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.


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