by Andy Constable
One of the biggest struggles for Christian Men is the sin of laziness. It is a difficult term to pin down because it comes out in so many different forms. The dictionary gives us characteristics of laziness, such as ‘unwilling to work or use energy’. In the New Testament laziness is defined as a failure to use the gifts that God has given us to serve his kingdom. Laziness is a by-product of selfishness where we look to serve ourselves first and foremost above anybody else. It is characterized by wasting time and being involved in activities that don’t involve sacrifice.
Jesus gives us a clear picture of laziness in the parable of the talents (Matthew 20:14-30). In this parable a master goes on a long journey and gives out a number of talents to his 3 servants. Two of the servants go away immediately and trade their talents and make more. But the third servant digs a hole and sticks his talent in the ground. The master comes home and is very pleased with the trading of the first 2 servants because they had used their time wisely. But the master is very angry with the 3rd servant and says this in verse 26:”You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” The truth is that the servant was wicked and lazy and so wasted the talent that the master had given him.
I think that this is a small picture of many men in the church. We have all been given talents – gifts that have been loaned to us by God which are to be used for His glory. But what many men are doing is wasting those gifts by being slothful. They are wasting their time. They are not spending time in God’s Word. They are not serving the church. Instead they are wasting all their time playing computer games, watching football and looking at pornography. All because they can’t be bothered to get off their backsides and serve. Men are serving their own purposes and not that of God’s.
Now a lot of the time laziness isn’t as full-blown as that of the servants. It’s a bit subtler than that. We do a little bit of ministry, or read our Bibles occasionally, or even have a full-time job. We feel like we are doing stuff during our week and so we don’t feel like we are lazy. However, I think we can identify laziness by a constant entitlement to want to avoid difficult tasks in order to do things that we enjoy. So, for instance, we feel like we are entitled to watch a film, to play our favourite computer game, or to spend time watching football on a regular basis. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy rest or even do many of these things that we like. But, if there are things that you regularly avoid so that you can have your rest time, then I think you have a problem. Once again, laziness is an avoidance of things that we don’t really want to do.
So, how can we tackle laziness? I think there are 2 things I would say to a man struggling with laziness. First, and foremost, we need to refocus on the gospel and see God’s gracious character. If we go back to our parable, it’s interesting to note the differing reactions to the masters return. The first 2 servants come and find the master with joy and receive their reward. They carry out their master’s duties faithfully because they love him! Their actions show where their hearts are. However, the third servant shows what he thinks of the master in verse 24: ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” This servant speaks badly of his master. He accuses him of being a hard man. He basically charges his owner with being unmerciful and dishonest! The servant clearly does not know or love his master. His heart is bitter, hard and deceitful. He excused his laziness with a lie about God. This is what lazy people do. They forget that God is generous, merciful and kind, even though we can see God’s generosity most gloriously in Jesus. God loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us on the cross. This is ultimate grace. If we are struggling with laziness then we need to remember the Son of God who laid down his life for us.
Secondly, a lazy man needs to cut things out that are distracting them from serving Christ. Some men need to cut off their Internet, smash their televisions and stop watching every football game that comes on the television. The writer to the Hebrews says we need to throw off every hindrance and run with perseverance the race that is before us! In other words, if something is bogging you down and is an excuse for laziness then axe it and focus on Christ.
As men we need to stop serving our own needs above others and stop looking for excuses to get away with doing the least amount possible. Rather, we should be looking for ways to use our gifts, talents and energies to serve the Lord so that when we meet with him on judgment days we will hear those precious words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”