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The Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth

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Our spiritual forefathers in the early church maintained that there were seven sins that were deadly. The were Pride, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Anger, Lust, and Gluttony. They were considered deadly because, if they are not crucified daily, they lead the soul away from God and righteousness. They were considered the root cause of all human unhappiness.

So far, we've looked at Pride, Envy, and Greed. Last week, several of you asked which of the next "deadly sins" I was going to preach on. Well, some of you made it simple for me. The Sunday I preached on greed, I had a number of you approach me and say, I don't want to have a problem with greed, so I guess I'll quit my job. So, this morning's sin de jour is sloth.

Our word for it is laziness. The primary biblical passage that speaks of sloth -- though there are many others -- is found in Proverbs:

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 bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (NIV)

The Hebrew word for sluggard occurs here and 13 other times in Proverbs. It is used nowhere else in the Old Testament. It refers to more than mere laziness. In other proverbs, the word is contrasted with uprightness and righteousness and associated with being shiftless. A slothful person, in the eyes of the Old Testament, is not only a lazy person, but also an irresponsible person who is undependable and who becomes a burden to his or her family and community/. If the slothful person continues in their ways, they may eventually engage in wicked or evil behavior. The result is personal ruin.


          1. when we think of sloth, I have no doubt that most of us immediately think of those who do not care for physical labor or work
            • ILLUS. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian of the early 20th century, once wrote; The first hour of the day belongs to God in worship, the other hours of the day belong to God in work.
          2. society will always have some segment of its citizens who do not for work, and given the choice between working and freeloading they would choose the latter
              1. for the vast majority of us, physical sloth is not a problem
          3. the most recent reports from the U.S. Government is that American worker productivity continues to increase
              1. if you are an average worker, you put in 50 hours a week at your job
              2. some of you put in far more
          4. this is how it should be


          1. have you ever wondered why we have to work?
              1. is work supposed to be a joy or is it a grim necessity?
          2. what place does work have in your life and what is your attitude toward it?
          3. in the book of 2 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul emphasized the witness of work
              1. in his first letter to these Christians, Paul had written primarily about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ
                  1. they had a lot of questions that he sought to give them answers to
              2. because some were expecting the return of Christ at any moment, they had quit their jobs and were not interested in doing anything else
                  1. the result was two-fold
                      1. they had become a physical burden to their families and others in the church who felt obligated to support them
                      2. they had become nosey busybodies peering into everyone else's business
                        • 2 Thessalonians 3:11 "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies."
          4. their decision points to a basic flaw in their attitude toward work
              1. they did not see work as being a spiritual matter
              2. nothing could be further from Biblical truth
          5. God created us to be industrious and work to be a blessing


          1. what the blessings of work you ask?
              1. the blessing of providing for you family and setting an example for your children
                  1. Paul asserts that your unwillingness to provide for the basic needs of your family is tantamount to denying the faith
                    • 1 Timothy 5:8 "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
              2. the blessing of penetrating the marketplace with a Christian witness
                  1. Jesus made it abundantly clear that Christians are to impact the world and spread their influence to every corner of society
                  2. we are to be salt and light
                  3. the church gathers on Sunday, but it scatters on Monday through Saturday
                      1. if we are salt, let us take ourselves out of the saltshaker
                      2. if we are light, let us remove the bushel basket
              3. the blessing of promoting the kingdom
                  1. each of us has a calling
                    • Ephesians 4:1 "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."
                  2. through the wages we receive because of our work, you and I have to opportunity to be good stewards by supporting evangelism and missions
                  3. doing so promotes the advancement of the kingdom in places you and I may never see, among people we may never meet this side of the Kingdom of heaven
              4. the blessing of giving to others
                • Wphesians 4:28 "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need."/
                  1. this Scriptures paints a picture of God's letting us work and prosper so that we can give our abundance to others in need
                  2. what a novel approach to work!
                    • ILLUS. After Andrew Carnegie died, the people who cleaned out his desk found a piece of paper on which he had written his life goal. It had been scrawled when he was in his 20s: "I want to spend the first half of my life accumulating as much money as I can and the second half of my life giving it away." And that's exactly what he did. Carnegie amassed a personal fortune of more than $450 million and gave it all away before he died.
          2. believes are to be examples in all things including our work ethic
              1. God's people are to be industrious when it comes to our secular work
              2. the reason is that even our secular work has a spiritual purpose behind it


    • ILLUS. The United Negro College Fund used to advertise for funds with the well-known slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
          1. one of my greatest concerns for our culture in general and the church in particular is that we have become a nation of intellectual sluggards
              1. I believe that too many Americans are gripped by intellectual sloth
                  1. students want to be spoon-fed answers
                  2. teachers are so busy trying to teach character that they no longer have time to teach critical thinking
              2. because we have become a nation of intellectual sluggards we are wasting our minds
                • ILLUS. SAT scores are on the average, 80 points lower than they were thirty years ago.
                • ILLUS. In last week's Time Magazine I saw an article reporting that in 1959 the vocabulary of an average 9th grader was 25,000 words. In 1999 the vocabulary of average 9th grader is only 10,000 words.
              3. in the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon paints a picture of wisdom going through the streets like a heralder who nobody will listen to
                • Proverbs 1:20-22 "Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: 22How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?" NIV
          2. the most damning consequence of America=s flirtation with intellectual sloth is the rank biblical illiteracy that is the result of that sloth
              1. fifty years ago, even non-Christians had an elementary knowledge of the Scriptures and biblical history
              2. today, the typical lost person is totally ignorant of bible history or bible facts and the average believers has only a cursory knowledge of those Scriptures


    • ILLUS. A recent poll of Christians reveals that 40% cannot tell you how many Apostles Jesus has, let alone name them. More than 10% of Christians said that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. A whopping 52% of Christians do not believe that the Devil is a real spiritual being. 42% of Americans in general and 28% of Christians believe that Jesus committed sins while on earth. And 35% of Christians do not believe that Jesus was resurrected. Two years ago at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY., the dean of the School of Theology asked incoming students to list the Ten Commandments. Only one out of 50 were able to list all ten. The seminary now requires all incoming students to take a course called Introduction to the Bible.
          1. the bible tells us that we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, and all of our mind/
          2. the Christians faith was never meant to be a faith devoid of thought or intellect
            • Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." KJV
            • Proverbs 9:10-11 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life." NIV
            • ILLUS. John R. Stott, one of the great preachers and scholars of our day, writes: "By our anti‑intellectualism, in which we either refuse or cannot be bothered to listen to God's Word, we may be storing up for ourselves the judgment of Almighty God.... God has constituted us thinking beings; he has treated us as such by communicating with us in words; he has renewed us in Christ and given us the mind of Christ; and he will hold us responsible for the knowledge we have."
          3. just as physical sloth can kill the body, so intellectual sloth can kill the mind
              1. the Christian who has not cultivated his mind by cultivating the mind of Christ, is a Christian who is useless to their family, their church, their community, and to the kingdom of God
              2. knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service and especially the knowledge of God and spiritual matters
                  1. if we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God's grace
                  2. knowledge is given us to be used, to lead us to higher worship, greater faith, deeper holiness, better service


          1. the reason our early spiritual forefathers considered sloth so deadly was because of the proximity of physical laziness to spiritual laziness
          2. in their writings we see that they were concerned that believers not be slothful in their secular work
          3. we also see that they were concerned that believers not be slothful in their spiritual lives


          1. Jesus said that the path of the Christian life is narrow and difficult and few are those who want to travel that road
          2. it's a life that demands that each believer, each day, take up their cross and follow Jesus
          3. there will be times in life when all of us are tempted to lay down our cross and become spiritual sluggards
              1. is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul told his readers:
                • Galatians 6:9-10 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." NIV
                  1. Christians should not become slothful in well‑doing, nor cease from the practice of love
                  2. Christians should not become slothful in the reading of the Scriptures
                  3. Christians should not become slothful in prayer
                  4. Christians should not give in to mental slothfulness that gives place to the devil
          4. our church roll is littered with the name of those believers who have become spiritual sluggards
              1. they have grown weary of prayer and fellowship and worship and bible study and ministry
          5. the answer is spiritual activity and exertion
              1. King Solomon challenges the slothful person to learn the lesson of the ant
              2. he commends the lowly ant for being industrious and taking initiative
                  1. apparently ants have no leader no commander to direct them, no overseer to inspect their work, no ruler to prod them on
                  2. yet they work better than many people under a leader
              3. ants also work in anticipation of future needs, storing and gathering while it is warm, before the winter comes
  • Slothfulness, the 100% variety, is rare. Most of us don't suffer from it. But there are different degrees of slothfulness and like every other sin, it needs to be weeded out of our lives.
  • Slothfulness is a student not caring about their studies and  remembering' at the last moment that there is homework to be done.
  • Slothfulness is a parent not caring emotional or spiritual well‑being of their child or not knowing where their kids are.
  • Slothfulness are teachers not caring about teaching and getting by on twenty‑five‑year‑old lesson plans.
  • Slothfulness are store clerks too uninterested to be courteous.
  • Slothfulness is a doctor too careless to care well.
  • Slothfulness is a Sunday School teacher preparing their lesson the Saturday night before Sunday School.
  • Slothfulness is a preacher dusting off old sermons and hoping no one remembers it was preached just a year ago.
  • Slothfulness is a Christian to busy or pre‑occupied with whatever to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Ow! Wince, wince. Do you see that slothfulness may be more of a problem in our lives than we care to admit?

No one dedicated to the cause of God ought to be idle B physicall, mentally or spiritually. In American school books of a century ago one would probably find the following poem. It is a poem that sets the tone for work in school and life. It's called  The Song of the Bee.'

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

This is the song of the bee.

His legs are of yellow;

A jolly, good fellow,

And yet a great worker is he.

In days that are sunny

He's getting his honey;

In days that are cloudy

He's making his wax;

On pinks and on lilies,

And gay daffodillies,

And columbine blossoms,

He levies a tax!

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

The sweet‑smelling clover,

He, humming, hangs over;

The scent of the roses

Makes fragrant his wings;

He never gets lazy;

From thistle and daisy,

And weeds of the meadow,

Some treasure he brings.

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

From morning's first light

Till the coming of night,

He's singing and toiling

The summer day through.

Oh! we may get weary,

And think work is dreary;

 Tis harder by far

To have nothing to do.

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