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Slothfulness to Diligence

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/11/2019

This morning, we’re wrapping up our “I’m Not Okay” series. Our final topic is sloth—not “sloths”—but “sloth.” By the way, aren’t sloths adorable? There are several species. They spend most of their life hanging upside down in trees either sleeping or eating leaves. Because of their leafy diet they have super low metabolism… making them one of the slowest moving, low-energy animals on our planet. When they’re crossing the road, people get so frustrated waiting, they just get out of their cars, pick them up, and hang them in a nearby tree! Their slothfulness is also one of their primary defenses. Because they are soooo sloooow, they’re less apt to draw the attention of hawks and other predators. And keep in mind there are also cute must-see baby sloth videos floating around on You-Tube!

But this morning we’re talking about the not-so-adorable matter of slothfulness. Though we could draw some comparisons between the human race and these furry creatures, I’ll refrain. Instead, I want to point you to Jesus words in John 10:10, where he says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Isn’t it true that there are two types of people in the world? There are people who are full of life and multiply life in everyone they encounter. But then there are people who steal the life out of everyone they meet.

I think John Maxwell nailed it when he said our job as human beings is to “add value” to others. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Liz Wiseman, in her bestselling leadership book “Multipliers” writes about Multipliers and Diminishers. Multipliers brings out the very best in others. Their best ideas, energies, creativity, contribution, and cooperation. They shine everyone and everything they touch. When you see them coming your heart just kind of leaps with joy! But then there are Diminishers, who have an uncanny way of stifling and depleting everyone around them. When you see them coming you just want to run and hide!

I’ve never been one to write life missions statements… but John 10:10 is as good as any I’ve heard, “I’ve come that people may have life and have it abundantly.” What kind of Christian are you? Are you good news or bad news? A multiplier or diminisher? A life-giver or wrecking ball? A life-giver or life-taker?

On my Facebook page I’ve posted a quote from C.T. Studd that capture’s how I’ve always felt about this life God has given me. “Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.” In the deepest part of my soul I want this life to matter for God and matter for others.

But along comes this vice called “sloth.” Some define sloth rather narrowly as laziness, idleness, being a “coach spud.” Some define sloth as apathy, sadness, despair. This week I asked someone, “Do you think apathy is a problem in this country?” And the person said, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!” (Actually, that didn’t happen, I didn’t care to bother asking anyone.) Some define sloth as an inner spiritual deadness, a boredom, a death of desire. Still others define sloth as tolerance. That a person no longer hungers or thirsts for righteousness, but kind of shrugs their shoulders at whatever comes down the road. Sloth can be a toxic mixture of any/all of these things.

Of all the vices, Evelyn Waugh called sloth a primary, late-modern sin. Sloth has always been a human problem. But can you maybe guess why its especially a modern problem? Comparatively to people from even a few decades ago, the least among us lives the lifestyle of a king! We barely have to walk from point A to B or leave our home to be entertained or amused. We have access to all the food we can eat. Our thirst is readily quenched. We can heat/cool our homes/bed to any temperature we like. We have instant, fingertip, smart-phone access to vast networks of information, resources, and help. We have unprecedented medical care, technologies, luxuries. {We Americans still complain as much as anyone ever has, but its surely for lack of perspective!}

Sloth is not just a “vice,” it’s the newest of all American rights. Nowadays, it’s not the “pursuit” of happiness that’s an inalienable right. We believe we’re owed happiness, that we’re entitled to it. I don’t have to chase, or work, for nothing. I’ll call Uber. I’ll call Amazon. I’ll call mom/dad. I’ll call my local congressman and my demands. I’ll setup a GoFundMe page. I’ll rant on Social Media. But other people must make me happy at their expense!”

The modern life affords us the ability to live in a bubble, detached from reality, demanding, criticizing, commiserating. There is a little known verse in Galatians 6:7 that says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Reality is that a person reaps what they sow. But the Modern Life affords us the luxury of reaping where we haven’t sown. I can ride on the coattails, the efforts, the labor of others. I can “legally” take, rob, steal, kill and destroy. I no longer have to bother myself whether I add or subtract value, multiply or diminish life. 

First, We Need to Be Aware of the Danger of Sloth

First, an overwhelming number of verses in the Bible that talk about the danger of slothfulness. Perhaps the best known verses on slothfulness are Proverbs 6:6-11, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” Not even an ant is exempt from God’s law.

What are some of the Warnings/Dangers of Slothfulness?

The Slothful Person is Never Fulfilled. Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 21:25-26 says, “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” Even when the diligent, and the righteous give generously, it still isn’t enough to satisfy the slothful person!

The Slothful Person Lacks Strength. Proverbs 26:15, “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.” The less you do, the less you can do. The less you work, the less you can work. The less you stretch, the less you can stretch. The body atrophies from lack of use to the point that a person cannot manage the most basic tasks for themselves. Proverbs 26:15 isn’t talking about a person incapacitated physically per old age, or disease, or misfortune. It’s talking about a person whose atrophy and incapacities are self-imposed.

The Slothful Person Lacks Prosperity. I know there is this belief that a slothful person actually “gets ahead” in life, but that is not the truth. Proverbs 23:21 says, “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” Proverbs 24:30-34, “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 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.” Ecclesiastes 10:18, “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks”

Isn’t it true that when a person neglects their duties and responsibilities, they soon neglect everything else? Their personal appearance. Their land. Their roof. Their house. Their fence. Their flowers. Their garden. Their honey-do-list. I agree with a pastor who said slothfulness is just as apt to destroy marriages today as lust. A sluggard has lost all desire to take any initiative. The home goes to pot, then marriage, then family.

The Slothful Person Sleeps Life Away. Proverbs 19:15, “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” Proverbs 20:13, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” Proverbs 26:14, “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” There was a certain young man from our church who went to boot camp, where a certain Drill Sergeant impressed upon him the importance of getting up out of bed. He’d scream at the recruits, “Get up boys, you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when your dead.” It can be so easy to just sleep then to face life’s challenges, obligations, opportunities.

The Slothful Person Binges on Knowledge. Acts 17:21 describes how “… all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” Ecclesiastes 12:12 says, “Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” There is a place for study, but study can also be a cover for sloth. It’s far easier to perpetually sit, read, study, watch, and consume content than to go out and be useful. Christians love to retreat into Bible studies. Pastors love to retreat into seminars/conferences. Do we really need more knowledge, or act on what know?

The Slothful Person Poisons Relationships. Proverbs 10:26 says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” The sluggard is the last person to realize they’re like vinegar, or smoke in people’s eyes! But if people are excited about sending you up the road, maybe you should ask, “Why? How can I better add value? How can I become a multiplier, a life-giver?”

The Slothful Person Destroys Society. In 1 Timothy 5:13 the Apostle Paul warns about people who “learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” The idle are the first to whine and complain. Like a cancer, they spread their misery house to house. Proverbs 26:16 says, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” The loudest, and most activist voices in culture, are those of the sluggard. Those who expect/demand the most of others, not only expect/demand the least of themselves, but imagine themselves wiser than the rest, criticizing everyone.

Proverbs 18:9, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Ronald Reagan used to say there is no better social program than a job. Isn’t it amazing how when people are busy working they have far less time to sit around being divisive?

The Slothful Person Never Succeeds. Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Proverbs 15:19, “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.” Proverbs 20:4, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.”

In summary, Galatians 6:7. God will not be mocked, a man reaps what he sows. Whenever we violate this reality (often with good will and good intentions) what is often happening is we’re entering into unsustainable contract with the wicked—a contract that says, “I sow you reap.” This is a contract God neither blesses in nature, nor among animals, nor in his kingdom. In the church, whatever we imagine “generosity” to mean, it can never mean enabling a pattern of sloth.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul says, “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” 

Second, We Need to Dismantle the Lies of Slothfulness.

People will make excuses like, “I’m Afraid. . .” In Proverbs 26:13-16, the sluggard’s ready-made excuse was, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” [ What a picture! It’s too scary to go out and live my life. There are lions roaming. That’s a better excuse then some though!] As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.”

I’ve tried to help hundreds of people out of sloth—and one thing is always true—there are layers of fears. As you peel away those excuses you quickly realize it’s not usually a matter of “I can’t” but rather, “I won’t.” One of the hardest things to say to people is, “Look there is no lion in the street… so what’s the real issue?”

People will say, “But I have no gifts, abilities, or talents…” In the parable of the Talents the master gives people different talents/abilities. To first he gives one, to second three and the third five. But everyone is given a gift, a means of adding/multiplying value. But in the parable, it’s the wicked/lazy servant who buries his gifts, is condemned, and is forced to forfeit what he does have. The other two who put their talents to work are commended and have their talents multiplied. It’s amazing how when we you use one talent, talents are multiplied.

  • People will say, “I’m Too Old.”
  • People will say, “I’m afraid if I do one thing, I’ll miss out on something better.”
  • People will say, “I’m smarter than all those working fools—I’d rather wait to use my brain then strain my back now.” Proverbs 26:16, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.”
  • People will say, “I’m a Victim. My misery is someone else’s fault.”
  • People will say, “Everyone else is taking, why shouldn’t I?”
  • People will offer spiritual excuses, “It’s not my give to serve… to give…”

If we don’t start challenging these excuses, they multiply. But here is the bottom line—Scripture offers no shelter for slothfulness.

Third, We Need to Grow in Diligence. 

I love the Proverb that invites us to consider the ant. Can you imagine anything smaller, or more inconsequential in life than an ant? How discouraged would you feel if you were a little ant? Yet that ant is so diligent.

Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Romans 12:11 says, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Of all people the Christian should be the most productive, diligent, hard-working, confident, excuse-less, responsible, value-adding people around.

We typically read Proverbs 31 on Mother’s Day—but if ever there was portrait of a diligence, its Proverbs 31. I am pretty sure the Proverbs 31 woman was a stay at home mom… It’s such an inspiring passage though!

Let me say this about diligence. There are times when all us have, and will need, to lean on others. There is nothing wrong leaning on grace and mercy and generosity of God’s people. Sometimes in our jobs, things happen. I’ve seen where people who have paid into the system their whole life (taxes, unemployment, disability) feel tremendous guilt if they need suddenly benefits. Or they feel shame and won’t reach out to the church for help. If you have paid into a system you can use that system!

But I want to take us back to Galatians 6:7. God will not be mocked; a man reaps what he sows. I believe God honors diligence and faith. As soon as possible, we need to get back to sow and reaping.

This past week, I was night fishing on Lake Springfield with a friend. The whole time we were fishing, a racoon kept working his way up/down the shoreline. Every time he heard a lure hit the water, he waded into the water, putting his little paws out, searching for food. He did this for over half an hour. I was so amazed by his diligence I resolved that I wasn’t leaving until that racoon got a fish. The problem was the fish stopped biting. So, I grabbed my shad net and threw it out in that water. That racoon was rewarded for his diligence! I think God honors such faith… if we’d but sow, God will not be mocked, he will take care of us. 

Fourth, We Need to Stop and Worship.

In Luke 10:38-42 we find this account, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” … “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Scripture Verses

John 10:10, Ephesians 2:10, Proverbs 6:6-11, Proverbs 26:13-16, Romans 12:11, Proverbs 31, Luke 10:38-42

Worship Playlist

  • Raise A Hallelujah 
  • You Say 
  • How Great is Our God
  • Glorious Day 

Study Questions


"1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters.3 He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." - Ps. 23


"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied."- Pr. 13:4

"The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back."- Pr. 21:25-26

Apply It!


Father, you know my heart. Keep my heart from coldness toward you. When I am apathetic toward you draw me close. When I an unresponsive to your call, rally me. When I am indifferent to others, negligent to my children, unloving to my spouse, prayerless, faithless, or careless toward my brothers and sisters in Christ; draw me back to you to warm and invigorate my heart. May my heart beat regularly for You and Your Kingdom purposes. 


Sloth, laziness, idleness each involve the lack of doing something good. Steadfastness is faithfully and sacrificially doing the good. What good around you do you see needs to be done. On Christ’s behalf rally yourself this week to do good deeds that God has prepared in advance for you to do. 


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