"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11) Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord." Rom. 12:10,11
Unperceived, misdiagnosed and greatly underestimated is the insidious disease of slothfulness among God’s people. It can be seen in expensive, shiny Bibles that are collecting dust, as well as prayer closets that are filled up with so many new clothes or old clutter that saints can’t find the kneeling pad. Slothfulness is on display in Sabbath school classes which are empty and Wednesday Night Prayer meetings which are emptier. But the grand paralysis of heart and hand is most clearly seen in temporal affairs. Home improvement projects languish half finished, garden and flower beds are overgrown, garages have become “mice hotels” and fire hazards. Yet the wonderful Bible teaching on this soul disease is pointed, power-packed and plentiful.
The Characteristics of the Slothful
The wise man defines slothfulness as having an established desire to have “inactive hands”. Pro. 21:25 says: The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. How can we know that we have this cancer? Scripture points out that even in essential things, the sluggard is slack. The example given is striking—of a man who is too lazy to even feed himself. “A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again” Pro. 19:24. This is a poetic portrayal of the
sluggard’s neglect of vital duties. Sloths refuse to address serious medical problems, repair leaky plumbing or even replace bald tires.
Dysfunctional laziness often manifests itself by starting a task, but not closing it out. This behavior is connected to not valuing the gifts God has given. “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” Pro. 12:27. Their problem is hard to remedy. Often reasoning with the sloth is unfruitful because the Bible says that their lethargy is often accompanied by a “know-it-all” attitude. Pro. 26:16 says that: “The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.” Lazy folk magnify real inconveniences --it’s cold outside Pro. 20:4—and imaginary ones –there is a lion in the street, Pro. 22:13. But one of the worse symptom of this spiritual disease is that over time, the sluggard becomes blind to the evidences of their problem, because: “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep…” Pro. 19:15. Incredibly, the foot dragging man or woman becomes totally insensible to the physical decay that stands in plain view.
Near our small garden shed we had a patch of thorny brush. In the last few years this brush kept growing wider, denser and taller as I walked past it each day. I would often grumble and weed-eat its edges, but didn’t pay close attention to it. Earlier this year -- I went outside, and to my amazement the baby brier patch had become an impenetrable jungle with vines as thick as a finger and over ten feet tall! What previously required pruners, now required a tractor to remove. It reminds me of the oft quoted passage: “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31) And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32) Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.” Pro. 24:30-32.
The Bitter Fruit of the Slothful Tree
The logical result of neglected labor, is having much less of what you are laboring for. Laziness brings poverty of finances and great poverty of spirit. The sluggard who will not plow because of cold, or any other reason, shall “beg in harvest and have nothing” Pro. 20:4. But another consequence which often minimized is that refusal to do a little work now results in a LOT OF WORK later on. The Scripture affirms that: “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” Pro. 12:24. Strong’s defines the Hebrew word for tribute as: “…a tax in the form of forced labor”. A small neglected roof leak, will lead to replaced sheet rock, the purchase of new floor joists, removal of mold in walls, etc. (See Eccles. 10:18.) That’s why inspiration says: “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” Pro. 18:9. Time – precious, very valuable time is lost for eternity. “It is not a virtue for men or women to excuse slow bungling at work of any character. The slow habits must be overcome. The man who is slow, and does his work at a disadvantage, is an unprofitable workman. His slowness is a defect that needs to be seen and corrected… When one is forever at work, and the work is never done, it is because mind and heart are not put into the work. It takes some persons ten hours to do that which another accomplishes readily in five. FE316
The Heavenly Cure
Slothfulness is not just an occasional slipping down into inefficiency, it is a grave, intractable character defect. It leads to countless other spiritual problems. Benjamin Franklin said: "Idleness is the Dead Sea that Swallows all Virtues". We must never forget that only God can fix character. We must gather up the Bible promises and come up to a great prayer warfare.
It is neglect of being honest with ourselves, a neglect of communion and serious prayer that has made us lazy Christians. Inspiration writes: “God should be the highest object of our thoughts. Meditating upon him, and pleading with him, elevates the soul and quickens the affections. A NEGLECT OF MEDITATION AND PRAYER will surely result in a declension in religious interests. THEN will be seen CARELESSNESS and SLOTHFULNESS.” GW 106.
Forget Motivation. Establish a routine. Force yourself to do things. Force yourself to get out of bed and practice. Force yourself to work. Motivation is fleeting and easy to rely on because it requires no concentrated effort to get it. Habits are reliable. Motivation if fleeting.
The unenlightened Christian eventually starts dividing their life into “God’s stuff” and his “own stuff”. Sabbath belongs to God, but the six days belong to me; the tithe is His, but I can do what I want with the 90%. Because they neglect personal worship, they fail to live a Heaven-directed life. Their days become a massive string of personal decisions, instead of consecutive assignments from God. So if stuff is left undone, “So what?” These Christians fail to embrace the truth: And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus… 23) And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Col 3:17,23. When God plans your day and week, divine grace --brought by continual prayer-- runs like a golden thread through all your activities. Little things become important. We try not to keep angels waiting long.
To break up entrenched laziness, many must write down the tasks to be accomplished, make a plan of action, put this plan in a prominent place and READ IT. The Bible says: “…WRITE the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may RUN that readeth it”. Hab 2:2. Inspiration counsels: “As far as possible, it is well to consider what is to be accomplished through the day. Make a memorandum of the different duties that await your attention, and set apart a certain time for the doing of each duty. Let everything be done with thoroughness, neatness, and dispatch… Give yourself a number of minutes to do the work, and do not stop to read papers and books that take your eye, but say to yourself, ‘No, I have just so many minutes in which to do my work, and I must accomplish my task in the given time.’ . . . Let those who are naturally slow of movement, seek to become active, quick, energetic, remembering the words of the apostle, ‘Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.’ . . . SD 114.
A study of Harvard graduates over 10 years found that 3% earned 10 times more than the other 97% combined. What was the one factor that was different between the 3% and the 97% in both studies? The 3% had written goals and a plan of action they followed daily.
Conclusion: If the truth be told, laxness, laziness and lethargy has settled over God’s people like a dark cloud. God is greatly desiring to pour out His Spirit, but it is not only SIN that is blocking the way, but grave character defects. Though longing for a speedy harvest, God will NOT gas up a combine that is stuck in first gear. He must remove slothfulness from His church. Inspiration writes: “When the reproach of INDOLENCE and SLOTHFULNESS shall have been wiped away from the church, the SPIRIT OF THE LORD will be graciously MANIFESTED. Divine power will be revealed. The church WILL SEE the providential working of the Lord of hosts. The light of truth will shine forth in clear, strong rays, and as in the time of the apostles, many souls will turn from error to truth. The earth will be lightened with the glory of the Lord”. 9T 46