Living with a chronic illness has often forced me face-to-face with my ideas about rest and laziness. My natural tendency is to be an overworking perfectionist and to worry that I’m being lazy. And because of this, I have serious issues trying to tell when it’s appropriate to stop working. I’ve spent the past month fighting something like mono, so I’m even extra tireder than usual, which means it’s more of a struggle to make myself do basic household chores and I’m even more in love with my bed. Hence, I decided it was a good time to do some study on biblical laziness and biblical rest.
I’ve been doing word studies on all the different words translated as “lazy” and this passage came up:
I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man. ~ Proverbs 24:30-34 NASB
“Sluggard” is the word I was looking at. I think this passage has a lot to say about laziness and foolishness.
1) This person’s “field” is overgrown with things that shouldn’t be there–he doesn’t have a crop of grapes or wheat or olives, but instead he’s got a giant crop of thistles and nettles.
2) The things that should be there are broken down or noticeably absent–as I said, his actual crop is gone and his stone wall is broken down. This of course requires us to ask what crops ought to be in our lives. What are the things God has called you to do? For me, I have things like loving my husband and children, teaching my children more about who God is and this amazing world He’s made, doing some kind of housecleaning and cooking every day, working hard at becoming physically healthier, writing whatever projects God has put on my heart… the list goes on and on 🙂 It helped me to think about all my different relationships and what roles I fill and then ask myself what I knew I should be doing–both broadens the list of callings, and yet shrinks down some of the excess “to-do’s.”
3) Why did his field fill up with the wrong things while the right things deteriorated/died? Because he spent all his time sleeping and resting. Proverbs 6:9 says, “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (NASB) and Proverbs 26:14 puts it even more pointedly–“As the door turns on its hinges, So does the sluggard on his bed” (NASB). The sluggard loves to sleep. And he hates to work. The sluggard is so lazy, he reaches out for food, but he won’t even put it in his mouth (Proverbs 19:24, 26:15). He’s so averse to work that he makes up all kinds of excuses not to work: “There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!”(Proverbs 22:13, 26:13).
4) Where does all his resting and sleeping get him? In poverty. I love how Proverbs 13:4 puts it: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat” (NASB). He thinks resting will satisfy some craving, but in the end it leaves him empty. I do that. There are times when I think I just “need” to watch a movie, or read a book, or lie down for a while and then I’ll feel better, but the thing doesn’t help. But then there are times when I do those things and become re-anchored in who God is and who I am, and encouraged to persevere. I think part of that is dependent on the kind of movie or book I read and whether I’m doing it to escape what I should be doing instead.
I’m still in the middle of my study, but reading this passage made me ask myself what my “field” looks like. Is it full of things that are choking out the crop that should be there? Are my walls getting all broken down? Or am I being faithful and diligent in the things God has called me to do? I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I want to have a fat soul, rather than being so unwilling to work that I can’t even feed myself.