Footprints in the Mud: Sins vs. Virtues – Sloth
The dictionary defines sloth as a reluctance to work or make an effort; sounds like just being lazy to me. But is that what the Bible defines as sloth?
Yes and no.
We think of sloth as a person sleeping on the job, not willing to work, or moving slowly – too slow to be truly productive. However, this is not entirely true – even busy people can be slothful!
It’s more than just laziness. Being slothful is not just the physical act of doing nothing. Let’s dig a little deeper and disperse some of the shadows concerning sloth. There are four separate ways to be slothful.
Carelessness. There is no effort in your workplace, your family life, or your walk with God to connect with others. You wait for them to come to you instead of reaching out to others.
I’ve done this more with my family than anyone else, especially after a long day when I’m tired. Oh, it’s so hard to rise to the occasion when you just want to be by yourself for a while!
Proverbs 24:33-34 says it best- “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” This verse doesn’t mean not to rest at all- it means only to rest if your body or mind needs it. Don’t rest just to be resting when there are things to be done.
And God says there are always things to be done!
Unwillingness to act. Proverbs 20:4 says, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” Tasks are left to others (or no one at all) and things pile up – yet nothing is done about them.
Just ask this reformed borderline hoarder – stuff never goes away on its own. Ever. And the longer you wait the more effort it takes to get it done.
Ecclesiastes 10:18 brings that point home – literally: Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
Unwillingness to act can also mean refusal to do certain jobs for an employer. Proverbs 10-26 states Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.
It’s never a good idea to irk the boss, whether that be the Boss in heaven or the one on earth. And those dishes at home won’t wash themselves either.
Getting discouraged during difficulty. This one is more spiritual and mental than physical. Trials come and go (and then come again) and during the struggle, hopelessness clouds your mind.
Outside circumstances can hinder our progress. For instance, those times when you pray for financial relief, then you get a bonus in your paycheck – and the car breaks down.
It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel if the exit is far away or blocked! This mental slothfulness can do more damage than any other, because the mind feeds the body- and if the mind is overwhelmed, the body won’t function properly.
A clouded mind feels like the weight of the universe is on our shoulders.
Doing things half-heartedly. This one is tough because most of us are really busy people. Do we really do anything half-hearted? Well, when we’re too busy to read the Bible, take care of family, or even go to church regularly, then yes, even busy people can do things half-heartedly.
Perhaps especially busy people.
God wants us to be busy, but with His work, not ours – and He wants us to be excited about doing it!
Half-hearted efforts tend to be sloppy, disorganized and take a lot more time than you realize.
Imagine doing the dishes and only washing the top of each plate in the dirty stack in the sink. You restack them, don’t dry them, and shove the stack in the cabinet. Any washing you’ve done will be a wasted effort t – and wet dirty plates will warp your cabinets!
But there is more than one way to purge slothfulness from your life.
One answer is diligence. The other is zeal.
Diligence is a careful and persistent effort. Zeal means great energy and enthusiasm. Use both and sloth will not only take a back seat, it will move out of the house entirely because you’re making too much noise!
Fight carelessness with carefulness. Make an effort to connect with family, co-workers and friends. Talk to them about God. Talk to God in prayer when you’re with them. And when you’re too tired after a long day? Tell your family you need a moment to truly rest your body and mind before focusing and reaching out to them.
Fight the unwillingness to act, by acting. Finish those tasks. Make a schedule. Help others. Get that project done for the boss before he asks for it (if possible). You’d be surprised how much you can get done once you have a set of goals in front of you and a timeline in which to complete them- not to mention the good feelings you get by helping others with a smile!
Fight discouragement with encouragement! Get out the Bible and read Psalm 55:22 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Isaiah 41:10 is also a great verse for encouragement. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Use Google to find more verses – there are way too many to list here!
Find positive friends who love to encourage and call them. Invite them over or out to lunch if you’d prefer them in person. Talk with them on Facebook. Just connect with someone who will listen with a caring ear and a loving heart and let God encourage you through them. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Fight half-hearted efforts by getting excited to do the work! Like Mary Poppins said, ‘Find the fun, and every job is a game!” You need to find the excitement, the blessing, the zeal within the work, and it won’t be done half-heartedly; it can’t be done half heartedly.
Don’t leave things unfinished. Take those unfinished projects and organize, plan, and knock them out, one by one. Put on some of your favorite dance music (if possible) to give your heart an upbeat boost!
Sloth can be a debilitating sin for a Christian. Society revels in sloth, and encourages people to attain wealth so they can spend the rest of their lives doing nothing. But a soul without purpose is a bereft one.
Let God fill you up with diligence and zeal, and put that sloth back where it belongs- in the zoo!
Beth Brubaker, Assistant Editor is a humorist poet and songwriter, and her day jobs include homemaking, writing, and paper and fabric arts. Beth’s passion is the written word, and is developing ways of sharing her brand of humor with the world through poems, songs and stories. Don’t miss Beth’s columns and puzzles in every issue of Ruby for Women! You can read Beth’s posts on her blog Footprints in the Mud at http://footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.