Summer School: Laziness

Summer School: Laziness

Sermon Podcast Audio 

Introduction

Days off are great.  In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if every day was a day off?  That’s what retirement is like, right?  I kid — I hear from most our retired folks that life after work seems busier than when they had 40 hour a week jobs!  

But back to lazy days off — as good as it sounds to some of us to have nothing to do and nothing to work on day after day, we need to understand that we were actually made by God to work.  That’s why even in retirement, if you have nothing to do, nothing planned, you find yourself going a little nuts.  God gave us minds that need a challenge and bodies that thrive when they are active.  He literally built us to work and not to spend all our time in bed or in front of a TV, or frivolously wasting our time on meaningless and mindless activities.  

In fact, if that’s how we spent all our time, others would call us LAZY.  And that’s our topic today as we continue Summer School —our series of lessons from the Proverbs.

In preparing for this message, I was actually amazed at how many verses Proverbs devotes to instructing people on NOT being lazy and on working hard.  And the reason for my surprise was because I don’t think I’ve ever heard a message on laziness before.  So, I thought perhaps the verses would be limited and sparse — but that’s NOT the case.  I think the reason I’ve never heard a sermon on laziness has more to do with the fact that Americans tend to be workaholics rather than lazybones — so the more common message in America is to tell you all to REST and to SABBATH.  

But not me.  I’m going to share with you why it’s important to work! 

The best starting point to see the wisdom provided in Proverbs about laziness is in Proverbs 24:30-34:30 

I went past the field of a sluggard,

past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;

thorns had come up everywhere,

the ground was covered with weeds,

and the stone wall was in ruins.

I applied my heart to what I observed

and learned a lesson from what I saw:

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

and scarcity like an armed man.  

Isn’t that the truth?  Nobody sets out in life to try and make their lives a mess.  Nobody says, I’m going to be lazy.  Yet, for some, laziness slowly takes root in their lives, it slows down their activities, it steals their motivation, and like a thief they never saw coming, years pass and the garden of their life is full of thorns and weeds.   

And it’s for this reason, I believe, that Proverbs speaks so much about the problem of laziness — because it can ruin your life without you even realizing it. 

Signs of Laziness

So today, I want to share with you some of the signs that laziness is taking root in your life, maybe even in unseen ways. 

1) Excessive Rest

As we already saw in Proverbs 24:33, our desire for rest can become a serious problem

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

and scarcity like an armed man.  

I know — it’s ironic that I’m the one preaching this since a few months ago, while talking about how we are to take care of our bodies, I told you that sleep is important – to which I received many loud “Amens!”  And I stand by my statement that sleep is important.  But for the sluggard, sleep and rest become KING.   

And maybe it’s not sleep, maybe it’s hours in front of the TV or the computer.  But it’s excessive amounts of rest compared to work produced.  

2) Missed Opportunities

There are two verses I want to share with you that paint a clear picture of the second sign of laziness:

Proverbs 10:55 

He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,

but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.  

Proverbs 26:15

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;

he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.  

From these verses we see that a sluggard, the author’s preferred term for a person who is chronically lazy, has opportunities, just like the rest of us.  He just fails to take advantage of those opportunities.  The harvest season comes for all, but the sluggard misses the opportunity by sleeping through it.  More humorously, Proverbs 26:15 describes a sluggard who has food in front of him, but even misses the opportunity to eat because of his laziness keeping him from lifting his food to his mouth. 

3) Excuses for Avoiding Work

For our next sign of laziness, let’s read Proverbs 22:13:13

 The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside!

I’ll be killed in the public square!”  

You see, oftentimes, lazy people attempt to disguise their laziness by making excuses for why they can’t work.  It’s not that they don’t WANT to work, it’s that for THIS reason or THAT reason, they just can’t. You know I’m talking about you with this point if right now you are arguing with me in your head about your valid reasons for not working. 

4) Talk without Action

And our final sign of laziness is described in Proverbs 28:19 :

Those who work their land will have abundant food,

but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. 

I love that image of “those who chase fantasies” being compared to “those who work their land.”  In life, there are Doers and there are Talkers.  And while dreaming about the future is an important part of becoming who you want to become — some people never move out of the dreaming stage to the achieving stage.  Dreams don’t become a reality without putting a ton of hard work into your plans.   

Lots of kids want to be Olympians when they grow up, but only those who commit hours of work to that dream ever get the opportunity.  In the same way, if you find yourself always dreaming about the future, but never taking action, you may be allowing laziness to hold you back. 

Laziness Brings Poverty

Now what the verse from Proverbs 24, and our own life experience shows us is that those who are lazy — those who exhibit these four traits — are much more likely to be poor and hungry.  This happens to people NOT because God is punishing them for sin, but because POVERTY IS THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE FOR LAZINESS. 

Conversely, Proverbs has many verses, which point to the fact that if you do work you will have what you need to live and support your family. 

For instance, Proverbs 10:4 says:

Lazy hands make for poverty,

but diligent hands bring wealth.

Now, like all the wisdom in Proverbs, this isn’t a promise — some people who work may face major financial struggles, but it lays out a general principle which should encourage everybody to be hard workers.  

Spiritual Sloth

As we think about these verses on laziness, I’m sure many of you have somebody in mind who exhibits these symptoms of laziness.  But what if, instead of pointing out laziness we see in others — laziness in strictly a worldly sense of work and life on earth, what if we looked for these signs of laziness in our spiritual lives and our work for the Kingdom of God. 

1) Excessive Rest — How many of you have planned to get up early to do devotions before, but regularly found the bed to be too warm and comfy to get out and actually spend time with Jesus?  Or perhaps you planned to read your Bible at night but then frittered away your time reading the news or Facebook instead?   

2) Missed Opportunities — Given that almost every one of us has access to a Bible in our pocket at any given moment via a cell phone — it’s amazing how few of us read the Bible regularly.  We are just like the sluggard, too lazy to lift the food from the bowl to our mouths — and like the sluggard, we miss the opportunity to meet with God, and to hear him speak to us through His word. 

3) Excuses for Avoiding Work — The #1 reason most people give for not spending time with God on a regular basis and for not helping with important church ministries is, “I’m too busy!”  That’s right, we use our LACK OF LAZINESS with our work and our worldly priorities to be our excuse for our SPIRITUAL LAZINESS.  We need to stop making excuses and instead start readjusting our priorities. 

4) Talk without Action – I know none of us WANT to be spiritually lazy.  In fact, most of us have at some point or another made a pledge to have more self-discipline, to commit to a small group, or serving in a ministry, or reading the Bible regularly.  We have made plans to read the Bible to our kids every night or pray about a friend’s prayer request daily.  But so often our plans are just plans and never take shape.  And just like the endless dreamers of our world – we are all talk with no action. 

Ultimate Result is Spiritual Poverty — And just like a life of laziness leads to poverty in the worldly sense, laziness in our spiritual lives leads us to poverty in the spiritual sense.  We fail to thrive and experience the abundance that Jesus promised us.  Our relationship with our Heavenly father is stunted.  Our spiritual lives are full of weeds and thistles like sin and weakness.  And while we wanted so much more for our faith and relationship with God, years have been stolen because of our spiritual sloth

Now sloth is another word for lazy, but I love it because a part of its definition is “a failure to utilize one’s talents.”  So, being spiritually slothful means to fail to use the gifts God has given you to build up your faith and the church.  

Just like I began by saying that God built us to work, he also gave us each talents and gifts specifically for the purpose of building up the church and others around us.  The question is, are you using those talents for the purpose God gave them to you, or are you being spiritually slothful and failing to use those talents for God’s Kingdom? 

Jesus actually tells a parable in Matthew 25 about a wealthy man who entrusts sums of money called talents to three servants.  Two of the servants invest what the master gave them and yield a return on the money, but one of them buries the money, so when the master returns, the servant gives the master back the exact same amount which was given to the servant.  And you know what the master thinks of that last servant?  He calls him a “wicked and lazy servant.”  He was lazy because he was given a gift by the manager and was expected to use it to build the master’s wealth, but the opportunity was squandered and excuses were made for why he didn’t take any action. 

I don’t want any of us to ever experience that conversation with Jesus, our master who has given us countless blessings for the purpose of drawing closer to God in relationship and investing in His Kingdom.  While we as Americans may be incredible workers who are focused on accomplishment and achievement, many of us are terribly lazy when it comes to spiritual activity and achievement. 

We need to take our attitude of work into our spiritual lives. We need to stop sleeping in and skipping our time of Bible reading and dialogue with Jesus.  We need to stop missing the opportunities to grow in our faith because we are too lazy to make the effort to do the things we KNOW will help us grow in our faith.  We need to stop making excuses of how we are too busy to help with that ministry that God has put on your heart.  We need to stop talking about how next week or next month or next year we are going to start going to church more, reading the Bible more, or giving more for the Kingdom.    

All of that is a sign of spiritual sloth and we need to recognize it for what it is and put and end to it.  Just like many of you would never want to be seen by others as lazy in life, don’t settle for laziness in your spiritual lives.  Don’t allow your spiritual life to fall into a place of poverty where thistles and weeds overgrow every space in your heart. 

Conclusion

Wow – isn’t that a “feel good” message?  I know, it’s uncomfortable to think about where we are falling short, but it’s good for us to hold up a mirror and see the signs of our laziness before it overtakes and wastes years of our lives.   

And the best part of this all is that we are not alone to fix this.  Jesus isn’t waiting for us to muster enough self-control to just stop being lazy.  Actually, he helps us, if we ask him. 

Personally, I was self-diagnosed with Spiritual Sloth years ago, and have been battling with it ever since.  I sleep in when I don’t need to, I waste time reading the news during time I set aside to read the Bible, I make excuses about being too busy, and I often make plans to turn it around without ever taking the steps to change anything.  I’m just like you.   

But what I learned is my most effective tool to change is prayer.  When I realize I’m being lazy, I ask God to put in me a desire to spend time with him, a desire to get more involved, a desire to give more of myself and stop wasting my time.  And he always answers my prayer.   

He knows our flesh is weak and we will never be perfect, and that is why HE gives us the strength we need to fight our spiritual sloth and grow closer to him. 

That’s our Life Lesson from the Proverbs.  If you want a thriving spiritual life and want to be part of what God is doing on this earth — you are going to have to work at it just like you work to achieve in this world.  But the rewards are so much bigger than worldly wealth — they are salvation for you and those around.  Don’t take your eyes off the prize of Jesus Christ.

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