What does Laziness Look Like?

Laziness is hard to see in ourselves, because–like greed and envy–it really begins as an inner disposition. For example, the difference between a lazy person laying on the couch, and someone simply resting on the couch is probably two-fold: inner motivation and the context of someone’s overall life. Why are you sitting on the couch? That’s the key question. Certainly if someone is laid up in bed because of the flu we would not accuse that person of laziness, even if they did spend the whole day in bed!

But inevitably–like any other sin–an inner disposition of laziness will manifest itself in outward actions.

We must not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that laziness is not a big deal, because Scripture treats it was a big deal. And Scripture gives us a vivid picture of laziness.

According to Scripture, laziness manifests itself four ways.

First, laziness means you constantly procrastinate.

Proverbs 6:6-11
[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

The lazy person is told to take advice from the ant. The ant is one of the smallest creatures on the earth, and yet the ant has enough sense to prepare for the winter…in the summer. Yet, the lazy person keeps putting off their responsibilities, and putting their responsibilities, until disaster strikes: “Poverty will come in like a vagabond and your needs will come in like an armed robber.” In other words, poverty will totally decimate you, if you are lazy.

Second, making excuses is a sign of laziness.

Proverbs 22:13
“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside;
I will be killed in the streets!’

Lions don’t live in cities. The lazy person is just using a lame excuse to keep from doing what they should do. “If I go outside, I will be killed by a lion! I can’t read my Bible, because I’m too busy! I can’t study adequately because I’m overwhelmed with my part-time job. I can’t exercise, I don’t have the right shoes, or it’s raining outside, I might as well just stay in bed!” Excuses are a sign of laziness.

Third, laziness manifests itself when you love sleep too much.

Proverbs 24:30-34
[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.

In this proverb, guy passes by a vineyard of a lazy person. And it’s completely overgrown. Weeds are coming out from everywhere, and other plants overshadow the grapes. What should be a well-cultivated vineyard has turned out to be an unproductive and unfruitful mess. As he is walking by, the guy takes a lesson from this overgrown vineyard: “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest.” He learns the perils of laziness. He learns the perils of loving sleep too much. If you love sleep too much, then poverty will come upon because you haven’t devoted yourself to the task of taking care of your responsibilities.

Some of you just love sleep too much. For you, you think that sleeping in is a right, not a privilege. And you make your schedule all around your sleep schedule. But what you will eventually find out is that when you are working in your career field, you’re boss won’t have compassion upon sleep schedule. When you have a family, your kids trample right over need for sleep.

Some of you need to devote yourself to getting proper sleep, because you are sleep-deprived. And this is causing you to love sleep too much. It’s kind of like being responsible and eating throughout the day. If you allow yourself to get too hungry, then you will eventually get ravenous and start eating anything around you, whether it’s good for you or not. In a similar way, if you don’t get enough sleep, eventually you will crash and it may be at a most inopportune time. You are staying up too late watching TV, or playing video games, or surfing on Facebook. You need to take care of yourself.

One reason why you have trouble getting up in the morning, one reason why you have trouble reading your Bible, is that you are not preparing for the next day by going to bed early enough. Early morning devotions begin by getting a good night’s rest.

Fourth, lack of follow through is sign of laziness.

If you are always beginning tasks and projects but never finishing them, that it is a sign of laziness:

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

The image here is like someone being at a party and dunking their chip in a bowl of salsa and then being too lazy to take it out and bring it to their mouth! That’s lazy! That’s utter foolishness. But this image really capture the idea of never following through on a task.

So how diligent are you when working on a task? Do you start a bunch of things, but never finish them? Do you get really excited for the next new thing, and then, a couple of weeks later, move on because you’re “bored” with it. That means you’re lazy. Do you start a Bible reading plan, and keep it up for a few days, and then stop doing it? And each time you pick up a new plan, you think, “This time I mean it!”

When you examine yourself against these four descriptions of laziness, how do you stack up? Do you procrastinate? Do you use excuses for poor or unfinished work? Do you love sleep so much, or waste time with things like video games and TV? Do you start a project but have trouble following through? If you answered yes to any of those, it probably means that you are a lazy person.

Our hope is Jesus

Maybe we have seen that we are lazy. And maybe you want to change? How can you truly change? The typical retreat sermon, I think, would just tell you to get your act together and try harder. “Just do it!” No excuses! Just don’t be lazy. But sermons like that make a fatal assumption: they assumes that we can do it, even though Scripture tells us we can’t! Sermons like that believe that we can please God and earn His favor through our hard work and moral living. But what the Bible says is all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).

So, how do we overcome laziness?

You need to understand and receive the gospel

In our human nature, when we are convicted that we are laziness, we will respond usually one of two ways: either through religion or irreligion. We will either say, “Yes, I can do this. I can become a hard worker.” Or, we will say, “Who cares, if I’m lazy! I am going to live life my way!” The problem with both of these ways of thinking is that they leave us enslaved.

Religion—trying really hard to please God through our own efforts—enslaves us by putting us on a treadmill of performance. If my acceptance before God depends on me being a hard working person, then I always, at all times, need to be a hard-working person. God never takes a day off, so neither will I! But putting yourself on this treadmill of performance will leave you burned out and bitter, because you find that you never quite work hard enough all the time, to fully meet God’s standards. You become enslaved to your own hard work.

Irreligion enslaves you because although you may not have a set of “rules” you are trying to follow, you still live for something—whether it’s your own freedom or happiness. We all pursue things we think will give us a sense of significance or satisfaction. Yet, whatever we live for has control over us. Even the most irreligious worship something. And for a lot of people in our culture today that thing is Comfort. But if you idolize comfort you will feel guilty if you fail to attain comfort. Of you will feel angry if something robs you of your comfort, or you will feel despair if there is no way you will ever be comfortable again. Like if you suffer from a debilitating disease or get in a car accident.

The only proper way to overcome laziness is through the gospel: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel frees you from being on the treadmill of performance or upon the bankrupt quest of pursuing pleasure and comfort as your functional “god.” What we find in Scripture is that Jesus always accomplished the work that His Father laid out for Him to do. Jesus says, “I have come down from heave, not to do the My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). The will of Jesus’ Father was what Jesus would uphold God’s Law perfectly. From beginning of His life, to the end, Jesus never sinned. Then Jesus went willingly to the cross to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. Three days later, Jesus rose again eternally triumphant over all of His enemies. So that we can now share in Jesus’ indestructible and eternal life through faith. We receive this gift of life by grace, not by anything we can do.

We then derive meaning and significance in our lives by being in a relationship with the God of the universe through Christ Jesus. We can overcome laziness because we can genuinely rest free of guilt, because God accepts us in Christ apart from our works. We can be freed to work hard, not because we are trying to earn favor with God, but because we love God and want to be a good steward of the gifts He’s given us. We can also overcome laziness because we are freed from being controlled by our own comfort. So that even if all of our earthly comfort is stripped away, we can rest in Christ. He holds us in His hands so that we can work hard and push through the pain and difficulty.

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