Laziness Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Laziness

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Laziness is disinclination to do anything that requires real effort.

In Scripture

In Proverbs "Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise" (Prov. 6:6). "How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise 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 warrior" (Prov. 6:9 - 11). "Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so are the lazy to their employers" (Prov. 10:26). "One who is slack in work is close kin to a vandal" (Prov. 18:9). "The lazy person buries a hand in the dish, and will not even bring it back to the mouth" (Prov. 19:24). "The lazy person does not plow in season; harvest comes, and there is nothing to be found" (Prov. 20:4). "I passed by the field of one who was lazy, by the vineyard of a stupid person; and see, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down" (Prov. 24:30 - 31). "Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks" (Eccles. 10:18).

In parables "And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!" (Matt. 7:26 - 27). "`What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, "Son, go and work in the vineyard today." He answered, "I will not"; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, "I go, sir"; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?' They said, `The first.' Jesus said to them, `Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you'" (Matt. 21:28 - 31). "'Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours." But his master replied, "You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?"'" (Matt. 25:24 - 26).

New Testament Commands "Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord" (Rom. 12:11). "Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy" (Eph. 4:28). "For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living" (2 Thess. 3:10 - 12). "And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:11 - 12).

Points to Ponder

A prime species of folly It's not hard to figure out why laziness has a bad name in Scripture and Christian tradition. It's a prime species of folly. The proverbs were spoken among farmers and shepherds. To get food they had to till, plant, tend animals and crops. Laziness was a recipe for hunger and poverty — not just for oneself, but also for all one's dependents. Almost nothing — not even survival — could be had without taking pains.

Laziness makes work harder Here's another reason laziness is folly: The lazy person resists work, resents work, detours around work, obsesses over work while avoiding it, and so turns work into something twice as unpleasant as it might otherwise have been if he had simply tackled it.

Laziness is refusal of one's calling In New Testament perspective, laziness is refusal of one's calling. Jesus asked his followers to ask, seek, and knock (Matt. 7:7), to "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (6:33). He asked them to "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (5:16). At the end of his time on earth Jesus told his followers, then and now, to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (28:19 - 20). In short, Jesus invited all of his followers, including any of us today who believe in him, to participate in the kingdom as its agents, witnesses, and models. But perhaps "invited" is too mild a word. Jesus elected disciples to cure diseases, proclaim the good news of the kingdom, and bear "good fruit (Luke 6:13; 9:1-2; John 15:16.) All these things are hard to do from a recliner.

Laziness prevents kingdom tasks Christians today fight fires, dam floods, fix teeth, lay tile, preach sermons, repair cars, teach kids, and struggle to get a widow's case to court before her witnesses go stale. Insofar as these things contribute to the general good they are all kingdom tasks. None is possible where laziness reigns.

The `water house' When Amsterdam's Tugthuis prison opened in 1595, prisoners were admitted and released anonymously so that upon release their adjustment would not be compromised by stigma. In fact, in the earliest days prisoners were sometimes admitted under cover of darkness. But by the 1630s the public was admitted by payment to see the sloths and idlers at hard labor in sawing brazil wood, and the female inmates (prostitutes, vagrants, thieves) spinning. At carnival time admission was free. Throngs could gawk and jeer. "Thus the original attempt to protect prisoners from public ignominy had been completely abandoned. Instead, a rival ethic — both humanist and more bleakly Calvinist — held that the shame incurred in exhibition could be the herald of self-improvement. Worst, the prison had one measure held in reserve for idlers who could not be induced to work by deprivation of meat rations, by whipping with a bull's penis, or other measures. This was the `water house' or `drowning cell,' where prisoners were tethered like asses and forced to pump out the constantly rising water lest they drown in it. It was up to them whether they wanted to work. One visiting economist congratulated the Dutch on `so admirable a contrivance.' Peculiarly appropriate to the Dutch: a kind of moral geography. The punishment was a microcosm of the Dutch experience: `the struggle to survive rising waters.'"

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.