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September 22, 2019                     part 2: The Deadly Sin of Slothfulness

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

 Pres.Reagan once quipped: “I’ve heard that hard work never killed anyone. But I say why take the chance?”   I’ve seen a t-shirt that says, ‘I’m not lazy, I’m on power-saving mode.’ Proverbs says, “A wife of noble character who can find?….she watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”(Pr.31:10,27) Ecclesiastes says, “If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.” (Ecc.10:18)

So far, of the 7 deadly sins, we have talked about Pride, Envy, & Gluttony. This next one may be the hardest to pin down; but that doesn’t mean its harmless. The 4th deadly vice of our old nature is: SLOTHFULNESS.   Sloth is defined in the dictionary like this: disinclined to action or labor; see ‘lazy’.   But sloth is not just the opposite of being busy; as a poet once said, It’s not enough to be busy = what are we busy about? (Thoreau) Slothfulness IS laziness;

It is idleness, apathy, sluggishness, & inactivity.

This does NOT mean /we cannot take a vacation, or retire; /that we can’t take an afternoon off to golf, fish, read, or just relax in a chair on the porch in the summer sun; /it’s not talking about getting less sleep.   But just like the other categories of sin, our old nature wants to take something good, the good work & rest God has created as part of the ebb & flow of our life-schedule, and we’re tempted to turn it into something bad, rebellious, & disobedient. We’ll want to misuse inactivity for ourselves, OR we’ll want to criticize someone as lazy.

AND, like the other sins, its bad enough when there’s some bad earthly effects to slothfulness; it’s worse that there will be bad spiritual & eternal effects. Because the problem with laziness is not that a person is resting or ‘doing nothing’,   BUT that a person is choosing to be unproductive at the wrong times, to the detriment of themselves or others, OR is overly idle & neglectful in their responsibilities.

So, *do we have to fill up every minute -of every day- with going somewhere and doing something? But, even if we’re running from one thing to another, *does that mean we’re getting all the important things done?   I think we’ll find that THAT’S the more important question. …>

…> Not ‘are you being busy’ or ‘are you being lazy’ at any given moment.   But, in the life God has given to you, in living in this salvation & faith, *are you getting all the important things done? If not, you & I may be toying with the deadly sin of slothfulness.

You’re busy & I’m busy == tho we may not be busy with the same things. That makes it hard to compare our life to someone else’s, to accuse them of being slothful. *Can we compare a child’s life to an adult’s life …= a working adult to a retired person;…= a manual laborer to an office worker?   Our lives are different.  However, the main categories of life are often the same: /taking care of spouse & family, /house & home, /our job or livelihood, /& having our useful hobbies & enjoyable recreations. We each have a busy life, and we scurry around to do things, keep our schedules, make a living, & accumulate our things.

But you’ll notice what I left out a main category of life, of things to take care of ==

I left out the ‘taking care of our souls.’ God is really concerned that our hyperactivity in worldly things can mean we are slothful in spiritual things = of seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness. This concern is in the classic Bible example of Luke 10, that day in the home of Mary and Martha. One was occupied in the kitchen, one was occupied listening to Jesus teach. Martha accused Mary of sloth, of doing nothing, neglecting her duty to their guest. But Mary was not doing ‘nothing’, and Jesus corrected Martha, and commended Mary for choosing the ‘better portion’.

You & I need to be active & do both physical and spiritual things; AND, our lives need times of rest. Unless we have charge of someone else’s time & life, we should be mostly worried about ourselves; being honest with God about how WE balance our activity & inactivity. We need to examine ourselves, and be on our guard against the temptation of sloth.

This is what Paul says in Gal.6:   “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”    Our life-goal will be: to be productive at the right times, and to be responsible,

and to faithfully accomplish the main things God has given to our lives, both earthly things and spiritual things.

Even tho our old nature desires to be lazy, we also have a natural instinct to work to get what we need & want. So, there are people who are slothful about a job, who seem to expect others to provide the necessities of life for them; but most people work hard to provide for themselves & their families.  This is naturally how the world works. People will either resist laziness in order to have earthly things, or else they have to be satisfied with a lot less.

It’s different tho with our spiritual lives, where people can be lazy and not realize it until it’s too late. So, the sin of sloth is most serious & deadly in our working relationship to God,   and in our serving relationship to His church, and in our helping relationship to those around us.

The Bible alerts us to BOTH kinds of slothfulness. The Book of Proverbs warns us physically: “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. . . . The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” (19; 21).  And in 2 Thess. Paul gives this blunt truth: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (3:10).

About spiritual sloth, we read in 1Tim.4, “do not neglect your gift… be diligent …watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”    Jesus includes in his parables a contrast between the ‘lazy and wicked servant’ = who is condemned,   and the ‘good and faithful servant’ = who is praised.

The spiritually slothful person is like driftwood, thoughtlessly floating downstream with the current. He takes the easy way, the wide road, the way of the crowd. Sometimes that’s fine, but think of the godless world & culture we live in; the flow of the world, Jesus says, is to destruction. Our God holds us responsible to be his holy people, to be engaged, and to do right things; to be salt, light, & good examples. This means we cannot just ‘go with the flow.’

And spiritually, we are already in extreme danger at our birth with our sinful nature.

Even as a baptized child of God, we need to know that it may not take much of a push for any lazy Christian to wander a little too far, and be lost. It begins with a little drifting away from God, away from daily prayer, from the church & regular worship, to neglect God’s Word & Sacraments of faith & life.   Those things are the chosen tools of the Holy Spirit to keep us connected to Christ, our Savior, so that we will reach the goal of eternal life. Without those things, a person is swept downstream, sometimes unaware of the deadliness of his lazy faith.

With this deadly sin, the common saying is true: ‘use it or lose it.’ Your faith is a living thing that must be actively maintained. To neglect it means to starve it of nourishment.

As an illustration, The early Christians referred to themselves as “followers of the way.”

They saw that the Christian faith & life was to be a determined, daily, forward walk with Christ thru this life and into eternity. Our faith IS an activity, and often a struggle.

Remember how the dictionary defined sloth as a being ‘disinclined to action’; that is, ‘opposed to work,’ being idle.   So, the spiritually slothful will ‘take a seat’ instead of walking with Christ in active discipleship.  There are many who want the title of ‘believer’, but when Jesus says ‘do this’, they don’t do it. When He says in Phil.3 to run the race to get the prize, they sit in the bleachers and watch others running, and either cheer or jeer.  The spiritually slothful do not think of themselves as lazy in life; in fact they might consider themselves too busy & productive to waste their precious time with worthless religious activities. But in neglecting God’s things, they are being slothful, and rejecting God’s ways to nourish & strengthen His gift of faith.

*What has God given to us to keep our faith active? +He has given to us the Sunday gathering for public worship as a witness to the world’s only Savior; / He has given his spirit-filled Word to learn; / he has given the baptismal water and Christs body & blood in the sacraments; / he has made the promise to be present where his people gather; / he has given the office of pastor to preach & believe his word; / he has given his church as the place to bring our tithes to show our trust in him, and to give our offerings for the mission of his gospel, and to help the poor, & to serve & encourage one another.      His church is the ‘hub’ where the Spirit is at work for all of us; the place were we receive all the gifts of God so that our faith will live, work, & serve.  We pray, O Lord, that You will recall those who are busy avoiding You; and we pray that WE will not fall into this trap of spiritual sloth!

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Our spiritual laziness is bad news. But the Good News is that the Son of God put his hand to the plow, and confronted this sin of ours. And he didn’t waste his time getting wrapped up in the world, or neglecting the important things of life. As a child, he was commended for being obedient to his parents, and for growing in wisdom and in favor with God & man.

At twelve, he was admired for being in his Father’s house and about the father’s business in learning the Scriptures. And at age 30 he did not waste any time in doing the work the Father sent him to do. In 33 years, Jesus lived a full & God-pleasing life by being busy with all the important things of being God’s Son. After healing the man born blind, in John 9, and being criticized for working on the sabbath day, Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4).

And because of his work, which took him all the way to the cross, so we have been freed from this deadly sin of slothfulness, including the doubly-deadly laziness that can sneak into our lives of faith. In His mercy, and with great effort & determination, Jesus alone has removed the condemnation we deserve. And by his chosen spiritual church-tools, he calls us to repent, and is giving us -again & again- the forgiveness of our sin, and the strength to be active in this new life.

Because of our Savior, we rejoice to hear Paul call out to us in Eph.5: “ ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  We also hear this in Phil 2, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” Thru Paul’s words, God is urging us to live & bear fruit with this faith He has given us; to make the most of every opportunity to draw close to, and to stay close to, our Savior.

+No spiritual laziness will be allowed to keep us from our worship-time together of repentance & forgiveness on the Lord’s Day. We know Jesus’ promise: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). + No laziness disguised as busyness is to keep us from our devotions with the Word of Life. We know God’s promise: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Ps.119)

+We will not let spiritual laziness interfere with our times for prayer. We know Jesus’ promise: “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you.” (John 16:23).    

+No spiritual laziness will keep us from returning a good portion of our money & time as thank-offerings to the Lord who has blessed us. We know Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).

+We want no spiritual neglect to keep us from the opportunities to share His Word of Law and Gospel. We know His promise: “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal thru us.”

 By the giving of the HSp to us, we are compelled by the mercy & blessing of Christ Jesus to work at being His disciples, to follow him closely with fear and respect, and to be on guard against our weaknesses.   We have his promises to trust: that God is at work in us to be his living people with active purpose in all the things we do.

We close with Col.3: “So,  whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”   “So, whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father thru Him.”

Amen