Imagine the misery of intense financial stress coming into your life suddenly one day. Quickly, unseen, and powerfully.
Because that’s the warning that Proverbs has concerning the sluggard: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”
The results of laziness shouldn’t be a surprise, but yet they sneak up on the sluggard. And not because of one intense act on his part but the culmination of many little acts of sloth.
And this got me thinking. What’s the difference between rest and what the sluggard does? Didn’t Jesus rest? How do I know if I’m being a sluggard? How do I know if I’m inching my way slowly toward poverty, want, and a wasted life?
My first thought was that I could avoid being a sluggard if I practiced self examination and relied on the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. And to be sure, this is important. But what else does the scripture hold?
Then I considered another additional method. Right before Proverbs issues the above warning to sluggards, it examines the evidence of a sluggard. We see the field of a sluggard, overgrown with thorns and showing obvious signs of disrepair.
So examining the outward evidences is another biblical way to perhaps discover my own tendencies towards being a sluggard. But a lot of times these external results only come later after sloth has already created some havoc. How can I know as early as possible?
Then I looked at Proverbs 26:12-16.
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!”
As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
The sluggard – like all fallen humanity – is particularly bad at examining himself. Our capacity to deceive ourselves is greater than we realize.
Wisdom from Observers
We need the benefit of outside perspective.
In Proverbs 24, the results of a sluggard’s laziness are seen and considered by a wise observer passing by the sluggard’s vineyard. In Proverbs 6, the sluggard is challenged – not by his own conscience but by the words of another.
God works through the means of our own self inspection. But it’s clear that the biblical model is for us to live in community – a community that not only encourages us but a community that will challenge us and confront us if necessary.
Perhaps we need to enlist a good mentor, friend, spouse, relative, or co-laborer to help us see ourselves. That type of accountability isn’t about punishing ourselves but opening ourselves up to the outside perspective of a wise observer passing by our vineyard.
What are some ways you think you could practically implement these principles into your life?
Photo Credit: Ruthanne Reid (Creative Commons)
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. However, this doesn’t affect what I write about, what I choose to say, or what I recommend. Learn more here.