The Signs of a Sluggard

Shining a Light on This Deceptive Sin

I taught some college students earlier this summer about the sin of sluggishness. I did this by going through the book of Proverbs and pointing out certain signs of a sluggard so that we, as Christians, can better determine whether we have fallen pray to the sin of laziness.

In this teaching, I separated the signs of a sluggard into two categories. The signs of a secular sluggard and the signs of a spiritual sluggard. The reason I did this is because it is possible to be a secular sluggard without being a spiritual sluggard. For example, when I was an infant in Christ, I was plowing through Scripture, evangelizing, going to Bible studies, and reading books. However, my theology and my faith had not matured to the point where I saw the importance of glorifying God in my “secular activities” like school work, baseball, weed eating ditches, etc. So, I was diligently doing the overt spiritual things, but I was a sluggard in common, everyday activities. 

Also, it is possible to be a sluggard in spiritual things but to be diligent in secular things. There are many people who are driven, work hard, and are highly successful in the common, everyday activities like schooling, vocation, working out, keeping up the yard, etc. However, these same people are sluggards in regards to overtly spiritual things like serving in the church, reading the Bible, discipling somebody, prayer, putting sin to death, pursuing righteousness, etc. 

So, with this blog I will attempt to do the same thing I did with the college students earlier this summer. I am going to point out the signs of both the secular sluggard and the spiritual sluggard seeking to bring this deceptive sin to light so that we can repent of it, put it to death, and pursue diligent labor for the Lord in the whole of life. This will lead us to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a twisted and idle generation.

Signs of a Secular Sluggard

First, a secular sluggard has trouble starting his work.

They look at very important tasks and consistently put them off for the sake of their own comfort and leisure. So, they know that they ought to get started on a specific task. Other people are aware that they ought to get started. Yet, it is much more pleasing to them personally to rest, watch television, listen to music, play video games, etc. This is exactly what’s being communicated in 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. 

This sluggard knows that he ought to get out and take care of his vineyard, uprooting the weeds, and rebuilding the broken-down walls, but the sluggard is more concerned about sleep. He doesn’t want to get up and go to work because present rest seems far more pleasing to him.

And you also have Proverbs 21:25:

The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 

So, the sluggard has desires just like everyone else, yet he refuses to labor to get to the point where he can satisfy his desires! 

At this point, It is important to note that the sluggard is also the person that has a really important task to do (let’s say write a paper). Yet, because they do not want to put forth the hard work of writing the paper, they assuage their consciences by becoming busybodies doing menial task that are not nearly as significant (checking email, washing dishes, cleaning the car, etc.). 

So, the sluggard is not necessarily just resting while he puts off work. The sluggard could also be busy doing other things while he puts off the main thing because the main thing is the most difficult thing! I see this type of laziness all too often in my own life. Since I am so task oriented, I am always consistently doing something. However, my sluggishness is evident in the fact that I am not always doing the task that I ought to be doing! 

Alright, so that’s the first sign of a sluggard. He has a hard time starting the work that he knows he ought to be starting!

Secondly, since the sluggard has trouble starting work, he is prone to makes excuses so that he doesn’t have to start work.

This is what the Proverbs are communicating when they say:

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” Proverbs 22:13 

The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” Proverbs 26:13 

So this sluggard is saying that he will not go outside to work because there is a lion in the streets that will kill him. First off, you don’t really come across a lion in a city street! The street was a place of commerce, people, markets, city life, etc. The sluggard knows this, however, because he refuses to start work, he makes excuses to justify his laziness. Charles Bridges said:

 The sluggard always has his excuses ready to shift off any work that requires exertion. 

This makes me think about the father that gets off work and his family is waiting for him at home. When he gets home, he plops down on the chair to watch television rather than spending time with his wife and children because, “he is too tired from a long day of work.” And that’s really just an excuse he uses to keep him from doing what is most important (spending quality time investing in his wife and children). So, you may be a sluggard if you find yourself consistently making excuses about something that you know you ought to do.

Thirdly, when the sluggard actually starts to work, he has a hard time doing his work well.

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. Proverbs 10:26

You see, vinegar to the teeth is a very unpleasant thing, and smoke in the eyes makes the eyes aggravated and agitated. So the proverb is teaching that those who hire a sluggard will be disappointed, agitated, and provoked. The reason for this is because a sluggard does not work hard. He simply seeks to get through the day without causing himself to much strain, weariness, or anything along those lines. 

Also, a boss can never rest when a sluggard is at work. He is always concerned. He is always worried that the sluggard won’t be doing what he is supposed to be doing, or that he won’t be doing something as well as he ought to be doing it! So, you may be a sluggard if you are at work but are never doing what you ought to be doing, or are not doing something to the caliber you ought to be doing it!

Fourthly, though the sluggard may start a task, he rarely ever finishes it.

This is why the Proverbs say:

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth. Proverbs 19:24

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. Proverbs 26:15

So, the idea behind these Proverbs is that the sluggard leaves things incomplete. He places his hand in a dish to get something to eat but will not finish by bringing his hand back to his mouth to enjoy it (that is a pretty pathetic sight isn’t)?! 

A sluggard simply does not persevere. He starts things without the work ethic and drive to finish them! He has ideas, dreams, cravings, and desires that he sets about to do, but he never finishes them! So, practically, you may be sluggard if you find yourself always beginning tasks but never finishing them.

Fifthly, the sluggard craves sleep to the detriment of what is important.

The proverb says:

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 6:9-11

The sluggard is consistently seen as one who sleeps when he ought to be doing something else! So, you may be a sluggard if you find yourself putting off important things for the sake of sleep, rest, and comfort.

Lastly, the sluggard always wants to reap what he did not sow!

The writer of Proverbs writes:

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4

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

So, the sluggard will not plow in the winter because it is too cold for him. However, he is eager to go out and reap during harvest time expecting to find something. The sluggard craves what the diligent have, however, they have nothing because they are not diligent themselves!

So, the sluggard wants a good grade on their paper or final, but they don’t put forth the effort to receive it! They want a raise at work, but they are not willing work hard enough to get the boss’s attention. They want scholarships in order to go college, but they are not willing to write and submit hard papers in order to get them. The sluggard wants to save money, but they are too lazy to maintain a budget. The sluggard simply does not like working and will not work, yet they consistently crave and desire the hard workers harvest! So, you may be a sluggard if you are always desiring to reap what you did not sow.

These are the signs of a worldly sluggard. Now, we are going to look at the signs of a spiritual sluggard. I will use the same signs but direct them towards spiritual ends!

Signs of a Spiritual Sluggard

First, the spiritual sluggard has a hard time starting his spiritual work.

Let’s go back to 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. Proverbs 24:30-34

So, the sluggard put off working in the vineyard, uprooting weeds, and fixing the stone wall because he wanted to sleep and rest a little longer. Just think about this spiritually. You have set out on a journey of following Christ. He has redeemed you. He has saved you. He has given you peace with God. And as your Lord, he also gives you commands. 

I mean, Christ knows that your mind has been trained up by the world so he wants you to get in the Scriptures and prayer so that your mind can be renewed. Christ knows that Satan is roaming around seeking someone to devour so he tells you to put on the whole armor of God. He also knows that you have sin in your life that will destroy you, so he tells you to put sin to death by the power of the Spirit of God! And he knows that your days are short and that your eternity will be benefitted from good fruitful labor here, so Christ commands you to, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Yet, you know that this sounds like work. You know that to do these things is going to take a lot of striving and effort. You know that to take some of these commands seriously would mean that you would have to give up on some of the comforts of this life. If you really sought to put that particular sin to death, you might need to end that relationship you are in that is so ungodly. And you know that if you really wanted to have a renewed mind then you would have to consistently read the Scripture! 

This is difficult, tasking stuff. So, you say that you will do it some other time, all the while, you let your vineyard remain messed up, sprouting with weeds, with a broken-down wall.

Thus, you may be a spiritual sluggard if you know you ought to be about the Lord’s work, but you are spending these early years of your life putting it off because it would infringe on the comforts, ease, and dreams you have now. And you may be a sluggard if you know the good you ought to do, serve more in the church, evangelize, etc., but you do not do it because you want to enjoy the particular season of life you are in (teenage years, college years, first years married, retirement, etc.). 

This is the downfall of so many young people. Not just college students. . . .young people in general. They let themselves get destroyed spiritually while they are young because they are enslaved to the comforts of this world to such an extent that they neglect the things of God.

Secondly, since the spiritual sluggard has a hard time starting his spiritual work, he makes excuses so that he doesn’t have to.

So, think back to the Proverbs of the Sluggard saying he is not going outside because he will be devoured by a lion! Remember, he was simply making excuses. This is seen in the spiritual sluggard as well. 

For example, the spiritual sluggard knows that he ought to go to church on Sunday morning so that he can be around brothers and sisters in Christ and also listen to the word taught and preached. However, they tell themselves and others that they had a rough night studying, went to bed late, and have a lot of work to do on Monday.

Or, they know that they ought to be fellowshipping with other believers, but they keep making excuses saying that Christians are hypocrites! 

I see this in my own life regarding family worship. Kahlie and I used to consistently do family worship (where we pray for one another, read the Bible, and then discuss it). Now, we don’t do it nearly as often. I will say it is because our schedules conflict, but that is really just an excuse. Rather, I have simply just been a spiritual sluggard in this area of life.

So, the spiritual sluggard shrinks from every work that requires effort and faith by making excuses that don’t hold their weight!

Thirdly, when the spiritual sluggard starts his work, he has a hard time doing it well.

Remember Proverbs 10:26:

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. Proverbs 10:26

This was talking about the sluggard that doesn’t do his work well, therefore, he is a nuisance to his boss. And think about this spiritually. The spiritual sluggard is one who always has a desire to start something that would be beneficial for his soul, but since it is so incredibly difficult, they begin to half do it.

Think about prayer. You get zealous to pray because you know that it is so important. Then, as you pray in the mornings for about 6 days straight, you begin to simply go through the motions because true, genuine prayer is very difficult.

Also, the spiritual sluggard may simply do something because he knows that it is commanded of him. And, as he does it, he doesn’t bother doing it to the glory of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Rather, he simply just does it knowing that it is his duty without regard for the quality of the work. So, the spiritual sluggard has a tendency to do the right thing in a halfhearted way that ultimately doesn’t glorify God, benefit neighbor, or benefit himself.

Regarding this, Charles Bridges makes a comment equating the displeasure of an earthy master towards a worldly sluggard to the displeasure of our heavenly master towards a spiritual sluggard saying: 

Does then the sluggard disappoint and provoke his earthly master? See that we be not such sluggards to our heavenly Master.

And that is tough isn’t it? If earthly masters are so disappointed at the sluggard, why would we be a sluggard to our heavenly master?! So, you may be a spiritual sluggard if you are doing things you ought to be doing, but you have no concern for doing them well.

Fourthly, though the spiritual sluggard may start something beneficial, he has a hard time finishing it.

This is in reference to the proverbs talking about how the sluggard places his hand in a dish but doesn’t even bring it back out! It’s like the sluggard is so lazy that he can’t persevere in accomplishing something that would actually be beneficial for him. And think about this spiritually.

This is the person that begins every religious duty as a burdensome task, and since it is burdensome, they do not persevere in doing it. Sure, they make all these resolutions and then set out to do them. Yet they quit in the midst of them because they are focusing on ease rather than the health of their soul. 

So, they make an asserted effort to read their Bible more, study theology, begin discipling somebody, evangelize more, consistently attend church, but then they realize how much time and exertion all this will take so they quit doing it all. Thus, you may be a spiritual sluggard if you have a hard time finishing your spiritual labor.

Fifthly, the spiritual sluggard craves sleep to the detriment of what is most important.


This comes from the Proverbs talking about how the sluggard sleeps and slumbers while he ought to be laboring which leads people to ask him, “How long, O Sluggard, will you sleep.” So sleep often begin to take precedence in the spiritual sluggard’s life. 

Now, I spend half of my time telling college students they don’t get enough sleep while I spend the other half of my time telling them they sleep too much. So, let me put it like this. . . .sleep is a means to an end. It is there to help us rest so that we can zealously labor for the Lord the next day. 

However, a lot of people make sleeping an end in itself, therefore, they have a hard time getting out of bed to set about doing the Lord’s work. This is the spiritual sluggard. So, you may be a spiritual sluggard if you crave sleep as an end in itself to the detriment of labor for the Lord.

Lastly, the spiritual sluggard always wants to reap what he did not sow.

Remember the two proverbs that read:

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4

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

Well, let’s apply this spiritually. The spiritual sluggard knows that the pursuit of Christ in godliness, holiness, righteousness, and heavenly rewards is incredibly difficult. And since they don’t want to put forth that effort, they choose not to do it. 

However, when they are five years into their walk with Christ and they run across a younger person that has more knowledge and zeal than they do, they want to be like them. They begin to wonder why they aren’t as holy or as fruitful as that younger individual. All the while, they simply didn’t put forth the work that the younger person did!

So, the spiritual sluggard craves for more knowledge of the Bible, but they don’t do anything to attain it. The spiritual sluggard craves to be rid of certain sins, but they don’t do anything to quit grieving the Spirit of God. Regarding this, Charles Bridges said:

The sluggard desires the gain of diligence, without the diligence that gains. He would be wise without study, and rich without labor. His religion is the same heartless character. He desires to overcome his bad habits, to enjoy the happiness of God’s people. So far well. Desires are a part of religion. There can be no attainment without them. Yet the sluggard hath nothing, because it is desire without effort! 

He would fain go to heaven, if a morning dream would carry him there. He would gladly be a Christian, if it cost him no trouble.

So, you may be a spiritual sluggard if you always find yourself desiring the spiritual gifts or holiness of other people all the while you never do anything to mature in those areas yourself.

Conclusion


These are the signs of both the worldly sluggard and the spiritual sluggard. To think through these passages will not only help us to repent of this sin, but it will also help us to pursue righteousness.

As I was preparing to publish this, I had a friend of mine proof it. While he gave me feed back on grammar (which I always need because I am from a dirt road in Alabama and really only cared about how far I could hit a baseball for the first 20 years of my life), he also counseled me to place more of the gospel in here.

This blog (originally a teaching) was intended to do heart work. It was to probe the heart in order to bring the sin of sluggishness to light. However, in the midst of this, being made aware of this sin, we must understand that, as Christians, we have a glorious Savior who has brought about forgiveness of sins. . . .even the sin of laziness.

Seriously, Christ, in speaking to a bunch of religious leaders about the Sabbath day, said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). Thus, Jesus worked on the Sabbath in order to reverse the devastating effects of the curse and to forgive people of their sins. 

Also, Jesus set out to accomplish the work of our salvation by His substitutionary death on the cross. And, unlike a sluggard, he carried out this work all the way to completion. Thus, he was able to cry out, “It is finished,” knowing that He accomplished the work he set out to do, dying as a ransom for poor sluggards like you and me.

So, if you are a Christian and you have seen the sin of sluggishness rear its head in your life time and time again, do not be in despair. You have a Savior who died as a sufficient substitute for sluggards like you and me. And take hope! Christ bore our sin of sluggishness on that tree so that we might be forgiven of the sin of sluggishness, be given the powerful Spirit of Almighty God, so that we, as blood bought and Spirit empowered Christians, can put sluggishness to death in order to live out a life devoted to diligent labor for Christ’s name sake.

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