One of the most memorable characters from the book of Proverbs is the “sluggard.” He is a lazy man. He can’t leave his house because “the sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
“As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth” (Proverbs 26:13-16).
The sages of the middle-ages called sloth “the first deadly sin.” Sloth, in modern vernacular, means “laziness.” We might think of laziness as a weakness or common fault, but would we call it a sin? (See Proverbs 6:6-11.)
My first observation is that laziness doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of activity. Heaven knows we’re packing more and more into already too busy lives but is it purposeful activity? Are we moving towards a goal, or are we just bouncing off the walls? Do we believe it because we’ve heard something so often we accept it as truth, or do we believe (and behave) because we have discovered a precious truth?
Second, sloth prevents us from escaping lazy preoccupations and paying attention to the things that have eternal significance. For example, for the lazy of the world, love is something that “just happens.” We “fall in love,” and we “fall out of love.” Marriages are based on phileo (friendship love) or eros (erotic love), with the result when the attraction is over, so is the relationship.
Christian lovers are attracted to each other and are friends with each other, but marriage is based on agape (a love controlled by the will). Agape can never be lazy. It is proactive and involved. It works. It builds. It does. Therefore, if love is something we should do, then lazy people, who are unwilling to put forth the effort to love, should be justly condemned!
Let’s look at another example. Unfortunately, many Christians have just enough gospel to make them miserable, but not enough to make them joyful. They know enough about the biblical message to keep them from doing those things the world is tempting them to do, but they do not have enough of a commitment to God to do those things through which they might experience the fullness of His joy! I am convinced more people will be condemned at the Judgment because of sins of omission than commission.
Tony Campolo wrote, “Sloth deadens, but the Spirit gives life. Sloth thrives on feelings of inferiority, but the Spirit gives us the assurance that we are the children of God. Sloth is self-centered, but the Spirit creates a burning desire to change the world. Sloth leaves us bored and empty, but in the Spirit, we find the fullness of God’s joy.”