’m the hardest working lazy person I know.” My heart craves leisure. The thought of spending long days and nights sitting and reading or relaxing all day with friends and family with little to no real responsibility appeals to me. And when it comes to disciplines such as exercise, even though I worked in the fitness industry for many years, it pains me to get started again. Social media offers even more distraction for those of us tempted not to work, at every moment there’s an outlet waiting to draw us in.
Leisure and rest are in no way sinful in and of itself. Not only is rest good it is an evidence of our dependence on the only One who never needs to rest (Isaiah 40:28). And even in our pride when can assume our labor is good when it’s simply self-sufficiency masked in good works. The Psalmist captured this tension well , “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” Psalm 127: 2. So, rest is good and needed and we simply can do nothing without the Lord. But with all things, there is a balance. Our labor can quickly turn into idolatry but so can our rest.
The Soul of the Sluggard
Have you ever seen a sloth at a zoo? They are fuzzy animals that appear to be rather cute. They are named sloths because of their tendency to be slow-moving. The sloth in the zoo is not the sloth depicted in the Bible. Being a sloth is neither good nor cute. Proverbs is filled with warnings against the sloth (laziness). To give a quick picture, here are only three of the depictions we see of the sloth:
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” – Proverbs 13:4
A sluggard craves but because of his laziness he is never supplied or satisfied. He just goes on craving. It’s as if he has food in his home but decides he’d rather watch television all day while his stomach growls. He never gets up to make his food yet he is craves it.
“I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” – Proverbs 24: 30-34
To be clear, poverty doesn’t equal laziness. They are not interchangeable. This is not a charge against a person who is impoverished but against the person who has and does not steward what he has. And though we can see the wisdom here in being diligent with ones property, it’s actually addressing a poverty of the soul. The man who lacks sense and does not heed the wisdom in the Proverbs will have a life filled with thorns. We see this theme in Proverbs 15:19: “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.” The life of a sluggard is can lead to great toil and pain. The wisdom in Proverbs and all of the Scriptures must be heeded.
The Good News for the Sluggard
The wages of sin is indeed death. Every glimpse we see of the life of a sluggard ends in death. Laziness in life either in the pursuit of God and wisdom or in physical labor results in poverty. But we must not forget the second part of Romans 6:23, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With all things, the Lord not only provides a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13) but also forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Christ. On this earth in our fallen world, we will never work at our true capacity. We will never labor perfectly. We will never be all-wise. We will fail and we will make great mistakes. Even now many of us who have tried and have failed over and over again simply need to rest. For the Lord says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
This is good news for the sluggard. Heed the good warnings in Proverbs. Repent of your sin of laziness. God’s word reminds us that if we confess our sin he is faithful and just and will forgive us and purify us (1 John 1:9). And God graciously reminds us throughout all of scripture that as we turn from our sin, we turn to Christ. He is our righteousness. He is our Savior. We can never do any of this on our own.