Just Plain Lazy (Proverbs 26:13)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Proverbs 26:13
I. Lockdowns and Laziness
We've heard a lot in recent weeks about the consequences of coronavirus for our health care system and the economy. But what about coronavirus consequences in regard to... laziness? A quick internet search of those two keywords yields some interesting results.
Here's one High School senior reflecting on her lockdown experience:
For me, quarantine feels like the movie “Groundhog Day”: the same old, same old, over and over again ― and it’s getting lonely. However, it’s also provided time for some much-needed... laziness...
Another headline from late March reads: “GOP Senators Fear Coronavirus Cash Will Make Americans Lazy”
One online magazine ran a satirical piece entitled, “This coronavirus has affected my motivation so much, I’m even too lazy to write this article”. Of course, there was only blank, white space underneath that title.
Finally, I found this quite by Pope Francis, who warned his hearers about living in a “fog” of sadness, sloth, and complaining: “Sloth is a poison, it is a fog that surrounds the soul and does not let it live,” he continued. “It’s also a drug, because if you taste it often, you like it. And you end up... a ‘sloth-addict.’”
How about you? Have you given much thought to the relationship between lockdowns and laziness? Even if there was no pandemic, even if there never was a pandemic, how did and how do you think about that topic? Could it be that some people haven't thought much about laziness ...because of laziness? Well, let's make the effort this morning by turning to Proverbs 26.
II. The Passage: "The Sluggard Says" (26:13)
As you arrive at Proverbs 26 in your Bible, scan down to verse 13. Look at what we find there:
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!”
Now, at first glance, a verse like this may leave some scratching their heads. But I think when we carefully consider this proverb in the context of the book, we discover it's an absolute gem.
So as we've done before, let's break this simple verse down and look at two parts of what Solomon has shared here with his son. Now, obviously, this proverb is very short. But let's first think together about...
1. The Sluggard (v. 13a)
Like the fool or the meddler, the sluggard is a familiar character in Proverbs. We meet him in fourteen different verses throughout the book. The Hebrew word here is only found in Proverbs. It comes from a verb that, not surprisingly, means to be slow; to be idle; to be slothful. So “the sluggard” is the person who is sluggish or slow when it comes to doing what needs to be done.
Now, before we dig any deeper into the picture Solomon paints in this book, let me talk for just a moment about what I'd call 'cases of mistaken identity' when it comes to the sluggard. When you find a man or woman, a young man or young woman, a boy or girl who is sluggish or slow when it comes to doing what needs to be done, you are not always in the presence of a sluggard. What looks like laziness at first glance, may in fact be something else.
For example, the issue may be physical rather than laziness. Some people (who may be hesitant to share too much) have genuine medical conditions that can often make it hard for them to do what needs to be done. In other cases, the issue could be frustration, rather than laziness. Lack of guidance, lack of resources, lack of communication can lead someone to simply become frustrated when it comes to doing what needs to be done. In those situations, addressing inaction as mere laziness would not be helpful. At other times, the issue may be fear, rather than laziness. Common insecurities or past trauma can affect a person's willingness to do what needs to be done, especially when the possibility of failure could bring, from that individual's perspective, severe consequences. In short, for some people, inaction is, in many cases, much safer than action.
Frustration, fear, or a physical issue... all of these, at first glance, can look like laziness. But again, it would be a mistake to simply address these as such. The wise man or woman uses discernment in an attempt to understand what is really happening in any given situation.
But that being said, there is certainly such a thing a genuine laziness. And that's what Solomon, that's what God, is addressing in Proverbs: someone who is... just plain lazy. So what do we learn from Proverbs about the sluggard? Well, we learn that...
Laziness avoids the basics, not simply what seems burdensome.
We read in Proverbs 26:14, 15... 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. (that last proverb is actually found earlier in the book as well, in 19:24).
We'll talk in a few minutes about how easy it is for us to justify laziness by highlighting the difficulty of this or that task. But as we just heard, Solomon isn't afraid to use a little literary exaggeration to make his point in 26:15. The sluggard, the one who is chronically slow just to get out of bed, is someone who is so lazy... [this is where a crowd might say, “How lazy is he?”]... this guy is so lazy, even getting his fork back into his mouth is too much work. Solomon's point, of course, is that laziness is very often a chronic mindset leading to a chronic lifestyle of neglect and delay and procrastination in even the little things. But Solomon also tells us that...
Laziness always lies about what is easiest, leading instead to what is always harder.
We read in Proverbs 20:4 that... The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. We also have in extended reflection 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.
Sounds like a little laziness here or there, in this or that, leads to a lot of consequences down the road. Solomon puts it even more plainly in another book... [Eccl. 10:18]... Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. The lie that laziness tells is that it is much easier just to do nothing, or to avoid whatever you don't want to do. But as these verses remind us, the consequences of such neglect simply and eventually make life much, much harder.
As the 19th century English preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “There is no fatigue so wearisome as that which comes from lack of work.” Solomon puts these consequences in stark terms in Proverbs 21:25... The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. But...
Laziness also has harmful consequences for the people around us.
Proverbs 10:26... Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. Are you the kind of person that makes life harder for those around you because you've made your life about what's easier? Does your neglect of work simply make more work for others? In 18:9, Solomon puts it bluntly... Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Let's not minimize laziness. It hurts both us and others. We also learn that...
Laziness can be easy to slip into but hard to escape.
Proverbs 19:15... Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. This reminds me of what one 19th cent. leader said on the subject... “Laziness grows on people; it begins in cobwebs and ends in iron chains.” (Thomas Fowell Buxton) Whether it's Solomon's “deep sleep” or that second writer's “iron chains”, it is so important we understand that laziness can have a powerful and painful grip on sinners like us. It isn't easily tossed aside. Finally...
Laziness stands in sad contrast to the genuine blessings of diligence.
Listen to how Solomon describes this contrast... The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. [Proverbs 13:4] And again.... The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway. [Prov. 15:19]
The diligent person is the person who is focused on and committed to doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done... regardless of the effort required. There are so many important things to accomplish for which there just isn't an 'easy way.' Some of the very best things in this life are only obtained by determination and hard work? Yes, this can involve struggle and risk. But even if you give it time, laziness will never lead us to that which only diligence can produce.
2. The 'Lion' (v. 13b)
But now having looked at so many verses about the “sluggard”, let's return to our main verse, Proverbs 26:13... The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!”
So knowing what we know about the sluggard, why in the world is he or she now talking about a lion in the road or in the street? Well, listen to an earlier version of this same proverb. It can be found in 22:13... The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
Do you understand the point Solomon is making? The lazy man or woman, young man or young woman, boy or girl, always has an excuse for their inaction. No matter how unlikely or outlandish the reasoning, they deceives themselves in order to justify their neglect. As the commentator Matthew Henry expressed it, “Many frighten themselves from real duties by imaginary difficulties.” Solomon talks about this self-deception in 26:16... The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
III. Laziness and Lordship
So if, as we've seen, laziness lies and the sluggard is prone to willful self-deception, what can we do for the sluggard in the mirror? Well, keep in mind what I said just moments ago: “The diligent person is the person who is focused on and committed to doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done... regardless of the effort required.”
Brothers and sister, friends, all of us can struggle with laziness because all of us can 'fast and loose' with the truth... the truth regarding both necessity and time. Turn over to Ephesians 5. Please listen carefully to the help that God gives us through Paul in verses 15-17...
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is [or as Paul expressed it in v. 10, try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.]
Did you hear what Paul tells us there about necessity and time? Necessity in your life must be defined first and foremost by God. There are things you have told yourself, “I need” or “I need to do”, about which God wants to tell you this morning, “you don't need that”. Similarly, there are, according to God, things that need to be done, that you are not doing. If you're being honest with yourself, is your life about “the will of the Lord” or 'the will of you'? About “what is pleasing to the Lord” or about 'what is pleasing to me'?
Ultimately, laziness is an issue of lordship. It serves only self, while bowing before idols of comfort and ease. But in the end, those false gods give us just the opposite.
But when we come to understand and value (v. 10) “what is pleasing to the Lord”, we recognize that time is a precious gift, one that is foolish to waste. Therefore, wisdom is (v. 16) “making the best use of the time”, not squandering it in idleness.
Think about your own life this morning. In what areas is there inaction, when God has called you to action? In what areas have you become lazy, instead of being led by Christ? Don't trade an idol of laziness for an idol of busyness or worldly achievement. God is calling you this morning to be diligent for Jesus, just as Jesus was diligent for you.
You see, the only true antidote to laziness is a heart motivated by God's love. Jesus Christ was the most diligent person to ever walk the earth. When it came to God's glory and our desperate need for forgiveness and new life, he was focused on and committed to doing what needed to be done, when it needed to be done... regardless of the effort required... regardless of the sacrifice. Listen to how the author Hebrews calls us to diligence in light of Christ's diligence...
...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Friends, if Christ would have been lazy, we would have been lost. But praise God that his incomparable love can motivate even the laziest sinner! The Good News about Jesus is not about what you can do. It's about Jesus already did. But that shouldn't tempt us to spiritual laziness. In light of what Jesus did, we are still called to the spiritual exertion of repentance and faith. Therefore, acknowledge your laziness, your slothfulness, your idleness, your inaction this morning. Turn your heart away from idols of comfort and ease and receive the grace and truth of God in Jesus. If you've done that, then let's serve him diligently this day, this week, with a heart full of love and gratitude.