Are you slothful? Even if we don’t like to admit it, our work habits at home, school, work, and church sometimes look like the slothful sluggard. Slothfulness is about a disinclination to action or labor. The slothful person is sluggish, lazy, idle, or inactive because of a love of ease or aversion to work.
It can be tempting to chill, watch others labour, and try to find the easiest way to avoid work. Diligently doing our best costs us effort, energy, and time, and many don’t want to pay. Let’s do an honest self-check and look at six signs of slothfulness, so you can compare yourself to the Word and, with God’s help, eliminate any slothfulness from your life and grow in diligence.
1. The slothful sluggard desires, and has nothing.
The slothful person, despite his or her lazy posture, definitely has goals, desires, and ambitions, but they ultimately have nothing they wish for (Prov. 13:4). Whereas the diligent are made fat, or end up satisfied, the slothful don’t usually obtain what they wanted because they don’t work. The Bible says, “The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long” (Prov. 21:25-26). Their desire is almost torturous to them, but it still is not enough to get them to put forth the necessary effort.
- Is that you? Do you sit back and long for things you won’t work for?
- Do you desire for projects to succeed but don’t offer your help?
- Are you the student who wants good grades but won’t study?
- Are you the person who wants a better marriage but won’t put forth effort?
- Are you the employee who really wants things to be different but would rather talk about it, then work on solutions?
2. The slothful sluggard refuses to labour.
As Proverbs 21:25 pointed out, despite their desire, the slothful’s hands refuse to labour. They refuse! They don’t want to do anything! This is why the sluggard frustrates those who are over them. The Bible says, “ As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.” Neither vinegar nor smoke are pleasant experiences, and the sluggard is not fun at all to deal with because they refuse to work, and put forth minimal effort (if at all).
- If someone, particularly someone over you, asks you to do something, do you refuse?
- If you say yes, do your actions reflect your best effort or the bare minimum?
- What would those who work with you or who are over you at work, home, school, or church say about your attitude, work ethic, and diligence when they ask you or send you to do something? How would they evaluate you?
3. The slothful man starts but doesn’t finish.
In various passages, we see the slothful finally put forth some effort, but they rarely bring it to completion:
- In Proverbs 12:27, he goes hunting and even catches something, but then doesn’t roast it.
- In Proverbs 19:24, he is in a position to eat, but then “hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.” He’s too lazy to put the food in his own mouth! In Proverbs 26:14, we find out “it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.” He seriously wants someone to feed him!
- Proverbs 24:30-34 describes “the field of the slothful, and… the vineyard of the man void of understanding” and, though it had been started, it was uncared for. The Bible says, “lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.”
- Do you start something but quit when it’s not easy or requires more effort?
- Do you push through to the end despite challenges?
- Do you endure and work when you don’t feel like it?
- Do you give into distractions at the expense of what matters more?
- Do you give your best effort even when you’re not paid monetarily?
4. The slothful sluggard loves to sleep.
Proverbs 19:15 says, “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” The slothful person loves to slumber, sleep, and chill, and remember, it’s not hard-earned rest after hard-work or a break from a job well done. They love to stay in the bed way too much, even though they rarely get things done.
Proverbs 6:6-11 speaks directly to the sluggard, saying, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” The sluggard is advised to look to the ant, a wise example of being diligent in all seasons without someone harassing them, because the sluggard, in contrast, foolishly sleeps and slumbers to the point of poverty and want.
- Do you choose sleep over responsibilities?
- Do you live a life of slumber and chilling rather than diligence and faithfulness?
- Where could you put forth more effort?
- Do you need someone directly over you and a tight deadline to get things done?
- Do you work in all seasons and prepare in advance?
5. The slothful man is full of excuses.
Rather than working, the slothful man has excuses. In Proverbs 20:4, he won’t plow because it’s cold (and ends up begging during harvest and has nothing). In Proverbs 22:13 and 26:23, he uses the excuse that there is a lion in the streets to avoid doing whatever needed to be done. His real motivation, though, is in the next verse: “As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed” (Prov. 26:14). Whatever excuse is necessary to stay in bed and chill, the slothful man will find a way and create a story to avoid work.
- Do you create excuses and always have a justification for why you can’t or don’t get things done?
- Do you let distractions or obstacles stop you from following through?
6. The slothful man doesn’t make progress.
Because of the characteristics already listed, the slothful man is not going to progress easily, if at all. Proverbs 15:19 says, “The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.” Could you imagine trying to walk forward but you were fenced in by a hedge of thorns? Refusing to work, loving sleep, not completing things, giving excuses — this is how the slothful makes his life and way more difficult for himself. Proverbs 18:9 says, “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” That word for “waster” speaks of destroying, corrupting, ruining because slothfulness is not a fruitful way.
- Can you see areas at home, work, school, or church that have become more difficult because you were slothful in some respect?
- Have you wasted or ruined anything due to insufficient effort?
If any of these characteristics of slothfulness apply to you, it’s time to repent, ask for God’s help, and make some changes! Our merciful God included this wisdom in His Word to help us make sure our work habits reflect and please Him. Ecclesiastes 9:10 captures the right mindset: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” What He’s given you to do at work, home, school, or church, give it your best while you have a chance! Do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men (Col. 3:23). He deserves that. With His help, you can do it! Ask for His wisdom and start today.