Monday, March 9, 2015

Good Stuff To Give Up in Lent - Series #3 Sloth

[1] Title image:  Carl Spitzweg, via Wikimedia Commons

What is Sloth?

The easier word for us to deal with is “lazy”

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. 
Learn from their ways and become wise!   Proverbs 6:6 (NLT)

I love the story of a farmer who said lightning struck an old shed and thus saved him the trouble of tearing it down, and rain washed off his car and saved him that chore too.  When asked what he was doing now, he replied, “Waiting for an earthquake to shake the potatoes out of the ground.”[1]

Laziness is a subject about which the Word of God is very clear – it’s sin! 

In fact it is one of the Seven Deadly Sins we are exploring during this season of Lent, preparing our hearts to properly worship the One who came to die for those sins.

As we look at “Deadly Sin #3 – Sloth” we want to unpack several pictures of what sloth, or laziness looks like.

Picture #1 - too proud to take advice

Lazy usually includes being too prideful to take advice.

Lazy people consider themselves smarter
    than seven wise counselors.  Proverbs 26:16 (NLT)

It’s really hard to give counsel to someone, telling them that God doesn’t agree with their thinking, if that person has a mind that’s been fixed with cement. 

Laziness of the body is not the problem; we all get tired and need rest.  Lazy is born in the mind, and it is a mind that has been bolted shut against any outside interferences.

Picture #2 – Independent, Never Accountable

Lazy people want much but get little,
    but those who work hard will prosper.  Proverbs 13:4 (NLT)

Lazy people take food in their hand
    but don’t even lift it to their mouth.  Proverbs 19:24 (NLT)

We have all perhaps experienced the approach of a panhandler outside a store or in the parking lot; you are asked for money or food.  When you offer to go back in the store to get some food, 99% of the time the offer is either flat-rejected, or there is a continued plea for money with an explanation of at least ten reasons why you giving them money would be better.

The sheer predictability of this is because the “asker” is usually a pretty good salesperson, somewhat believable and persuasive.  They are particularly good at spotting Christians, I believe; their use of guilt is better than sermons most pastors preach!

Now, I know if someone deceives you, it is God who will judge, and it is “on them”.  But I also know we are to be good stewards of what God has placed in our keeping.  I have given more than my share without really knowing what will be done with the money.  Poor stewardship on my part!

I am not suggesting you turn people down who are in genuine need.  But I am suggesting you resist giving money unless the person is willing to be accountable – to be helped.

Laziness is enabled by handouts without accountability – both the gift and the giver are despised.

Picture #3 - Stuck in Despair

Those too lazy to plow in the right season
    will have no food at the harvest.  Proverbs 20:4 (NLT)

I walked by the field of a lazy person,

    the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
    It was covered with weeds,
    and its walls were broken down.  Proverbs 24:30-31 (NLT)

Common sense indicates a wise person can “connect the dots” concerning the stewardship of gifts, work and responsibility to a community. 

At times this sloth-picture could be taken at my study, or our little tool shed out in the backyard; this one hits a little too close to home for my comfort. 

When I am done with a tool or a book, stack of papers, file or rake, often times it manages to not find its way back into the place from whence I took it.  At times I put a fancy word on it, like procrastination – I really do intend to put things away, but I rationalize that I will use my time more efficiently if I just lay it down here until I have three other things to put away all in one trip back to the shed.

With logic like that, it’s a little difficult to accept the real meaning – I’m too lazy to put it back now.  And, when that’s your habit, it leads to a whole pile of stuff laying everywhere you look – all in the name of efficiency! 

And that whole picture is depressing – trust me!

Sloth (or lazybones) is ignoring the simplicity of common sense that adult behavior – particularly for a follower of Jesus Christ – means you exercise good stewardship over all areas of life.  You don’t allow weeds to grow and walls to crumble with your work, home, yard, parenting and personal grooming.  When you do, you wind up living in the shambles of despair. 

And the sad truth is that the picture of a bad mess outside only tells the larger story of what is going on inside

I can testify to this.  Whenever my study, tool shed or car trunk looks like someone set off a hand-grenade…it’s a safe bet my spiritual life is in inner turmoil as well!

Sloth leads to sloppy spiritual living as certainly as lazy leads to a messy home.

Picture #4 – Led into Other Sins

Laziness leads to a sagging roof;
    idleness leads to a leaky house.  Ecclesiastes 10:18 (NLT)

Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and    
   meddling in other people’s business.    2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NLT)

A life of idleness brings trouble.  We’ve all heard the old saying that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.

John Wesley wanted to make sure his preachers weren’t lazy.  He would ask 19 questions of “would-be” preachers before being ordained.  Those same questions are asked today by a bishop before laying-on of hands.  Here is question #19:

Will you observe the following directions?  a) Be diligent.  Never be unemployed.  Never be triflingly employed.  Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary.    b) Be punctual.  Do everything exactly at the time.  And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.[2]

If you couldn’t answer “yes” to those questions, you were not going to be a Methodist preacher!

There is good Scriptural underpinning for these questions:

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.   Romans 12:11 (NLT)

Part of the reason we are to avoid laziness like the plague (beside the fact that it is a New Testament command) is that sloth is a breeding ground for falling prey to temptation of all sorts.

Martin Luther had wonderful thoughts on how the Lord’s Prayer speaks to such an issue

…take the sixth petition, “And lead us not into temptation.”  Say: “O dear Lord, Father and God, keep us fit and alert, eager and diligent in thy word and service, so that we do not become complacent, lazy, and slothful as though we had already achieved everything.  In that way the fearful Devil cannot fall upon us, surprise us, and deprive us of thy precious word or stir up strife and factions among us and lead us into other sin and disgrace, both spiritually and physically; Rather grant us wisdom and strength through thy spirit that we may valiantly resist him and gain the victory. Amen.”[3]

If you recall the story of King David getting into trouble with Bathsheba, you might remember it was sloth that started it all.

In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites.  They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah.  However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.  Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace.  As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.  He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”   2 Samuel 11:1-2 (NLT)

David was a king, and he should have been with his armies, leading; that’s what kings do.  He got lazy, and in his case it led to lust.  The lust caused a pregnancy, which he tried to cover up, and when that didn’t work he became a murderer, having Bathsheba’s husband killed to protect his own reputation.

In the final analysis it wasn’t just David’s reputation that died; his family was in shambles and some of his children tried to kill their father, and did destroy what was left of a peaceful kingdom in Israel.  Sloth breeds sin!

So, there we have four pictures of what being a “lazybones” will do for you, or more appropriately, IN you and TO you!

You end up in destructive pride, independent arrogance, despair and headed in the wrong direction, away from God’s loving hands.

This is why sloth – and the other 6 sins are called DEADLY!  They lead to a life outside the will of God…and eventually away from the presence of God.

So, fight this laziness that tries to creep in; fight it with
       ·        humility, accepting the counsel of God’s Word

       ·        accountability, accept help if you need it, but be genuine

       ·        stewardship – commit to taking care of everything God has placed
in your hands as holy unto the LORD

       ·        Diligence – never let your hands be idle for any time beyond the
     rest that is needed to regain strength

Be Godly, not slothful!


[1] W. A. Poovey, The Prayer He Taught
[2] Wesley’s Historic Questions – Randy Willis
[3] Martin Luther—Later Years and LegacyChristian History, no. 39.

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