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It’s a popular trope in television and movies, the lazy dad sitting on the couch, mouth gaping at a flickering television, crumbs littering his beer belly. And when his wife asks him to do even the smallest thing he begins to complain. Even when he does acquiesce to her request he does only the bare minimum, dragging himself to his feet with a mixture of groans and whining.
On TV, the lazy man or woman is portrayed as a lovable loaf. Even in their torpor, he or she just cracks a few jokes and that makes it all okay. But is laziness just something to be laughed off with a shrug and a “that’s just the way they are,” or could it be that laziness is a more serious offense?
One of the reasons we find lazy characters humorous is not because they are pathetic, but because they are relatable. Part of the charm of these characterizations is they serve to make us feel better about our own lackluster motivation. “At least I’m not that lazy!” But sloth is not something to be chuckled off. Laziness is disgraceful. And until we see it as such, I am doubtful we will take the necessary steps, in Christ’s power, to mortify it in our own lives. If we are to make good progress in becoming better stewards of our lives for God’s glory, we need to excise all vestiges of slothfulness from our lives. And to do that, we need to first learn to hate the thought of laziness.
So, if you want to stop being so lazy, you need to first learn to hate laziness. And the best way to do that is to see how the Bible describes the sin of sloth. Perhaps once we see laziness as God sees it, we will rightly abhor it in ourselves.
Scripture Mocks the Lazy
I did say laziness was no laughing matter, but actually the Bible presents the lazy person is some humorous ways. It is said of him “as a door turns on its hinges, so does a lazy person in bed,” (Proverbs 26:14), and he’s so lazy that he can’t even snack properly without falling asleep, “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” (Proverbs 19:24). The Bible does find something humorous in the lazy person. But Scripture does not laugh with the sluggard, it laughs at him. As Daniel Doriani puts it in his book, Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation:
“The sluggard would be humorous if his life were not so tragic.”
– Daniel Doriani
The lazy man is not a loveable goof up, he’s a walking disaster. But why is his life tragic? Because, in the end, the sluggard will not have the rest and repose he so idolizes, but only destitution and destruction. That is why the Scriptures speak in such derisive tones about laziness. If you want to stop being so lazy, you need to see just how horrible this sin of slothfulness is. The Bible paints lazy people as losers, liars, and lunatics.
The Lazy are Losers
The lazy person always comes out the loser. He seeks to gratify his desires, but his own laziness thwarts any hope of long-term satisfaction. “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,” (Proverbs 13:4). As he chases the winds of self-satisfaction he just loses more and more. I’ve watched it happen.
No doubt we’ve all known one or two of these self-seeking hedonists. I’ve had more than one acquaintance who seemed to only want to spend his days and nights playing video games, eating junk food, and smoking pot. These are those folks who don’t want to work at all, and thus even when they do work they don’t work very hard. This is the woman who floats from job to job because once her boss sees her work ethic, they start looking for someone else. This is the type of person of whom Scripture says poverty sneaks up on him like a robber (Proverbs 6:6–11).
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.(Proverbs 6:6–11)
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
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.
But it’s more than the money that the lazy person loses. He loses relationships too. His selfishness, begging, and constant need for someone to bail him out of his latest crisis end up alienating friends and family. She becomes untrustworthy as the slothful person bends the truth to cover for her improprieties.
The Lazy are Liars
Slothful people tend to become liars. While they avoid working with their hands at all costs, the one thing they do seem to labor hard at is the production of excuses.
They overslept because of this, they forgot about the appointment because of that, they can’t work today because (woe is them) some horrible thing happened to them yet again. If one keeps track, ere long they will discover that the lazy person should have run out of dying grandmas years ago.
Those who repeatedly fail to be diligent end up having to cover their failures with lies. The lazy man becomes a liar because he makes up stories to justify his inaction. “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside; I shall be slain in the streets!” (Proverbs 22:13). Again Proverbs mocks this attitude by describing a person making up absurd excuses to explain why he doesn’t want to leave the house today. What if a lion is out there!?
Do you see the ugliness of laziness? Yet, there is one more feature the Scriptures use to describe the folly of laziness. Not only do sluggards become losers and liars, but they are also lunatics.
The Lazy are Lunatics
Ultimately laziness just comes down to folly. Laziness is the height of idiocy. They let God’s blessings slip through their fingers inch-by-inch, they demolish relationships through neglect, they shirk the duties they have been entrusted with, and they fail to provide for their families. It’s a serious crime which is why Paul says that those who won’t care for their own households are worse than unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8). It’s the height of stupidity.
The lunacy of laziness is made most apparent when you consider what’s behind it. Laziness flows from a lack of fear of the Lord. The sluggard may fail his family, fail his friends, and fail at work, but most importantly the sluggard is failing God. He does not fulfill his duties to God because he does not fear Him. And to not fear God is to not have wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Thus, as Scripture says, the lazy man is a fool. For he has forsaken the true wisdom of knowing, trusting, and obeying the Lord. He has traded it for temporary pleasures. If only the lazy man would believe that God is a gracious Master who rewards the faithful, and then live as if that were so.
We all deal with laziness in one form or another. But to become a sluggard—that is, one whose pattern of life is characterized by laziness—this happens by degrees. It’s the culmination of small, selfish choices compounding into a life of neglect. We must be ever on the watch against the first signs of laziness and squash that sin of sloth with extreme prejudice before we find ourselves slinking down the sluggard’s road.
And let us look to Christ Who empowers us to change, and moreover has already fulfilled the demands of the law on the behalf of all who would place their faith in Him. And let us push onward with the confidence of knowing that it is not our striving or our productivity which puts us right before God, it is Christ’s perfect sacrifice and righteousness.
“He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.”(Proverbs 10:5)
Of course, the opposite of laziness is self-discipline. A good resource on that topic is Drew Dyck’s, Your Future Self Will Thank You. Also, be sure to check out my interview with Drew in which we talk a lot about the topic of self-control.