“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit?
there is more hope of a fool than of him. The slothful man saith,
There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the street. As the door
turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed. The
slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it
again to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than
seven men that can render a reason.” (Proverbs
One thing that wise king Solomon said plainly about the lazy man (“the slothful man...the sluggard”) is that he makes up excuses for his inactivity. He is “wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.” Almost all of us have yielded to the weakness of indolence at times, and we know by experience that the mind can invent logical explanations for this vice. Excuses for religious laziness can seem not only reasonable, but also theologically sound and spiritually deep. This is especially true about excuses for inactivity in soul-winning work. False doctrines that excuse this kind of laziness are very popular today, and they are dangerous.
In Matthew 25, we read a parable that was given by the Lord Jesus to explain the significance of the Judgment Seat of Christ. In the “Parable of the Talents,” three servants must report to their master about what they had been doing in his absence on a long trip. We are all familiar with what the master, who represents the Lord Jesus, says to the faithful servants: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (verses 21 and 23). Do we remember what he says to the unprofitable servant? “Thou wicked and slothful servant” (v. 26)! The rebuke that will be given to the unrewarded children of God at the Judgment Seat of Christ will be for wickedness and for sloth! Apparently rewards will be forfeited because a believer was too lazy to work hard for the Lord. And yet, we are all very good at making excuses for not doing what we should about getting out the Gospel.
I. The “Family-Values” Excuse. Some say that the needs of their families have required them to abandon much of the church work they once did. How curious that Bible-believers nowadays see a conflict between family needs and church work! The God Who instituted marriage and families among men is also the God Who commanded believers to go and preach the gospel to every creature. Read again the passages about the institution of the family in Genesis 1 and 2. Notice that God gave Adam some big jobs to do for Him: to dress and keep the Garden of Eden, to have dominion over life on earth, and to fill the earth with his offspring. Then notice that he was given his wife to help him do these jobs! Eve was to be Adam’s helper. The biblical family is built around the man’s service for God! Church work is not only harmless to good family life; it is essential to it! Family problems come from neglected duties at home, not from fulfilled duties at church. Of course, men and women ought not to be involved in so much work of any kind that they fail to attend to family needs, any more than they should allow overcommitment to prevent them from fulfilling their own physical needs (to eat, to sleep, to bathe, to groom, to rest). But the slothful blame their home problems on church work. Let the world go to Hell, let the church fail in its mission, let revival efforts remain undone, let the lost continue unreached, just as long as family time at home is piously expanded. Why cannot the slothful think of spending some family time outside the home, serving God? Why does he condemn Christ’s Great Commission as anti-family? He is wise in his own conceits. His mind sticks to this pious-sounding but unscriptural reasoning because it is an important cover for his laziness.
II. The “Theological” Excuse. We hear the slothful talk in high-sounding theological terms about God’s sovereignty, election, and pre-destination. Too much activity is Arminianism! Hard work for souls denies the eternal decrees of the Lord! How convenient it is to find an interpretation of scripture that backs up our laziness! Many Calvinists are not lazy, but some use a distorted Calvinism to sanctify their laziness. You don’t have to believe that everyone will be saved in order to tell everyone about the Savior! You don’t have to credit human efforts with the salvation of souls in order to make an effort to see souls saved! We sin when we say we will let God do the work when He has given us work to do. The sluggard excuses his laziness in theological terms.
III. The “Spiritual Gifts” Excuse. Some become slothful in the shade of the conviction that they are not gifted to do evangelistic work. But evangelism is not listed among the gifts of the Spirit in Romans 12 or in I Corinthians 12. The truth is that evangelistic effort is given to us in a command to all Christians, and not as a gift for just a few. Soul-saving work is a matter of duty rather than a matter of talent. Many excuse their disobedience to God’s command by classifying certain work as somebody else’s speciality! Prayer is not a speciality; it is a duty. It is also a Christian duty to witness for Christ, to serve the church, and to train others for the Lord. Shirking duty is the sin of a sluggard, but he always finds an excuse. He may do it by substituting gift for duty in his mind.
IV. The “New Methods” Excuse. Years ago, certain preachers criticized churches with bus ministries for emphasizing numbers too much. Then came the time when the same preachers boasted of having big attendance at church without using buses! There are new methods, they said, that will bring the people in without a bus ministry. Of course, some people will probably not be reached for Christ apart from some effort that involves transportation. Certain of the poor, the young, the handicapped, and other folks in unfortunate situations will probably not get to the church that has switched to the new method. The church won’t have to bother with the expense and hard work it takes to reach these people. They can have their numbers through new methods that attract money-giving, auto-owning families. Many new methods for growth have been suggested to churches over the past twenty-five years, but most of them are unworthy of our Cause. To take the Gospel to every creature will require work: door-to-door visitation, discipleship programs, tract distribution, confrontational witnessing. Short-cuts to numbers do not fulfill the Great Commission.
V. The “Lion in the Street” Excuse. “The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the street.” He regards the supposed presence of a lion in the streets of the city as an excuse for him to stay indoors. But if there is a lion in the streets, somebody had better throw off his indolence, his apathy, his timidity, and his reluctance, and go out to face the beast. People are in danger! The normal commerce of the town has come to a halt, and fear has gripped the city! This is not time to stay indoors. Get a weapon and do something about that lion! We are told in I Peter 5:8 that “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The devil stalks the streets today while believers in Christ and their leaders stay indoors, hiding behind carefully-reasoned excuses for their inactivity. It is time that we give up our excuses and get back into the battle. Duty calls us to personal soul-winning, to church work, to prayer meetings for revival, and to other efforts for Christ. Right attitudes towards our responsibilities will only help us do our duty. Let us not use our attention to one duty as an excuse for our neglect of another. Let us not give pious reasons for simple laziness. It is very appealing to the flesh to believe that doing little is as good as doing much, that saving the life is as good as losing it for Christ, that God will reward indolence as much as diligence. But we all know that such thinking is just a cover for slothfulness.
The challenges of our day demand that we get back to work for our Savior. It is time we re-examine our weekly schedules and redeem time for the work of the Lord. We must deliberately plan our lives so that our duties at home and at church are properly fulfilled. We should be willing to obey divine commands that require things that are hard for us. To believe that God only calls upon us to do what comes easily for us is to believe a lie. Neither Moses, nor Gideon, nor Saul were naturally suited for the work God gave them, but they were truly called to do these things. Self-denial, toil, and perseverance have always been required of God’s servants. “Shall I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?” Moses asked certain men, “Shall your brethren go to war, and ye sit here?” (Numbers 32:6). Let’s give up our excuses, and get back to work.
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