“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5-7).
Jesus came to earth to work. He modeled a balanced life. Time with His Father was a priority. He worked performing miracles and teaching, fostered relationships with friends, and took time to rest. Laziness is an aversion to work, slowing our pace and productivity. “Laziness is not the passivity it pretends to be,” writes Paul Maxwell for Desiring God, “It is active obedience to something other than Jesus Christ.”
A balanced life includes Sabbath rest or room to breathe. But Sabbath is resting with the intent on surrendering our efforts to God, not in setting goals to sit down and be idle. When we’re doing the work of the Lord, His balance produces joy both while we work and while we rest, wasting no purpose for any of it.
What Is Laziness and Why Is it a Sin?
“Jesus knew of laziness’s dangers,” writes David Chadwick. “In the parable of the talents, he condemned the servant who buried his talent. He called him ‘wicked and lazy.’ His talent was taken from him and given to another.” To be lazy is Biblical idleness defined. Laziness is often associated with sloth and being a sluggard. Tony Reinke of Desiring God describes the difference as “lazy busy: a full schedule endured in a spiritual haze, begrudging interruptions, resenting needy people, and driven by a craving for the next comfort.”
Sluggish describes the slacker. They consistently yield half-efforts, or cling to someone else’s. Laziness is a life of loafing. It is a lack of effort and a disengagement in developing the skills God has given. Jesus literally told us to “go” speak the Gospel and to love God and others. The Message paraphrase of Romans 12:11 reads, “Do not slack in your faithfulness and hard work. Let your spirit be on fire, bubbling up and boiling over, as you serve the Lord.”
Laziness is a sin because it, like all other sin, separates us from God. Work is built into His character, and we, created in His image, are created to work. When we sit idle, we shrink from His presence, never His desire or intent. He wants to do more than we can imagine or ask for through us, but we have to be willing work with Him.
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What Does the Bible Say about Laziness?
God went to work in creating the world and everything in it, including us. He tasked the first man and woman to take care of it. Jesus commanded us to love God above all else and love our neighbor. We’re meant to do things on this earth for the glory of God.
The book of Proverbs commonly addresses issues like laziness in a cause/effect format. For instance, it instructs that those who don’t go to work don’t get paid. As a result, they don’t have money, and thus they don’t eat. The concept is easily relatable to modern day life.
Jesus communicated His thoughts on laziness through the Parable of the bags of gold in Matthew 25:14-29. In it, Jesus tells of three servants who were entrusted with a piece of their master’s fortune. The first servant doubled the money, and the second increased his share, as well. The third, lazy servant, “went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (v. 18). The master was infuriated and called him a wicked, lazy servant. “He saw no reason to put that resource to work,” writes Anne Rathbone Bradley for the Gospel Coalition, “despite the intent of his master.”
The original Greek language – in which the New Testament is written – translates laziness as wicked, annoyance, hardship; causing pain and trouble; bad. “The word is used in the nominative case in Matthew 6:13,” denotes The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon. “This usually denotes a title in the Greek. Hence Christ is saying, deliver us from ‘The Evil,’ and is probably referring to Satan.” That’s a pretty strong word association for a parable where Christ is speaking about laziness, to mention Satan.
It’s clear the Bible says laziness is evil! It’s deceitful and enticing, and in the servant’s case it is spurred on by fear of what his master might do. Laziness in this case is influenced by the “what if’s.” Laziness can stagnate the gifts God has given us.
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Bible Verses about Being Lazy
1. "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor” (Proverbs 12:24).
2. “Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry” (Proverbs 19:15).
3. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
4. “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks” (Ecclesiastes 10:18).
5, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
6. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
7. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).
8. “A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth” (Proverbs 26:15).
9. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
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Warning Signs of a Lazy Life
Boredom, procrastination and abandoned projects are obvious signs of laziness. But what about the more subtle ways this sin creeps in to shut down our productivity? Undisciplined sleep habits, and pride that keeps us from considering constructive criticism, can be signs of a lazy life. “Laziness is not rest;” wrote Jared Wilson for the Gospel Coalition, “this is why there is no joy in it. But when Jesus sets us free, he really sets us free- free to work, free to love, free to rest- with happiness and delight, awe and wonder, fulfillment and satisfaction.”
Kevin DeYoung, in a guest post for The Gospel Coalition titled, “Proverbs on Laziness,” recounted: “John Piper famously challenges the American dream of retiring early and seeing the rest of life as one uninterrupted vacation on the Florida beaches. When God calls us to give an account for the last 20 years of our lives, our massive seashell collection wont’s seem very impressive.” Is our end goal to sit down and be served, or to keep finding others to love, serve and share the Gospel with?
It’s important not to confuse contentment in Christ with complacency. “Real contentment is not being satisfied with what you have or where you are in life. It is working diligently to glorify God, serve the common good, and further the kingdom of God in everything we do,” writes Anne Rathbone Bradley in her article “How to Be Content But Not Complacent.”
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5 Ways to Turn Your Laziness into Productivity for God
1. Take Care of Your Physical Body
“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined” (Titus 1:8).
The missions pastor at my church often reminds us that we must meet the physical needs of the people we are trying to reach before they are able to digest the gospel truth. If our physical bodies are worn down and unhealthy, we are prime targets for laziness to take root. Keeping doctor’s appointments, eating healthy, and living an active lifestyle are all important factors in the fight against laziness. “Many things in the Christian life that we perceive as spiritual shortcomings are, in fact, physically related,” writes Pastor John Piper.
2. Set and Stick to Some Good Habits
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
The pursuit of holiness requires hard work and discipline. Good habits keep laziness at bay like an alarm clock prevent oversleeping. We can put simple, God-led guards over our hearts each day to protect us from falling into a lazy state of mind. “Get a robust, good, and positive theology of work. Realize that God put us on the planet to be co-makers, co-creators, and co-workers with him,” preached Pastor John Piper in his sermon “How to Fight Laziness.” Resist the temptation to buy into the philosophy that all work is toil and torture. We are made in the image of the Creator, to create!
“Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).
“A worshipless heart,” Jared Wilson observed of laziness, “is a joyless heart. The diagnosis is the same for the bored as for the lazy: a kind of sadness. And the prescription is the same for the bored as for the lazy: rejoice in the Lord.” As gratitude mends our grumbling and comparison, worship wakes us up from our laziness. God’s creation surrounds us, but so often we rush through the day instead of pausing to be noticers. When we take time to savor Jesus’ work in our lives, our hearts naturally stir. Marshal Segal wrote in “We Yawn Because We Forget,” “We yawn before Christ because we do not give ourselves time to wonder.”
4. Live at Peace with Others
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
We can love Jesus with all our hearts, but we are not Him. Living at peace with everyone is an impossibility on this earth, but we can “make every effort” to live in peace and leave the rest in His capable hands. Unforgiveness, or disparaging opinions, can swallow us into the black hole of isolation. It can stomp the sense of community out of our lives. We weren’t meant to do life alone, but rifts can cause us to sit in isolation, lacking accountability and encouragement. When we continue to embrace and press into the people God places in our lives despite imperfect conditions, we have a built-in guard against laziness.
5. Keep Moving Forward
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Look back only to move forward. Christ died so we could live life “to the full.” We will continue to climb the ladder of our faith until the day we embrace Jesus in heaven. The work He’s purposed each of us to do here is ever fully completed until He calls us home. “Do not fall into the trap of laziness and apathy;” writes Erik Raymond, “comfort is a deadly compass. It will lie to you just to protect you.”
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How Are Christians Called to Live?
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
We are called to live holy, disciplined lives full of love and compassion for the people God has placed around us. The purpose of our lives is to join in the work of our Father in Heaven through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us as a result of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Saved from the consequence of our sin, we are to seek God in His Word and in our lives, in order to bring glory to Him in everything we do.
We can rest in Him as we work, knowing full well we will be crowned in heaven for all we do here in His name. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” God has not left us to our own devices to figure out what our purpose is. When in doubt, we can look to the fulfillment of God’s Word in Jesus.
A Prayer to Not Be Lazy
This is the day You have made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. Free us from anything hindering us from following you boldly and according to the full purpose and potential You will for our lives. Guard our hearts and our minds against all forms of laziness: sloth, sluggishness, poor work habits, and neglecting to care for our physical bodies. Reveal any illness which could be slowing us down, and free our minds from distorted thoughts that hold us back from fully believing we are who You say we are. Put us to work on this earth, for Your honor and Your glory.
In Jesus’ Name,
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Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. She stepped out of her comfort zone, and her Marketing career, to obey God’s call to stay home and be “Mom” in 2011. From that step of obedience her blog, Sunny&80, was born, a way to retain the funny everyday moments of motherhood. Meg is also a freelance writer and author of “Friends with Everyone.” She loves teaching God’s Word and leading Bible study, being a mom, distance running, photography, and the Cleveland Browns. Meg resides in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and Golden-Doodle.
Meg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.