How Laziness Makes Excuses

Laziness Makes Excuses

Proverbs 26:13
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!”

It’s tempting for us to read through Proverbs with the general idea that it outlines good and bad behavior. Anything mentioned under “fool, scoffer, sluggard” would be things we are not to emulate.

But think more deeply about what the Bible says about motivations. There’s a gold mine of wisdom when we think about the subtle connections the Bible makes.

Why a Sluggard?

John Piper talks about this in a great blog post I was reading this morning.

In Proverbs 26:13, the sluggard is expressing his fear about going outside – an irrational and fabricated fear of being slain by a lion.

This timid and scared man could be called a coward and a liar – but that’s not what the scriptures point out. He is labeled a sluggard.

Why is there a connection between being a sluggard and being afraid?

It’s because this man is obviously inventing excuses to rationalize his laziness. Laziness creates lies that we tell to ourselves and others.

And Us?

It’s easy to read this passage and pat ourselves on the back. After all, I’ve never ducked out of work claiming that a wild beast was outside.

But just this morning, I cut back on my exercise because it’s quite cold and I didn’t want an injury.

Just this morning, I woke up a few minutes before my alarm was scheduled to go off. I felt exhausted from a rough night with a toddler who refuses to sleep, so I changed the alarm to go off an hour later.

We justify things like this all the time.

It’s not that we’re lazy, we just want to fully and wisely contemplate our next move.
It’s not that we’re lazy, we’ve just earned that extended break.
It’s not that we’re lazy, we just want to get some more knowledge before diving in.
It’s not that we’re lazy, we just want to make sure we have the right motivations.
It’s not that we’re lazy, we just want to be prudent.
It’s not that we’re lazy, we just don’t want to be legalistic.

Desire Drives Perception

Our human hearts and minds are sinful. And our power to deceive ourselves is impressive.

One of the things this proverb points out is that our sinful hearts and wicked desires actually drive our perception and our reason. We actually begin to see and think about things that line up with the way we want the world to be.

John Piper puts it this way:

It is an illusion to think that our hearts are neutral and incline in accordance with cool rational observation of truth. On the contrary, we feel powerful desires or fears in our heart, and THEN our mind bends reality to justify the desires and fears.

This changes the battle. It is no longer a matter of simply deciding to not be lazy. It’s no longer about only intellectually pointing out the rational folly of laziness.

We need to understand that this, and most other battles we fight, is about the heart as much as the mind. It is a fight between our fleshly desires and the godly desires within us.

So rather than reading another how-to article on being productive, what if we longed for more holy impulses and more God-given power to battle our sinful nature?

Photo Credit: Ernst Vikne (Creative Commons)

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  • Susan

    Wow! If I didn’t know better, I’d say you have been watching me. I do make silly excuses about things. I have been putting off taking the Christmas tree down, because the boxes are in the garage- we have the COLDEST garage on earth! Perhaps we, too often, come up with an EXCUSE; when we cannot come up with a viable REASON! There is a difference.
    Okay! The tree comes down today. Thank you Loren. Your insight is precious to me.

    • Loren Pinilis

      Haha. I’m the same way. Why are garages so cold?

      • Susan

        I don’t know, but you can see your breath in mine.

        • Loren Pinilis

          Mine too. In our new place, the garage is partially underground so it’s not as bad as it was in our old house. But it’s still pretty nippy. My wife and I are going to have a workout area down there, and I’ll probably just buy one or two space heaters.

    • TC Avey

      You are so funny! Don’t take the tree down, instead decorate it for each holiday until you get back to Christmas! I can see red bows and paper hearts all over your tree for the month of Feb…that could be a great deal of fun!

      • Loren Pinilis

        We still have up our nativity set, so why not keep the tree up? 🙂

  • bill (cycleguy)

    Your last line is gold Loren. What a challenge! I can read all the how-to articles I want to but if I am not pursuing God’s holiness & power to manifest itself in my life, I am reading another how-to article that I have no intention of implementing.

    • Loren Pinilis

      That’s a great way of putting it. Implementation is crucial – and we must be implementing things for the right reasons in the right way towards the right goal. And how often ours differ from God’s.

  • TC Avey

    Ouch! Great post, I’ve never thought of it this way before.
    In fact I’ve never really understood that passage until now. Thanks.

    Your post reminds me of Jesus’ warning to watch and pray because the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

    • Loren Pinilis

      Wow, great addition. In that passage too, the temptation that Jesus talks about is in the midst of the disciples falling asleep and being sluggish. So the parallels are profound.

  • Stephen Haggerty

    Great word, Loren. This heart battle is definitely one I see God wanting to deliver Christians from. And let’s be honest, the lion in the streets – what a lame excuse! No one will accomplish anything without a few encounters with lions, even if they’re only perceived.

    • Loren Pinilis

      You’re dead on. The battlefield is truly in our minds and hearts.

  • Arny


    I really should go out and share the gospel…but the lion is out on the streets today! it’s has a name too… bad economey, offending, materialistic, social media, self centered…and the list could go on…

    • Loren Pinilis

      Exactly. We’re really good at coming up with tons of excuses for anything.

  • @marcmillan

    Our body is so selfish, I could sleep 8-10 hours, eat real well but If I want to train or push myself hard guess what….the body because its so selfish won’t become excited about it, its lazy.
    I make it a habbit to go running and excercise no matter how I feel to combat my natural desire. Good word.

    • Loren Pinilis

      It’s so easy to be lazy, especially if we’re good at deceiving ourselves. Habits like you have are definitely great weapons to have in our arsenal.

  • Joe Abraham

    Helpful post, Loren! We must be intentional in taking a strong stand against laziness and its lies.

    • Loren Pinilis

      You’re right – being intentional is key.

  • Kari Scare

    This post expresses something that has been on my heart for a while. It’s one of those posts where I say to myself, “I wish I would have written that.” I am frustrated by how we create our own reality to suit our emotions and satisfy our flesh. You got at this when you said, “Our human hearts and minds are sinful. And our power to deceive ourselves is impressive.” It’s sort of what I tried to get at in a recent post (Attitude Upgrade) on my blog. You said it better.

    • Loren Pinilis

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s always so interesting how many of us are often going through the same thing. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I deceive myself lately. It’s something I need to work on.

  • Juan Cruz Jr

    Fear makes laziness. We are afraid of that the customer might say so we don’t call them and avoid work. We fear that we don’t a lot about the Bible so we don’t minister to people and win souls for Christ – spiritual laziness. Fear can create a lot of laziness and many unproductive moments.

    • Loren Pinilis

      So true – fear can create a lack of action, just like laziness can create fear. It’s often a vicious cycle.

  • Dan Black

    I think this is something everyone deals with, that is making the choice to do something even though they don’t feel like it. I think it helps with seeing and remembering the benefits of doing the things you need to do. I often try and make excuses for not working out but then remind myself why I should.

    • Loren Pinilis

      It’s good that you catch yourself making excuses. I think the problem is that we’re so good at deceiving ourselves that many times we don’t even know that we’re making excuses.