The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
The book of Proverbs is an intensely practical book. It reminds us that a godly life is lived out in the everyday events of our journey. As Derek Kidner writes, “Its function in Scripture is to put godliness into working clothes.” In many ways, Solomon’s writings are both immensely profitable and distinctly uncomfortable.
One lesson that Proverbs teaches us is the consequences of laziness. The biblical text uses the word “sluggard” to refer to a lazy person. It’s not a contemporary word, but it is a suitable word—one that describes a habitually inactive person whose lifestyle is framed by indolence and dormancy.
The sluggard, we learn, is hinged to his bed (Proverbs 26:14). This could mean that the person rises from bed after lunchtime or simply that they make little or no progress in their daily work. They don’t like to be approached directly or to be held accountable. When asked, “Will you do this?” they resent the follow-up question: “When are you planning to do it?”—or, in the words of Proverbs 6:9, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” They never actually refuse to do anything, but they put off tasks bit by bit. They deceive themselves into thinking that they’ll “get around to it,” but minute by minute, they allow opportunity to quietly slip away.
In Proverbs 12:27, Solomon also tells us that “whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” In other words, a lazy person does not finish what they start. But we, as followers of Christ, are called to a kind of perseverance that, as we work unto the Lord, will reap a harvest in due season if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9). As we remain accountable in Christian community, we can help each other see our blind spots so that the excuses we make for our lazy behaviors don’t become larger issues of self-indulgence.
The real tragedy of the sluggard’s life is that laziness is not an infirmity but a sin. Contemporary culture drives many on a quest for an overabundance of so-called leisure. But believers can set a radically different example. God created us to work with a purpose: that we may let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and give glory to our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). The best adventure you can have is found along the pathway of goodness and duty. The greatest reward is not in leisure and ease and ducking out but in giving and giving and not holding back. How will that shape your approach to your day, and your tasks, today?
1 Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Tyndale, 1968), p 35.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,