The first day of school. Not too long ago, it felt really far away. When we took the last sip of last year’s cup, we had fourteen beautiful weeks to fill with fun and exciting things. At the start, feasting on the bountiful buffet we call “Summer” tasted some kind of amazing. But, you know what?
Fourteen weeks is too much summer for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy sleeping in and having the freedom to see the new Jason Bourne movie with my husband at a moment’s notice. I appreciate the fact that I can have spontaneous coffee dates with friends. I definitely bask in the abundant time to read! What I don’t enjoy is my besetting sin that our friend “Summer” likes to point out: I am lazy.
I’ve noticed that this laziness is totally in my head. Rather, it’s totally in my heart. My heart decided to carve itself a little idol out of ease and comfort. Do you know how idols react when threatened with extinction? In my case, this idol knows it will have trouble surviving once the school year starts and every minute of my day is planned. And it is raging against the machine, I tell you.
My flesh is screaming at me to avoid the work I need to do and to enjoy a little more entertainment, instead. It cries, “It’s summer! You have time to watch Netflix! Another episode of Gilmore Girls won’t hurt . . .” Generally, this is true. I do have time to watch Netflix. And one more episode probably won’t hurt. But when one turns into a handful (and an entire afternoon), it’s time to evaluate some things.
In my mind, I know factually that the way to slay an idol is with the Word of God. So I turned there to see what it says about slothfulness. (Irony: For their final composition of last year, I had my students write a chreia/maxim essay on Proverbs 6:6. Perhaps I should have read them more closely.) Let’s start with that verse in context.
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
I probably don’t even need to comment on this, because the application is not veiled, even a little bit. This tiny ant doesn’t need a master to direct her. She does what she needs to do, when she needs to do it. There is reward in her diligence. I feel a little pinch in my conscience.
Next: Speaking of an “excellent wife,” King Lemuel says that
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27)
I think this one hurts the most, in terms of conviction. My laziness has definitely caused the ways of my household to be neglected because, not surprisingly, I have been eating that bread of idleness. It tastes delicious, doesn’t it, that bread? At least at first. You feel so rested, until you feel exhausted from doing nothing. (That’s a weird conundrum to me. It’s like laziness has an actual, physical weight to it.) You feel so entertained, until you’re bored because your brain has been stagnant for hours on end. If you turn over that bread that looks baked to golden perfection, you’ll find mold growing on the other side. (Yuck.) Let’s agree not to snack on that loaf.
I could carry on with additional passages to prove my point, but I’m already sufficiently convicted and feeling like I need some hope. This idol of ease and comfort is hard to slay. I know, because, so far, I’ve only been able to slay it temporarily. Then, a break from school comes, and it rears its ugly little head again. (Hint: That means it wasn’t actually slain, but lacked prominence.) My favorite apostle, Paul, writes to the Corinthians,
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
It is in Christ that I can conquer this sin of slothfulness. Will there be a battle? Of course. Paul understood this well.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
Again, it is Christ that delivers our flesh from sinning. Thanks be to God, indeed! Check out this measure of grace:
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:13-14)
I am not alone in this battle in two ways. One, I’m not the only person in the world battling laziness. It is common. Two, we can call on the Spirit, the Helper sent by Jesus, to escape temptation and flee idolatry. In Christ, we are enabled to resist sin. Amazing! Will we stumble sometimes? (I may as well ask, “Are we human?”)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
We can conquer sin, and we need not carry around a suitcase full of guilt on the occasion we stumble. A few years ago, I heard R.C. Sproul talk about a refusal to believe that God has forgiven you for a particular sin. I was extremely convicted by this quote:
If the Lord says that we have been forgiven in Jesus our Savior, we have no right to question Him. In fact, it is a sin to doubt God’s promises, including His promise to forgive.
I return to this entire devotional from time to time, especially if I am wrestling a particularly strong sin. Since the forgiveness of God isn’t necessarily a tangible thing, it can be challenging to move forward in the belief that I am, in fact, forgiven. But I am, definitively, and I need to move beyond my pity party and get on with the business of bringing deserved glory to the Lord!
(To be clear: I’m not advocating “grace abuse” here. We certainly can’t live frivolously in all areas of life and presume upon God’s grace. The Spirit empowers us to obey the law that is written on our hearts . . . not ignore it, all the while letting our hearts be hardened.)
To close, I’d like to leave you with this quote by John Piper. I think it is a good counter to what laziness really is: a belief that my satisfaction in the here and now is greater than what we’ll have in eternity with the Lord, and the willingness to ignore godly pursuits to achieve it.
Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.
Soli Deo gloria,
P.S. — I’m instituting a “no Gilmore Girls” policy until the new episodes come out in November . . .step one in my Lazy Bum Recovery Program. 🙂