There’s an animal called the sloth. It’s a mammal that lives mostly in trees and feeds mainly on leaves. It sleeps, eats, travels, and even gives birth, while hanging upside down. Sloths move only when they have to, and when they do, it’s normally very slowly. Amazingly, infant sloths hang onto their mother’s fur, but sometimes they fall off. Because of the way sloths are built, they rarely die from the fall. However, sometimes the mothers refuse to leave the trees to retrieve their offspring! Sloths are a great example of slothfulness. (Click here to learn more.)
Sloth, a sin?!
We’ve been talking about deadly sins. Of all the sins listed among the seven deadly sins, perhaps the sin that would get the most argument is sloth. Is sloth sin? And is it really a deadly sin?
M. Scott Peck believes that laziness is a major cause of evil and primary source of psychological illness. And Dunnam & Reisman say, “Laziness is a sin because it poisons the will.”
Now we’re not talking about restfulness or even idleness. We all need rest. In fact, “sabbath” means “to cease.” We all need to build rest in to the rhythm of our lives. Sloth, or laziness, isn’t about getting necessary rest; it’s about not caring; it’s about apathy.
George Bernard Shaw once stated that the epitaph of many people could read: “Died at 30; buried at 60.” It’s obvious some people have checked out while they’re still alive. Ouch!
3 Forms of Sloth …
- Mental Sloth (too lazy to think, read, or to enter dialogue)
- Moral Sloth (complain about the state of things but don’t do anything about it)
- Spiritual Sloth (neglecting spiritual disciplines)
Well, let’s talk about ways to stay on task and avoid laziness from creeping into our lives.
7 Keywords for overcoming sloth …
Guard against complacency. I’ve long believed that complacency is the biggest enemy of the Christian journey and the Church. It’s when we’re complacent (i.e. satisfied, lukewarm) that we’re in the most trouble. We’re in trouble and don’t know it, or we don’t care!
Take responsibility for your life. Don’t blame others. There may be situations we cannot control, but we can do something!
“Under God’s guidance and with God’s support, we are to choose direction, take control, and, by the decisions and disciplines of our will, determine where we go.” (Dunnam & Reisman)
Honor God. Live for God’s glory in everything you do!
Live in response to God’s call. A moment ago, I mentioned the epitaph, “Dead at 30; buried at 60.” That’s a bad epitaph. The one I’d like is what was said about David: David “served his generation according to the will of God, he died and was buried” (Acts 13.36). That’s how I want to live — serving according to God’s will, God’s purpose, in my generation!
Put first things first!
“(God) will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” (Matthew 6.33)
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Philippians 3.13-14)
Everyone needs to have a “rule of life.” A rule of life is a compass which orients your life. For John Wesley, his rule of life was the means of grace. He distinguished two type of acts:
- Instituted means of grace (prayer, scripture, communion, fasting, Christian conferencing)
- Prudential means of grace (doing no harm; doing good)
Love others as commanded by Christ. Jesus challenged us, “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15.12-13).
“Unfortunately, most of us think love is something we feel rather than something we do. … Love requires decision; it’s a matter of the will.” (Dunnam & Reisman)
“Love is the essence of the Gospel and is the crown jewel of Christian character. In common thought, hate is the opposite of love. But … the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.” (Dunnam & Reisman)
Love is the essence of the Gospel. It’s critical to our mission in the world. Just read Matthew 25.31-45.
Slothful, lazy people, do not care enough about others to act. Lazy people are apathtic, meaning they have no passion for life, or ultimately for God!
“We want Christ, but only moderately: we love Jesus, but only moderately; we will follow Jesus, but only so far. To claim to be a Christian without wanting Christ more than anything else, is a contradiction.” (Donald Shelby)
O God, we want to serve this generation according to your will. We want to fulfill your purpose for us, and we want to help others experience and follow you, too. Help us to not just be busybodies, though, doing all kinds of different things. Help us to be focused people, doing what you call and gift us to do. And for those who may be complacent, shake them out of their complacency. Do whatever you must do to get their attention so that no one will be lulled to sleep. Amen.