Is Laziness (Still) A Sin?

Sloth, or laziness, has a long history in the Church of being considered one of the “seven deadly sins.” Yet laziness–like greed or envy–can be very difficult to pick out in ourselves. Who wants to admit that they are lazy? Furthermore, we can insulate ourselves from believing we are lazy by deceiving ourselves with what seem to be pretty compelling arguments…to us.

Ways We Deceive Ourselves About Our Own Laziness

1) We think that since we work hard at work, we’re not lazy: “I put in 8 hours of hard work at my job, of course I’m not lazy!” we think to ourselves. But we end up only working at work! God, however, calls us to work hard in every area of life: not only in our jobs, but also, at home, at church, and especially, in our own spiritual lives. So we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are hard working, when in fact, we’re actually lazy, because we only work hard in one aspect of our life.

2) We think others are lazy, but we aren’t: Oftentimes, it is very easy to point out the laziness of others, but hard to see laziness in ourselves. And this can breed a certain sort of moral superiority in us because we think that we are better than “those lazy people” over there. But the fact is that we often engage in the same behaviors we despise, we just justify our actions by saying things like, “Well, I had a hard days work.” Or, “I’m not being lazy, but I’m just trying to rest up for my next shift.” Or, “I deserve a break!”

3) We don’t recognize how much time we invest in entertainment and media: Think about how much time you invest in entertainment and media. Even if you only watch two TV shows per dat, that’s a solid two hours of TV per day, which is 14 hours per weeks, which is 56 hours per month, and 672 hours of TV per year, if you keep that schedule. That’s 28 days of TV per year. That’s almost a whole month devoted to just watching TV! Maybe TV isn’t your thing. What about all the time spent surfing the internet, checking your phone, going to the movies, or playing video games? When we devote so much time to media, it’s hard to see how we are actually working very hard at all!

What’s the Big Deal?

So we’re lazy…so what? Laziness is a big deal because Scripture calls laziness sin. According to the book of Proverbs, laziness is a moral issue. Being lazy is a character issue, and ultimately transgressing God’s design for our lives. The picture that Proverbs paints of the lazy person is not flattering:

[6] Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
[7] Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
[8] Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
[9] How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
[10] “A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—
[11] Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man 
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again”
(Proverbs 26:15)

[30] I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
[31] And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
[32] When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, and received instruction.
[33] “A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,”
[34] Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man.
(Prov. 24:30-34)

Proverbs sees the lazy person as procrastinating, loving sleep too much (note: getting proper sleep is important, it’s the inordinate love of sleep which is a problem), and not finishing tasks. Proverbs routinely praises the diligent person and commends his work ethic (10:4; 12:24; 13:4; 21:5). But what about other Scriptures? Are there other compelling reasons to see laziness as sin? I think so. I think that Scripture gives us two deep, overarching reasons why laziness is sin.

Reason One: God Designed Us to Work (To Be Lazy Disregards God’s Design)

When God created Adam and Eve, He made them to work. In Genesis chapter one, God creates Adam and Eve in His image and then gives them a task: to work (Genesis 1:26-27). Humanity is still made in God’s image and tasked you with ruling over His creation. This doesn’t mean we exploit God’s creation, but rather we care for it, and cultivate it. Cultivating God’s creation implies something. Work! It takes a lot of hard work to keep a garden. And God has tasked you to cultivate His creation wherever you are, with whatever you do.

Moreover, we are to do all things for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). In context, Paul has in mind things like eating and drinking, things which are basic to human existence. I think it is also appropriate to include work in Paul’s admonition, for it too is basic to human existence. We are to work for God’s glory.

Reason Two: God Established a Pattern of Work and Rest (To be Lazy Disregard God’s Pattern)

From the very beginning, God laid down a pattern of work and rest (Genesis 2:1-3). God worked six days and rested on the seventh. He didn’t rest because He was tired (How could He? He’s God, He doesn’t get tired). Rather, God’s rest was a joyful, triumphant rest of enjoying His good creation. It’s kind of like finishing a project and kicking your feet up and observing what you made.

Moving along in the Bible’s story, however, finds that God takes this pattern of work and rest and applies to His people Israel. For Israel, the pattern of work and resting on the Sabbath was an opportunity to both recognize her creatureliness as well as enjoy God’s provision (Exodus 20:8-11).  It’s important to notice that the pattern is six days of work to only one day of rest. I think this shows that God created us to have a large capacity for work and that we need a comparatively small amount of rest. (This is also borne out on a daily basis where most people need 8 hours of sleep and are awake for 16).

As Christians, we are no longer under the Sabbath law of the Old Testament, for Christ fulfilled that law (Mark 2:27-28Colossians 2:16-17). Therefore, we don’t have to only rest on Saturdays (the Sabbath). We are not bound by the Israelite law, but we are still human. And God’s pattern of work and rest still applies to us.

To be lazy, however, says that we deserve unending rest. It says that we deserve more rest than work. Such an attitude is contrary to the pattern laid forth in Scripture.

 

80-For-80 Initiative: 6/26-6/29

The 80-For-80 Initiative is 80 days of prayer for 80% of the church in Community Groups

THURSDAY, 6/26

What to Pray for: Wise decision making for the future of Groups

  • Ask for the Lord’s wisdom and leading concerning groups
  • Pray for humility and openness to learn as we discuss the future of groups in the coming months

Scripture to pray: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30)

 

FRIDAY, 6/27

What to pray for: 80% of the church to be in CGs

Scripture to pray: “The gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5-6)

 

SATURDAY, 6/28

What to pray for: 22 New CG Leaders

  • Pray that God would raise up the new leaders
  • Pray that we would all play our role in being responsible to disciple the new leaders
  • Pray for a willingness for long-time CG members to step out of their current groups and become leaders

Scripture to pray: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2)

 

SUNDAY, 6/29

What to pray for: 8 New CGS

  • Pray for 80 more people to become interested in groups
  • Pray for the gospel to transform those who join new groups
  • Pray for our church to be a welcoming place

Scripture to pray: “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).

The Cross and the “Cursing” Psalms

If we “tone down” the cry against injustice as something “primitive,” we cannot appreciate the cross—because there we see that the punishment for such cruelty is exactly what the Psalmist has called for. We see God’s “little one” being dashed to pieces. Yes, the punishment that human injustice and evil deserves is just as bad as the imprecation stated! But what the Psalmist could not see is that when God’s Messiah came the first time, He came to bear the judgment on human evil, not mete it out. And the Psalmist could not see that he deserves to be condemned as well for his own life-record. At the Psalmist’s “stage in Redemptive-History,” he was stating truth as far as he could see it. But we now have been both humbled by the cross (so we cannot cry for vengeance in the same way) and we have been given enormous hope by the cross. We see that God will do justice in the earth. He is so passionately against it that He experienced it Himself so that He could some day end all evil without ending us. This keeps me from having to put my self in his place and become sucked up into the endless cycle of vengeance and retaliation.

–Tim Keller, Preaching the Gospel in a Post-Modern World, 54

80-For-80: 6/24/14

The 80-For-80 Initiative is 80 days of prayer for 80% of the church in Community Groups

What to pray for: Please pray for myself and Heather

  • Pray that we should prioritize God in our new life stage as parents
  • Pray that I would lead groups with wisdom and humility
  • Pray for God’s strengthening of our faith

Scripture to Pray“Be we will devote ourselves to prayer and ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4)

80-For-80 Initiative: 6/18-6/22

The 80-For-80 Initiative is 80 days of prayer for 80% of the church in Community Groups

WEDNESDAY, 6/18

What to pray: CG Leaders, Howard & Debbie Kenworthy

  • That they would be rooted in Christ,
  • Connected in Community
  • Engaged in Mission

Scripture to Pray: “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8)

THURSDAY, 6/19

What to pray: Unity in the LBC Body

  • United around Christ, not personal preferences
  • United to one another in love, not particular cliques
  • United for mission, to advance the gospel

Scripture to pray: “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

FRIDAY, 6/20

What to pray: Zeal for mission

  • That LBC would follow after God’s heart for the nations
  • That CG’s would bring the gospel to their neighborhoods
  • That many sinners would be saved through Groups

Scripture to pray: Jesus said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,  and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47)

SATURDAY, 6/21

What to pray: Gospel transformation

  • To see CGs transformed by the good news
  • To have Groups understand more deeply what Christ has done for them
  • To love God out of gratefulness

Scripture to pray: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:23-24)

SUNDAY, 6/22

What to pray: CG Coaches, Bill & Irene Lee

  • To be strengthened in faith
  • Persevere in love toward God and others
  • Wisdom for coaching groups

Scripture to pray: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower/The righteous run to it and are saved” (Proverbs 18:10)

 

80-For-80 Initiative: Weekend, 6/13-6/15

The 80-For-80 Initiative is 80 days of prayer for 80% of the church in Community Groups

Friday, 6/13/14

Who to pray for: CG Leaders, Mike & Melissa Tomasulo

  • Pray that they would grow in their love for Jesus
  • Pray for wisdom in leading their group
  • Pray for their children to grow in the knowledge of the Lord

Scripture to Pray: “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9)

Saturday, 6/14/14

What to pray for: The salvation of many sinners from the surrounding area

  • That God would soften the hearts of the people of NJ
  • That God would bring repentance and faith
  • That God would use our church to further the gospel

Scripture to Pray: “Perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25b)

Sunday, 6/15/14

What to pray for: Pray for God to work in Lincroft, New Jersey

  • Pray for our witness to the Lincroft community
  • Pray that Lincroft would be filled with the teaching about Christ
  • Pray for Groups to be dynamic in reaching this area for the gospel

Scriptures to Pray: 

The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross (Acts 5:28-30)

80-For-80 Initiative: 6/12/14

The 80-For-80 Initiative is 80 days of prayer for 80% of the church in Community Groups

Who to pray for: CG Leaders, Bob and Amanda Blanton

  • Pray that they walk in wisdom toward the outside world
  • Pray that they would make the most of every opportunity for the kingdom
  • Pray that their speech would be graceful

Scripture to pray: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6)