Let’s face it. Work is hard, especially if you put your heart, mind, and soul into it. Many people do physical labor and don’t like it at all. Other people like what they do a whole lot. They have no problem telling you all about what they do.
Some jobs are interesting to people and find their way onto reality TV shows, amongst other things. People are interested in hearing how these people work and what they do. Other jobs don’t tend to be even talked about, let alone find their way onto TV unless in the background.
When you find work that agrees with your life purpose and what you enjoy in life, it doesn’t even seem like work. When you must do something you don’t enjoy, work can be drudgery. In a perfect world, you try to find work that agrees with your interests and what you like to do.
In my last post, we started talking about the subject of what the Bible has to say about our work. We discovered that God created us with work in mind as one of the things that we regularly do. We saw that even in the Garden of Eden, a possible view of heaven, humans were made to work.
When sin entered into the world, it made work harder. Maybe that’s why many of us hate it so much. I want to talk about the first polar extreme to a biblical work ethic, laziness. You’d be surprised how much the Bible has to say about laziness.
Work is much more difficult today, and the Bible points to the Fall of Man as one of the main reasons for this. The Bible teaches us a balance between work and rest. There are certainly two extremes to work.
The first is laziness, inactivity and waste. The other extreme is what we call workaholism, working beyond the bounds of what God designed us to work. Let us take a closer look at these throughout the Bible.
Laziness in the Old Testament
The first extreme in work ethic is laziness. What does the Bible say about it? The report is not promising for those who want to be lazy. Proverbs is chalk full of wisdom for living a God-designed life of destiny. In it, the wise man who teaches his son many things says these things about laziness:
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.Proverbs 6:6–11
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.Proverbs 19:15
A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.Proverbs 10:4–5
Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.Proverbs 18:9
The Scriptures relate being poor to being lazy. This does not mean that all poor people are lazy, but it does mean that lazy people are headed in the poor direction. The Proverbs associate laziness with sleeping too much.
After all, if there’s nothing to do or nothing on your agenda, what’s the point of crawling out of bed in the morning? Lazy people find themselves not only poor, but don’t care for even their own needs. Like sin leads to death, laziness offers unpreparedness so that don’t care and poverty.
Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks” (Ecclesiastes 10:18). Solomon further clarifies that even what a lazy person has is not well kept.
If a lazy person cannot even attend to their own needs and resources, one would not expect them to be able to have a good work ethic. And that is exactly what Solomon hints at here.
God also takes care of the poor who even through work are not able to produce as much as they need to consume. But we must understand that even the poor in Israel worked in some fashion, whether it was begging for money, or working in the fields for the extra gleanings of wealthy land owners.
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men“(Proverbs 22:29).
Laziness in the New Testament
“Oh, Pastor, the Old Testament is always too harsh! Read me what the New Testament with all of its grace and mercy has to say about laziness.” No problem. As happens in all things, the New Testament is a continuation of the Old.
Paul tells his mentoree, Timothy, “Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Timothy 5:13).
That’s not exactly graceful, but it is tactful. The word “busybodies” suggests that they do something, but it happens to be gossiping. Even the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “…so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12). Even in our Christian walk, there is work to be done for God through obedience.
The New Testament, so full of mercy and grace more than the Old Testament, which isn’t true at all, questions those who don’t work even if they are believers in Jesus. One of the marks of a devoted follower of Christ is that they work for the Lord with excellence and provide for the needs of their physical and spiritual family (Acts 2:42-47).
Jesus provided for His family. Even on the cross, Jesus, as oldest son, made sure that His mother Mary had provision through the apostle John. Most scholars assume Jesus was working His earthly father’s business of carpentry before He began His public ministry.
“Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay“Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”1 Corinthians 3:13–15
It is quite clear that laziness does not have its place in the Bible. Laziness goes against God’s ordained work for Adam and for all human beings. Even before the Fall, God expected Adam to be productive.
God was productive in creating the universe, and as human beings made in His image, we also work and are productive. To not be productive is a trait of the marred image of God, not the full image of God.
So we see how the Bible characterizes people who are lazy. God hasn’t called us to be lazy. And it’s not a good witness or way to represent the Lord in this world. Now we will turn to the other extreme in the next post. If the first extreme was not working hard enough, or not working at all, then the other extreme is working way too hard.
Leave a comment and tell me what you think about God’s thoughts on laziness in our work ethic. And by the way, it’s not that you can’t have a day off (Sabbaths are required by the Lord as we will see) but that you need to work regularly and hard for the Lord.