What Is Sloth, and Is It Sinful?

Clarence L. Haynes Jr.

sloth sin Monday, September 21, 2020

“Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15).

The sloth or slothful person. Just the mere thought of that word creates an image that even if you don’t know what it is, you certainly don’t want to be called that. If you are not familiar with this word, to be slothful means to be lazy.

Throughout the Bible, God seems to have a problem with slothful people. However, does this make sloth rise to the level of sin? This is the question we want to answer today: is sloth a sin? In essence, we are going to put sloth to the test and answer some important questions about it.

To be clear and upfront, I believe that sloth is a sin. Yet you can’t just stop there. It’s not enough to know or believe it is a sin. It is just as important to know why it is a sin. In this case, the what and the why are equally important. To top it off because God has a problem with it, then it makes sense for you to know what sloth or slothfulness really is. Let’s take a closer look.

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sloth sin

What Is Sloth?

The word used in Proverbs 19:15 for slothfulness means laziness, sluggishness, or indolence which is the avoidance of activity or exertion. The slothful person is one who not only doesn’t want to work but is one who avoids it as well. This person may even go out of their way to avoid doing work.

I guess in modern English someone might just call this person a “lazy bum” but I don’t know how spiritual that sounds. Whichever definition of the word you use, they are all bad, especially when you apply them to a specific person. 

Is Sloth a Sin?

I think you would agree with me that a lazy person poses a problem, but I don’t know if you ever stop to think why. It’s like one of those unwritten things you know you don’t like but you can’t pinpoint the exact reason why. Thankfully the Bible helps us out. It not only answers the question of whether sloth is a sin, but it gives us some good reasons why. Consider these verses that talk about slothfulness:

“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper” (Proverbs 13:4).

“Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks” (Ecclesiastes 10:18).

“Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work” (Proverbs 21:25).

“The one who is too lazy to look for work is the same one who wastes his life away” (Proverbs 18:9).

“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4).

“The lazy man buries his hand in the [food] dish, But will not even bring it to his mouth again” (Proverbs 19:24).

The reason why being slothful is a sin is because slothfulness is equated to waste. The waste amounts to wasted ability, wasted resources, and wasted time. When you add all of this up it equates to a wasted life and this is the real problem with slothfulness.

The slothful person will never become everything that God wants them to be, not because God can’t do it but because they won’t put in the effort. As wonderful and powerful as God is, he will not override your desire. You must do the work necessary to be the person God wants you to be and to do what God wants you to do. There are no shortcuts.

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sloth sin

God’s Declaration on Laziness

Probably the best example of God’s attitude towards slothfulness and laziness is seen in the parable of the talents. When you read this parable, there is no way you can walk away from this without knowing that sloth is a sin.

In this parable told in Matthew 25:14-30, three men are given bags of gold or talents of money. Two of them are wise and use the time to multiply their money. However, the third man hid his in the ground and did nothing else with it. This third man man is the sloth in the story and he is proof as to why you don’t want to be slothful. When the master returns, he is expecting a return on his money, which the first two men give him. However, the third man gives his master nothing but his money back. Notice the response of the master towards this man:

“His master replied, ‘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” (Matthew 25:26-27).

Notice the harsh nature of the words applied to this servant: he is called wicked and lazy. This is exactly how God sees the slothful person, they are wicked and lazy. I think you would agree that clearly, sloth is a sin.

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sloth sin

What Is the Difference between Rest and Laziness?

After looking at the response in Matthew 25 you might be wondering does this mean you have to work all the time and never rest? The answer is yes and no. Before I clarify let’s make a distinction between rest and laziness.

The working person rests from their labor. The lazy person rests all the time and never does any work. I think you can see the difference. In fact, rest is something that was established from the beginning. Remember what God did after he finished creating the heavens and the earth.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2).

What you see is that rest is a Godly and biblical principle. However, rest comes after the work is completed. So yes, you should work all the time as long as you are able. By the way I am not saying keep working and never retire. I am saying always remain productive. Even when you finish “working” you can always contribute. I honestly believe as long as you are alive on this earth God has a purpose and plan for your life. There is something he has for you to do.

On the no side of this answer, you need to rest after completing your work. You need daily rest – sleep – and I believe it’s a good idea to rest at least one day per week from all work. Actually, it’s not my idea, it’s God’s so it makes sense to follow.

The real wisdom is in finding the balance between work and rest. The lazy person is all rest and no work, which is not what God intended. This is the sloth that is sin. On the flipside, God did not create you to be all work and no rest, this is not healthy and can lead to problems in other areas of your life. You should work hard and rest hard and doing this in the right proportion is what will allow you to stay productive.  

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sloth sin

How Can You Guard against Laziness?

Because sloth is a sin how do you guard against this creeping into your life? My answer is a simple one and one you may not expect: find your purpose. When you know why you were created and you know you are in the place doing what God desires you to do, you get motivated to work.

Many times the threat of laziness creeps in when you are engaged in activities that don’t excite or motivate you. This usually happens when you work outside of your calling or gifting. However, when you discover the place God has for you it is amazing how much energy and enthusiasm you will bring into that work. It’s hard to become lazy because you are driven by something greater. In Philippians, Paul gives us an example of this purpose that drives his life.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

Truly understanding your purpose and what you are striving for can keep you motivated and help you guard against laziness. I love what Paul said right after these verses:

“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things” (Philippians 3:15).

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sloth sin

Work Diligently for the Kingdom

We started by asking the question is sloth a sin, which we know the answer is yes. I want to leave you with one final thought. The world we are living in today requires a commitment to the work of the gospel like never before. Whatever position you are in, God is looking for people who will shine the light of Christ. This can be in your home, your community, and your place of work. Let’s make a commitment to be diligent with the work of our hands and also be diligent with the work of the kingdom. Both are necessary. Being diligent in the way you work will bring glory and honor to the name of the Lord, which at the end of the day is what matters most.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com

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