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  • Writer's pictureDavid L. Goetsch

Sloth and Laziness

Sloth is the Biblical term for what is more commonly referred to as “laziness.” Lazy people have an aversion to work, effort, expending energy, and pulling their share of the load. Lazy people want to ride in the wagon while others pull it; they want to benefit from work without having to do any. Their attitude toward life manifests itself in idleness and indolence. Increasingly, parents, teachers, coaches, and employers complain about laziness in young people.

When there is a lazy person in the family, in the classroom, on the team, or at work, everyone else has to make up for that individual. A lazy person can be the proverbial bad apple that spoils the whole barrel. If there is a lazy person in your life or if you are prone to laziness, it is important to do what is necessary to overcome this unfortunate attitude. Laziness untended can cause the people in question to become burdens to others as well as to themselves. The solution to laziness is adopting the Christian work ethic.

America is undergoing a tectonic shift in attitudes toward work. When European immigrants first came to the shores of North America seeking religious freedom, their view of work was Biblical. They saw work as a gift from God that allowed them to provide for their families and improve the quality of their lives. Consequently, they viewed work as a good thing to be done well and in ways that honor God. In other words, they were steeped in the Christian work ethic.

Because Americans exemplified the Christian work ethic, the United States eventually became the most productive and prosperous nation on earth. Average Americans came to enjoy more material wealth than the people of any other nation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that over time Americans began to take for granted what previous generations had worked long and hard to attain. They began to believe they were entitled to a certain level of material comfort without working to achieve it.

Fast forward to the present. A rapidly growing cultural phenomenon in America is an attitude toward work and life known as the entitlement mentality. The entitlement mentality is the polar opposite of the Christian work ethic. People with an entitlement mentality view work not as a gift from God to be appreciated and done well but as drudgery, a necessary evil to be avoided when possible. People with an entitlement mentality expect to enjoy the material comforts of working hard, smart, and long without having to do these things. They believe they are entitled to all the trappings of success without having to earn them.

The entitlement mentality manifests itself in a variety of ways. Perhaps the worst manifestation is seen in the attitudes of people of prime working age who want a job but don’t want to work; people who expect to begin their careers at the top of the ladder without having to do the hard work of climbing it. This kind of individual has become the bane of employers all across the country. Fortunately, God has a cure for the entitlement mentality. God gave us the Christian work ethic because he knew our sinful nature would make us susceptible to laziness.

Lazy people can improve the quality of their lives and the lives of those around them by adopting the Christian work ethic. In today’s age of entitlement, parents, employers, teachers, coaches, and other people in positions of responsibility and authority cry out for young people who will work hard, work smart, and contribute to the family or team. They need children, students, employees, and team members who are honest, responsible, dependable, diligent, and industrious, who solve problems rather than causing them, prevent conflict instead of instigating it, and go the extra mile to pull their share of the load.

As a single mother, Jenna needed her two sons to help out with household chores. Vacuuming, washing dishes, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, and making beds were constant necessities that could not be ignored. Forced to work two jobs—one full-time and one part-time—and getting by from paycheck to paycheck, Jenna had little time in her schedule for household chores. Most meals in her home were either take-out fast food or microwaved frozen dinners. Consequently, it was essential her two sons help out with the chores. One did and one didn’t.

Robert was responsible and diligent; he always did his part with household chores. Tom was just the opposite. He was lazy, indolent, and lethargic. His friends in middle school came from two-parent families and did little in the way of helping out at home. Their only responsibilities other than homework seemed to be to occupy themselves with play. Tom didn’t understand why he had to do household chores when his friends didn’t.

Tom became so adept at avoiding work, Robert was usually forced to do the chores for both of them. Jenna tried everything from discipline to incentives to convince Tom to pull his weight in the family, but to no avail. No amount of discipline was enough to motivate Tom nor was any incentive. He would rather be restricted to his room where he could sit idly for hours than help out with the chores.

Although Tom’s attitude toward work was a bone of contention between the two brothers and a constant source of stress for Jenna, the boys remained close. Jenna thanked God for Robert everyday and prayed for Tom, but nothing changed. Then one day Robert was injured trying to take some boxes down from the attic. The boxes were heavy requiring two people to move them, but Tom—in typical fashion—refused to help. Accustomed to doing the household chores without help, Robert tried to haul the boxes down the stairs by himself. When he slipped on his last trip, Robert fell down the stairs and wound up in the hospital with a broken leg, sprained back, and an assortment of bruises.

When she learned the full extent of what had happened and why, Jenna was livid. She was so angry with Tom she couldn’t speak to him. Tom was lazy, but he wasn’t uncaring. Seeing his brother lying bruised and bandaged in a hospital bed shamed him deeply. He felt terrible about his brother’s injuries and knew the incident was his fault. Tom was overcome with regret. He had never felt so low in his life.

Determined to atone for his complicity, Tom called the youth pastor at the church his family attended. He told Pastor Matthew everything about Robert’s accident, why it was his fault, and how he doubled Robert’s load by constantly finding ways to avoid work. Pastor Matthew was brutally frank with Tom. He asked, “Tom, do you love your brother?” The answer was an emphatic “yes.” “Do you love your mother?” Another emphatic “yes.” “Do you love God?” “I do” was Tom’s response. “Well, you aren’t doing a very good job of showing it.”

Pastor Matthew explained one of the best ways he could show his love would be to do the work God and his mother assign him. “Tom, work is not something to be avoided. It is a gift from God to be embraced and done well. God gave us work so we would have a way to feed, clothe, and house ourselves. When you work, you are working for the Lord first and your mother second. This is the message in Colossians 3:23: ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.’

God gave us work as a way to take care of each other. Think what would happen to you if your mother didn’t work, and not just one job but two. You would have nothing to eat, no place to live, and no clothes to wear. Jenna works as hard and long as she does because she loves you. Robert works as hard as he does because he loves your mother. They both work hard because they love the Lord.”

Tom had never thought of work as a way to show his love for God or his mother and brother, his thinking on the subject was rapidly changing. There had never been a time when he wanted to show them his love more than now. Pastor Matthew’s words struck a chord in him. When Tom got home, he immediately set to work doing the dishes, taking out the trash, making beds, and folding the clothes from the dryer. When Jenna came home for a few minutes to grab a bite to eat before dashing off to her part-time job, she was astonished to find the house cleaned from top to bottom and a meal waiting for her on the table.

Tom told his mother he planned to ride his bicycle to the hospital after supper and take Robert some schoolwork he could do while recuperating. Jenna was amazed at the transformation of her second son, and thought to herself, “I hope I’m not dreaming.” She wasn’t. From that day forward, Tom was a dynamo when it came to household chores, his school work, and any other work needing to be done. When Robert was able to come home from the hospital, it was Tom who tended to him. He made a point of helping his brother catch up on school assignments and do the rehabilitation exercises the physicians recommended.

On the wall of the bedroom Tom shared with Robert, he taped a copy of Proverbs 16:3 printed in large bold letters: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” He also taped a copy of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to the wall: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Tom overcame his laziness by adopting the Christian work ethic. As a result, his life and the lives of his brother and mother improved noticeably. The Christian work ethic is the antidote to laziness. If you struggle with laziness or if someone you love does, the Christian work ethic is the solution.

Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019:

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