Perhaps there is no need to prove the unpleasant fact that one of the prevailing problems of our nation [the Philippines] is laziness or “sloth”. And this should concern every child of God because, as church history demonstrates, the prevailing problem of a particular society will always tend to have some measure of influence in the life of the church in that locality. Therefore, a treatment of this subject is important — if not vital.
What is slothfulness? It can be defined as laziness and disinclination to action, exertion or labour, to specific activities necessary to fulfill definite duties and responsibilities.
The given definition delineates that sloth does not necessarily mean laziness to every and all activities one can possibly engage in; but to activities necessary to fulfill definite duties and responsibilities.
The Apostle Paul speaks in similar line of thought in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 — “we hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy, they are busy-bodies” (NIV). In other words, although this people were not inactive, yet he refers to them as being “idle” and as those who are not “busy.” He can do this because these people were engaged in some activity but not in activities calculated to fulfill their duties and responsibilities.
The most important and overarching reason why slothfulness must be avoided is that it is utterly condemned in Scriptures. If the Word of God gives us both the general and specific principles which are the basis of defining our duties and responsibilities, then, to be slothful means to be disinclined and thus unable to fulfill those demands. For the reason that many portion of scripture utterly condemns slothfulness, see 2 Thess. 3:10b cf Exodus 20:8-11; I Tim. 5:13; Prov. 10:5; Eccl. 4:5; etc.
There are many other reason of which a few will just be mentioned in passing. Slothfulness leads to unfruitfulness and unproductiveness in one’s Christian life (see 2 Pet. 1:5-9). It robs a Christian of joy, comfort, and assurance (see 2 Pet. 1:10-11). It leads to discontentment (see Prov. 13:14). It opens oneself to temptation, as Watson said, “Idleness (due to slothfulness) tempts the devil to tempt.” It is often the cause of poverty (Prov. 24:30-34). It is one of the manifestations of folly (Prov. 6:6-11).
Some practical guidelines
Be clear about the distinction between true and false piety. We must begin here because it will set the framework in which the succeeding points are operative.
False piety is a new of piety influenced by Greek philosophy which regards the trite, the manual, and the very mundane duties as necessary evils: going to work, keeping the house, working in the fields, etc. However, scripture teaches that all these mundane duties are religious in nature. For example, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Christian slaves in Colossae “whatever you do (and this is concerning duties as slaves), do your work heartily, as for the Lord . . . It is the Lord whom you serve” (Col 3:23,24b).
True piety embraces within its framework the wholehearted, God-centered, exercise of all activities, mundane or not. Even as Paul exhorts the Christian in Ephesus “be filled with the Spirit”. How is it expressed? In both devotional, namely, in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; in giving thanks in all things to God; and also in mundane, namely, in submitting one to another in the ordinary and everyday relationship of husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee (see Eph. 5:18-6:9). To be slothful in the exercise of one or the other is to fall short of the true, biblical piety.
Clearly and realistically define your duties and responsibilities. How can one exercise himself relative to his duties and responsibilities, mundane or not, if he is not clear as to what it is? Think of a home where duties are not defined clearly, i.e., cleaning the house, washing the dishes, etc.; everybody will be waiting for the other and thus end up with doing very little and the other too much or doing nothing at all.
But not only must we clear define our duties and responsibilities but also realistically. We must take the responsibilities which we ought to take, as defined in Scriptures, but not also overload ourselves beyond what we are able. Even as the Apostles realistically defined what they can handle, namely, the ministry of the Word, and thus did not take unto themselves the “serving of tables” but delegated these duties to deacons (Acts 6:1-4).
Deliberately and wisely plan your activities calculated to fulfill all your defined duties and responsibilties.Unstructured schedule of activities could mean unnecessary expenditure of time and energy which could enable us to fulfill all our duties and responsibilities. So we must deliberately plan our activities.
Make no illegitimate excuses to avoid fulfilling the plans made. It is written, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside; I shall be slain in the street'” (Prov. 22:13). Sluggards can make the most absurd excuses in order to escape duties and responsibilities.
It is here that we must be very honest with ourselves by not making unwarranted excuses.
Be productive in the use of your spare time. We must think that after having done all we need and ought to do, we can then do whatever we want to do with the time left. We must remember that we are only stewards of the time God gives us so we must be productive in the use of it. Our leisure, something which we need, must be to the good of our spirituality and to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).
May it never be said of us that we are slothful. And may we prove ourselves “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). [© JFM]