9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
In this series, we’re using the characters from the classic movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to basic sins that plague humanity. We’ve already explored what the Bible says about gluttony, pride, and greed. Today, we consider sloth. The image for sloth is that of a couch potato who does nothing but sit on the coach and watch TV all day long. Willy Wonka has a character that’s perfect for that. His name, in fact, is Mike Teavee and all he ever wants to do is watch TV.
The Madness of Sloth
Mike Teavee almost seems a bit too energetic to nrepresent sloth to me, though. Perhaps the animal we actually call a sloth is a better caricature for this sin.
What is sloth? Well, I could tell you, but I just don’t have the energy this morning… It’s kid of a challenge to define the sin of sloth. Most people think of laziness. Romans 12:11, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Laziness is part of it, but sloth is more than just being lazy. I can think of four ways we fall into sin through sloth.
The first kind of sloth is negligence.
We all need to rest. However, sometimes there’s the temptation to indulge in rest at the expense of other important matters. We are often tempted to skip worship and spend a little more time sleeping. However, regular, weekly worship is important. We all need to tend our soul and God deserves our worship and praise. We have to make the effort.
Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 24:30-34 says: “I walked passed a lazy person’s farm, and the vineyard of someone who has no sense. Briars had taken over everything and the ground was full of weeds. The stone wall was broken down. So I reflected on this sad sight and learned an important lesson: A little more sleep, a little extra snoozing, a little more time in the recliner with your hands folded across your chest, and poverty will sneak up on you like a bandit, and hardship will invade your life.”
This life and everything in it are gifts from God. Our times of rest and even our work are gifts and a blessing. Don’t take God’s gifts for granted. There is a time and a purpose for everything. So rest when it is time to rest and work when it is time to work. Don’t be careless about how you spend your time.
The second way to fall into sloth is procrastination.
Do you procrastinate? Do you put things off? Are you afraid to get started? This is actually a form of sloth. It is madness. Understand, sin is not just something that offends God. (I think that is so often the way most people view sin…) Sin is insanity because it hurts you. It’s a self-inflicted wound. People who procrastinate hurt themselves. It can damage your reputation. It can hurt your career. It can harm your family. It keeps you from being effective and all that you can be.
Sometimes, the hardest part of any task is just getting started. The best advice I can give to the sloth who procrastinates is the slogan for Nike, “Just do it.” If you’re waiting for all the details to be worked out and everything to be in place before you start, you’ll probably never going to get going. If you’re waiting to feel like doing it, you’re probably won’t ever feel like it and so you won’t ever get going. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like the job is just too big, that’s always the way a big job feels at the beginning. However, once you get started, you are more likely to preserver through it. And it may not be perfect to start with, but you can always adjust as you go. I feel like most of the time it’s better to have an imperfect start and fix things as you go than to never get started in the first place. So just jump in there and get to it.
A third kind of sloth is when you put forth half-hearted effort.
Some people don’t procrastinate, but the work they do is never their best effort. They work, but they only do the minimum. Now, I understand that no one is perfect. I also understand that you can’t give everything you have to do in life equal effort. That’s why it’s very important to know what’s most important in your life. You’ve got to have your priorities in proper order. What is a priority? A priority is something to which you devote most of your time, energy, and money. If you’re not spending most of your time, energy, and money on something, it’s not really a priority. Bill Caylor’s Sunday school class is the J.O.Y. class. JOY is an acronym to remind them of their priorities: Jesus first, Others second, and You third. For me, serving God is my first priority. Second is loving my wife. Third is raising my kids. Therefore, I try to devote my time, energy, and money accordingly.
Once you know your priorities, you’ve got to devote yourself to them with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. In Revelation 3:16, Jesus lamented that the Church in Laodicea was full of half-hearted sloths. He said, “Since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” We should devote ourselves to our top priorities as if we were working directly for Christ. Don’t be a sloth. Give it your all to what’s really important in your life.
A fourth way we commit the sin of sloth is when we become easily discouraged by any possible difficulty.
Life is full of difficult challenges. Sometimes the difficulties can cause to freeze up or give up. However, that’s not what Jesus wants for us. Some of the greatest blessings come when we have the faith to keep going when it seems we just can’t. For then we realize the wonder of seeing the Holy Spirit at work through us. How can you ever experience the supernatural power of God if you never attempt something that is beyond your ability?
Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” And the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who give me the strength I need from day to day.” If God has given you a task, He will supply the help, the resources, the ability, whatever is needed to see it through. Your job is to get up off the couch and get to work.
Life is Sweet When We Give It All to Jesus
Jesus calls us all to go out from the church to fulfill the great mission of His church. He calls us to go out and serve in His name. Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”
I invite you to come spend a moment in prayer. Have you been negligent in your work—neglecting to do what’s really important? Do you procrastinate? Have you been putting off something important you need to do? Are you guilty of half-hearted living? Have you been afraid to do something you know God wants you to do? Now is the time to repent and live in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.