As I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing a word study on biblical laziness and biblical rest. Over and over Scripture contrasts laziness with diligence, so I decided I should do a little study to see what diligence is and what that teaches us about laziness.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “diligent,” somehow that gets translated into “perfect” in my brain. A lazy person has a messy house (or insert whatever job you want), but a person who’s diligent is has a perfectly clean house and their children are perfectly schooled, etc., etc. A person who is diligent finishes their to-do list or whatever chore they are working on, but a lazy person leaves tasks half-done. When I get to the end of my day and my house looks like a tornado went through it, and my kids didn’t learn what was on the lesson plan, and I’m still in my pajamas, and I haven’t even looked at my author related things, there’s this little speech that begins to play in my head about how obviously I didn’t work hard enough that day–I was lazy somewhere, otherwise the day would have turned out differently. I’d have something to show.
Studying diligence in Scripture has made me realize that it doesn’t necessarily mean perfection or even results–sometimes it just means faithfulness. It also reminded me of how focusing on apparent results can be such a cop-out. For example, look at the Pharisees. Jesus says that they were careful to tithe everything, even going so far as to weigh out their spices, but they neglected the more important things, they neglected justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:23). It’s so much easier to judge whether I’m being a good wife and mother based on how clean my house is, rather than asking myself the hard questions, like whether I’m diligent in love. This is not to say that you can’t keep a house clean because you love your family, but I find that often, I keep the house clean because I’m a control freak and because I want a clean house. In that respect, spending my day housecleaning can actually hinder my loving…
which brings me to my next point: Diligence is not haphazard. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” (NASB) Diligence plans. Laziness goes with the flow without thinking (e.g., Proverbs 6:6). As Christians, our goal is to grow in relationship with God by obeying Him. Just like the people were commanded to carry out Darius’ decree with “all diligence” (speed and correctness), we’re commanded to carry out God’s degrees with diligence. So, sadly, working hard all day doesn’t count if you’re working on the wrong things (ouch! says my workaholic tendencies). Those days I spend reading to my kids and playing with them may not look like much from the outside, but they’re rich in love.
Here’s just a few things God commands us to be diligent in:
Hebrews 6:10-12 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (NIV)
2 Peter 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective (*note: the word here is “argos” which can mean “lazy”) and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
“Faith,” “goodness,” “knowledge,” “self-control,” “perseverance,” “godliness,” “brotherly kindness,” and “love”? Um, so that’s more than enough intangibles to keep me busy for a life-time. Well, and as Hebrews 6 says, we can’t just be diligent for the moment–we’re supposed to diligent to the end. Diligence has overtones of perseverance in it. Keep growing. Keep obeying, day after day after day, regardless of the apparent results.
So in summary, here’s what I’ve learned about laziness so far: it doesn’t plan, it doesn’t work at the right things if it works at all (remember the sluggard who reaches out for food, but won’t even put it in his mouth?), it delays, makes excuses, doesn’t persevere, spends too much time resting and sleeping, and in the end it craves and gets NOTHING.
Diligence on the other hand is a precious possession that leads to a fat soul.