In my 5-day Overcomer’s Email Course, I never fail to get a response on Day Three’s email: laziness. “Oh man, this is my struggle,” the emails pour in. “It’s so hard to motivate myself to do what I need to do each day!” Laziness is no stranger to us. Even the most productive people have sneaky ways to be lazy if they let themselves; little distractions and insignificant tasks they use to procrastinate what really matters. But we don’t talk much about laziness in the church because – much like gossip or physical boundaries – we don’t see it as a spiritual problem.
For my birthday, a friend of mine sent me Tim Challies’ Do More Better. This book approaches time management from a gospel-centric perspective, and it has really challenged how I view laziness. It’s not just about producing more, Tim says, but about stewarding our gifts and bringing glory to God. That’s why the sluggard of Proverbs is so offensive:
“As you study the sluggard throughout Proverbs you will see that he is a man who refuses to begin new ventures, a man who will not finish was he has begun, a man will not face reality and, through it all, a man who is restless, helpless, and useless. His life is chaotic because his soul is chaotic. He cares little for God, so he cares little for those things that honor and glorify God – things like hard work and doing good for others.” (Tim Challies)
As I read this passage, it dawned on me that laziness in any form is spiritual laziness. We don’t decide to be lazy out of nowhere. We consciously decide to set aside our responsibilities and gifts to indulge our flesh. When this becomes a habit, we become like the sluggard: refusing new ventures, unable to finish God’s call, restless, helpless, useless.
Diligence is a Spiritual Discipline
Proverbs 12:24 says:
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
We discussed this verse recently in the college group Josh and I facilitate. Our group had some great points about it. They noted that the slothful, sluggardly person ends up being forced to do the things he was only expected to do, all because he was too lazy to just get up and do it. In the end, his tasks are more difficult because of his attitude, not his assignment.
Proverbs 21:5 says:
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes to poverty.”
Diligence is a spiritual discipline. It’s the slow and steady work that bears fruit in the end. When we are hasty, distracted, and unproductive, we’re really just seeking immediate gratification. We don’t want to be uncomfortable; we don’t want to wait. This is a spiritual issue because it’s a heart attitude. Choosing diligence often means choosing the hard, uncomfortable step – but if that’s what God has set in front of us in order to accomplish His will, it’s not for us to avoid it!
Laziness Offends God
Because diligence is a spiritual discipline, laziness is offensive to God. When we refuse to take up our responsibilities, choosing personal pleasure over honoring God, we can’t be surprised when other areas of our lives suffer. This isn’t God’s “punishment”; it’s the consequence of a me-centric lifestyle.
One of the biggest ways I see laziness play out is in the transition from college and career to stay-at-home motherhood. If you can only be diligent if others put a structure around you and hold you accountable, how will you structure your home? How will you be consistent in parenting? There is no 8-5 of motherhood. The assignments you complete are designated by yourself. If you’ve never structured your time or cultivated diligence as a single person, the social media stereotype of the drowning mom will be your reality.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can train yourself to choose diligence. You can pursue your call to honor God with your time. It’s a process; a journey. We don’t ever arrive. But as you make the pursuit of diligence a life habit, all aspects of your life work together for God’s glory. Your spiritual focus affects your goals. Your goals affect your time management. Your time management affects your attitude, your freedom, and your accomplishments. When you bring your spirit in line with God’s, laziness becomes the harder choice – because there’s more to lose.
We Were Made to Work
Finally, the idea that work is a product of the Fall is a false one. Work existed before sin entered the world; it just became much harder afterward. Both Adam and Eve had their labor increased exponentially. Adam would labor hard to bring a harvest forth from his work, and Eve would labor hard to bring life forth from her womb.
There is also no evidence that work will be absent from heaven. We very well might have “jobs” when we reach our ultimate glory! We were created to work. Not to be workaholics – but to do good work for the glory of God.
This in mind, don’t confuse rest with laziness. They are not the same. True rest rejuvenates our souls, gearing us up for the demands ahead. To the contrary, laziness is the avoidance of demands. It’s unwillingness to do what’s necessary, to make changes in our lives – to improve upon the good work God is doing in us. Because don’t forget: God is always working on our behalf. Who are we to quit when He continues to strive with us?
We don’t need to live as restless, helpless, useless followers of Jesus. We can live with focus and purpose! But we have to get up, stop waiting to “feel” motivated, and do the hard thing in the here and now. As we are diligent in obedience, it’s incredible how much more fulfilling life becomes.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)