The Slippery Sin Of Sloth

The sin of sloth surrounds us. Sometimes it is recognizable, and other times it is disguised. When we see the man who refuses to work to provide for himself or his family, we see clearly the long, lazy fingers of sloth choking the life out of a man. The mother who refuses to care for her children is certainly ensnared by sloth. The teenager who only wants to play video games or flit around on social media without any work ethic is the servant of sloth. 

These are examples of sloth on parade; unafraid, bare, undisguised. But sloth is not always so bold. Sloth not only moves lazily in the open, it slinks stealthily behind the mask of busyness. Sloth is not, by definition, inactivity. Some of the busiest people in the world may also be the biggest sloths. This is so because sloth is the willful refusal to fulfill my God-given responsibilities. I can be in the grip of sloth whether I am lying on a couch or working sixteen-hour days. Wherever I am avoiding my responsibilities, giving into what I want to do rather than what I ought to do, I am in the grip of sloth. Why should inconvenience myself by exerting myself to do things I’d rather not be doing?

The blessings that we have received in our society have provided many exercises to keep our sin of sloth in shape. We have tools and toys beyond previous generations imaginations. Thank God for them. But these blessings can and have, in many cases, become distractions that keep us from thinking about or doing the things that matter. When is the last time you sat in quiet and simply reflected on life? 

If you look around you when you are stopped at a traffic light, you will probably see ninety-five percent of the people around you on their phones swiping, texting, and maybe even talking. Even if we are not doing this, the radio is keeping us company. We are always moving to the next thing and, in between, we are keeping ourselves distracted, busying our minds, many times, with banal activity. We are worn out at the end of the day because we have been on a mental hamster wheel: moving at a frenetic pace but really going nowhere. We’re doing all of this stuff, but we don’t know why and we’re too fearfully lazy to stop and take inventory of the meaning of it all. We’re scared to take inventory because we’re afraid that what we’re doing might not really mean anything. To live without purpose is truly scary, so sloth keeps us from taking that inventory, evaluating why we’re doing what we’re doing, and moving to fulfilling our God-given responsibilities. It’s just easier to stay busy. Taking that kind of deep inventory would be hard work.

The cure for the sin of sloth, therefore, is not merely “work harder.” Sloth is not cured by activity per se. The cure for sloth is trusting the work of Christ Jesus. Pledge your allegiance to Christ and find your place in his kingdom mission in the world. 

God created us to work, but he created us to work for a purpose. The death and resurrection of Jesus means that our work is not in vain (1Cor 15.58). Our work means something. Our work is a part of a larger kingdom project in the world, and Jesus will not fail to complete his project. Faith in what Christ has done gives us meaning and, therefore, motivation to remain steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord (1Cor 15.58). One day this mission will be complete, and we will be brought into full Sabbath rest.

Motivation generated from faith in Christ’s work is not afraid to take inventory of one’s life and activities to see how they fit in this kingdom work. Faith doesn’t lazily avoid asking the questions, “Is this activity in line with what God has given me to do as a husband, father, wife, mother, child, employer, employee, friend, etc.? How does this activity promote the grand mission of the church? Am I avoiding what I ought to do by only thinking of what I would rather do?” Faith can sit in quiet and reflect. Faith can work hard. Faith can rest and have fun when it is time because the work from which we are resting has purpose. This faith in Christ is the faith by which you are saved from the sin of sloth.