laziness

Proverbs 26:1-16

Today’s reading is Proverbs 26:1-16.

Self-discipline is a character quality. It is the ability to do things that are necessary or required ore productive when you don’t feel like doing them. Someone else defined it as doing what you don’t want to do in order to get a result that you do want to get.

Self-discipline does not come naturally in every area of life for us. You may be painfully aware of some areas where you are not as disciplined as you want to be or should be, but there are some areas where you are very disciplined, but you just don’t think about it. If you brush your teeth every day, twice a day, you have self-discipline in that area.

But there is probably at least one area in your life that is suffering from a lack of self-discipline. Verses 13-16 in today’s reading describe the opposite of self-discipline which is laziness. A “sluggard” is another word for a lazy person. What is he like?

  • He makes up crazy excuses for his lack of action. Verse 13: “a fierce lion is roaming the streets!”
  • He moves a lot, but only within his comfort zone. Verse 14 says he turns on his bed like a door turns on its hinges. That describes constant movement but only in the horizontal position. Sometimes we do a lot for our own comfort when we should be doing the uncomfortable--but much more productive--thing.
  • He quits halfway through a productive project. Verse 15 says that he puts food on his fork, but never moves it to his mouth. This is like getting your paycheck but being to lazy to take it to the bank and cash it. The benefit is right there, but it requires a little effort to receive it. The sluggard--the undisciplined person--can’t be bothered.
  • He thinks he’s got all the answers. Seven wise people can all give him the same bit of great advice, but the undisciplined person thinks he has better ideas.

Do you see any of these qualities in your life in areas where you know discipline is lacking? Why do we act this way? Often it is about fear. We fear putting in effort and having the project fail anyway, so we make excuses, stay in our comfort zone, quit doing productive things just before the productivity benefit shows up, and refuse skillful advice.

Living a self-disciplined life requires faith. It requires believing that God has structured the world in ways that reward productive behavior. Could it be that your laziness in one or more area of life is really an expression of unbelief? God has promised that a person reaps what he sows and you see it everyday in the corn fields that surround our church building and are throughout our community. Don’t let laziness and unbelief rob you of the blessings and benefits of disciplined work. God will reward effort that is invested in productive things.

Proverbs 12:15-28

Today we’re reading Proverbs 12:15-28.

Two of the verses in today’s passage speak about laziness (vv. 24, 27). Verse 27 says that, “The lazy do not roast any game....” Picture the setting. A man goes out to hunt food for his family. He checks his bow, his arrows, his spear, his knife, and anything else he needs to be sure they are in good working order, sharpens all the blades and arrows, and repairs anything that needs to be repaired in his gear. He packs his clothes, blankets, and tent as well as plenty of bread and water. Then he sets out to hunt, walking out into the wilderness where he sets up camp. Each morning he rises early before the dawn to find a good place to hide and... he waits. Eventually he sees a nice large buck and, with a swift shot from his bow, takes it down. He then begins field dressing his kill, just like his father taught him to do. He drags the carcass home and then... it just rots. He never gets around to actually cooking the meat he worked so hard to get.

What a waste! But this is one way in which laziness costs us. We make money in our jobs but are undisciplined in how it is spent, so it doesn’t grow and nourish us financially; instead, it just fades away in frivolous spending. Or we advertise and find new prospects for our business, but don’t follow up on them. Or we take a class or a seminar and learn a bunch of new things but never implement any of them. These are just a few ways in which laziness--an inability to do something we don’t want to do even though it would help us achieve a result we want to get--costs us bigly. By contrast, verse 27b says, “...but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.” Sometimes just a little extra work is the difference between success and failure.

Why do we get lazy? Sometimes it is just the lure of the immediate pleasure of a nap or entertainment. Sometimes it is fear of failure or not really knowing how to do what needs to be done next. Regardless, laziness is something we identify in others but justify in ourselves. Justified or not, there is a high price to paid for laziness. According to verse 24, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” If you can’t manage yourself and push through your lazy inclinations, you’ll end up working for someone else who won’t care about your excuses.

Look, we all suffer from laziness at times and it’s easy to beat yourself up when you see the waste and loss that comes from it. These passages are about the long-term affects of laziness, not isolated incidents of it. Still, it is helpful for us to remember that part of being Christians is learning to be diligent managers of all that God has given us and enabled us to do. So think about areas where laziness may be costing you and change the way you work.

Leviticus 9, Psalm 10, Proverbs 24, 1 Thessalonians 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 9, Psalm 10, Proverbs 24, 1 Thessalonians 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Proverbs 24.

One great temptation people face is the temptation to choose the most comfortable option. Today's reading gives us two Proverbs that caution is against this easy choice. The first proverb is 24:27: "Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house."  I visualize this piece of wisdom going from Solomon to his newlywed son. As the young couple begins to embark on life together, they dream of having a home of their own. Using the property subdivided by his father, the young couple faces a choice: spend their time and whatever money they have building a comfortable starter home on their new land or live with ma and pa for a while as they work the soil, plant the crops, and tend to the weeds. After the process of starting their farm has begun and the growth of the crops looks promising for their first harvest, then they can start working on a home of their own. 

No one really wants to live with their parents and it's more fun to build a house than to plant a field. But the field will produce income. It will get you started in life financially. It will provide for you in the future. If you build the home first it will give you your independence and a comfortable start to your life as an adult, but it will also drain your finances and delay that first harvest. It is far wiser to put productivity over comfort in the short term so that you can be more comfortable in the future but that takes a disciplined approach to life that probably does not come naturally to most people. 

In a similar way, verses 30-34 describe the ease of laziness. If a farmer skips one day of planting, is the crop ruined? No. But it is easy to let one day off become one week off; our legitimate need for rest can snowball (v. 33). We feel as if we’ll be able to work better tomorrow if we rest up today. That may be true; it may also be a way of rationalizing our procrastination. 
I lived most of my childhood as a procrastinator. I came home from school and told myself I would do homework or study for my test after I ate a snack. Oh, but Scooby Doo is on, so I’ll watch that just to relax for a few minutes. It’s going to be dinner time soon so I’ll get busy after that. You get the idea. I created habits of laziness in my life. By the time I was in seminary, I was turning in papers at the last minute after an all-nighter. I got decent grades but in my heart I knew I wasn’t doing my best work or getting the most out of the opportunities God had given to me. Eventually I learned to build some disciplined habits, but even today if I deviate from those habits, the old sin of procrastination is ready to slither back into my life.

But what does any of this have to do with God? These are wise bits of knowledge and helpful for productivity but couldn’t we have learned them from somewhere else? Why did God encode them into his holy word? One answer is that these productivity problems—seeking the easy and comfortable way and allowing laziness and procrastination to take over—are spiritual problems. They are manifestation of a heart that wants to disobey God. God created the world to respond to the diligent work of humanity. He gave us everything we need to provide for ourselves but we have to obey his laws of sowing and reaping, of prioritizing investment over consumption. Our faith in Christ should lead us toward a productive life because we have faith in his commands and know that when we obey his commands and work with diligence God will provide and bless us.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.