By David Faust
Work is a four-letter word. But then, so is lazy.
Laziness is like talking too much; we abhor it in others but rationalize it in ourselves.
A 2011 article in The New York Times argued that Americans “aren’t getting lazier but we’re getting softer. Most of us spend our workdays sitting behind desks or counters, exercising our minds and our fine motor skills but scarcely moving a large muscle group.”
In the Ten Commandments, before instructing his people to observe the Sabbath rest, the Lord commanded, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9). Neither workaholism nor laziness pleases the Lord. Instead, the Bible calls us to pursue a healthy rhythm of work and rest—all of it permeated by worship.
The Trouble with Laziness
The book of Proverbs contains several picturesque descriptions of the sluggard (the lazy or sluggish individual with poor work habits).
A lazy person is unproductive. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (24:33, 34).
A lazy person makes flimsy excuses. “A sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!’” (26:13). Funny thing, though. The scary lion that keeps him from going to work doesn’t prevent him from going to a party on Saturday night.
A lazy person sleeps when he should be working. Healthy sleep is a gift of God (see Psalm 127:2), but it shouldn’t be used as a way to avoid responsibility. “He who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son” (10:5). “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor” (20:13). “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed” (26:14).
A lazy person lacks energy for even the most basic tasks. “A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth” (v. 15).
Laziness makes denial a way of life. Instead of taking responsibility for his lack of effort, the undisciplined worker blames his boss and coworkers, or finds another scapegoat to justify his actions. “A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly” (v. 16).
The Benefits of Diligence
Wise workers benefit by keeping a close eye on their tasks and responsibilities. “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds” (27:23).
Wise workers don’t just dream up fine-sounding ideas; they put plans into action. “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23). “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty” (28:19). NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is right: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
A columnist for The Boston Globe argues that we need to go beyond the work ethic and discover what he calls the “contribution ethic”—the willingness to make ourselves useful and contribute to the overall good. But Christians are driven by another motivator that goes beyond salary and benefits, and even beyond personal satisfaction. We’re called to honor God heartily in all our endeavors, “as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). After all, as someone has said, “A career is what you’re paid for; a calling is what you’re made for.”
1. Would your coworkers and your family describe you as a diligent worker? Why, or why not?
2. Do you consciously seek to honor the Lord in your daily work? How can you do this more?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 16, 2012
Isaiah 40, 41
Isaiah 42, 43
Isaiah 44, 45
Isaiah 49, 50
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