The Sinfulness of Slothfulness – David Ray

David Ray

Scripture is replete with virtues to encourage and vices to expose and avoid. One sin that probably gets less attention than most is laziness. Yet Solomon in his great wisdom (and inspiration) spoke much about it in the Proverbs (about twenty times; in almost half the chapters). Obviously, this is a dangerous problem (sin) that committed followers of God need to consider. Let’s notice six negative results of slothfulness, according to Solomon.

Laziness Brings a Difficult Life

That slothfulness brings a difficult life is a general statement, but this is what Solomon says in Proverbs 15:19, and he supports the statement throughout all the other proverbs on the topic. “The way of the slothful man is as a hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain [a highway].” Robert Frost spoke of taking the road “less traveled by”, but that’s not what Solomon is talking about here. He sees two roads—one easy, one very difficult—and blames the condition on the actions of the traveler. Because of his laziness, the road of the slothful is rough, extremely thorny, potholes, etc., almost impossible to pass. He tells us why in other proverbs.

Did you notice the Hebrew parallelism? He contrasts the slothful person with the righteous person, presenting slothfulness as the opposite of righteousness, and therefore sin! A person is lazy because he doesn’t want to work; he thinks his life is easier this way. But he’ll find out that he’s wrong. Consider some of the ways that Solomon tells us about how laziness destroys.

Laziness Brings Poverty

Proverbs 6:6-11—Solomon tells us to observe the work of the ants and warns us to beware of sleep (rest, etc.). Your poverty will sneak up on you!

Proverbs 22:13—“The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” There’s probably no lion at all, “but there could be”, he says! A lazy man focuses on anything that could potentially be a problem and uses it as an excuse.

Proverbs 14:23—“In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury (poverty).” Christians should be hard working people. Some people just want to talk about working. They have lots to say, maybe even boasting, but never accomplish anything (e.g., having lots of meetings)!

Proverbs 20:13—“Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” Start by opening your eyes! Sleep is like food: it’s very important and necessary for life, but too much will hurt rather than help.

Proverbs 23:21—“…the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.”

Proverbs 24:30-34 (also 6:9-11)—The lazy man’s vineyard is overgrown with thorns; or today we might notice a man’s yard is overgrown with weeds! When this is the result of laziness, Solomon says this man is “void of understanding.”

Laziness Brings Hunger

Proverbs 13:4—“the soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” A lazy man wants all the same things the working man wants; he’s just not willing to work for it.

Proverbs 19:15—“Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep (lazy, lethargic); and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Hunger is the result of laziness.

Proverbs 19:24—“A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom [dish], and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.” Here’s a man too lazy to eat (“it grieves him”—26:15)! This is obviously an exaggeration; surely no man would starve himself because he was too lazy to eat! The point is that his hunger is his own fault.

Proverbs 20:4—“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” He uses weather as an excuse and refuses to plow until it’s too late (cf. Eccl. 11:4, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap”). 2 Thess. 3:10 says “If any will not work, neither let him eat.” Panhandlers beware!

Laziness Brings Servitude and Shame

Proverbs 12:24—“The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.”

Proverbs 10:4-5—“He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack (idle, slothful) hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.”

Laziness not only brings poverty and hunger, but also shame (on the lazy man as well as on his parents, family, friends, and anyone who cared about him).

Laziness Brings Hurt to Others

Proverbs 10:26—“As vinegar to the teeth and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.” Employers can relate!

Ephesians 6:5-9 (Col. 3:22-25)—Servants are taught to be obedient to their masters, with the understanding that they’ll be repaid by the Lord. When we look at the responsibilities we have look to one another (husband/wife, parent/child, employee/employer, etc.), there is no room for us to be lazy and slothful toward one another. This attitude/action doesn’t just affect the sluggard! I wonder if the deadbeat dad/husband realizes (or cares) what his laziness does to his family. I once knew a man who had a wife and child. He had no formal education yet got a great government job, but then was fired for being late all the time. He blamed his wife for not trying harder to get him up on time! Proverbs 10:26 certainly fits for his former employer, but how much more for his family?!

Laziness Brings Death and Destruction

Proverbs 18:9—“He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster [destroyer].” Laziness destroys a work.

Proverbs 21:25—“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” The lazy man desires sleep, play, pleasure, fun, nothing but good times (things that aren’t necessarily wrong). But he isn’t willing to do the necessary work in order to obtain these things. He thinks life should always be fun and easy. In the end his laziness “kills him” (cf. v. 26)!

Balance is Needed

Proverbs 22:29—“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings.” 2 Thess. 3:10—“If any will not work, neither let him eat.” As bad as laziness is, the opposite can also be damaging to a person (and his/her family). Though our nation has its share of lazy bums (otherwise healthy and able folks standing on street corners begging for money), most of us are taught the value of work. But many take this too far, valuing it above church, family, and friends. Either extreme is sinful. We need balance!

This topic may not be preached as much as others for fear of stepping on toes. I’m sure we all have some “laziness” in us at times. We all take a moment occasionally to relax, watch TV, read, etc. when we have more important things to do. But looking back at Solomon’s warnings, he isn’t talking about taking a day off now and then (or even just a half hour) and relaxing (Jesus did this—Mark 6:31). His warnings are about a lifestyle of laziness. But beware: a lifestyle of something starts small with a moment of something. Then that moment becomes “moments,” until it eventually begins to define a person. Like Jesus, we always need to be about our Father’s business.

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Author: Editor

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