The Lazy Man

August 12th, 2018 sermon
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor

 Proverbs

Note: There is no audio file available for this sermon.

Lessons from Esther and Proverbs teach us how God works in the everyday moments of our lives.  Today Solomon’s wise words to his son (Prov.1:8) continue to instruct us, specifically to choose the wisdom of diligence over being lazy or slothful in ALL the resources we have been given. 

 

Truths in Proverbs about work & diligence, & managing the resources in our lives:

 I. If you are lazy, ANY excuse will do to avoid work.

The sluggard becomes wise in his/her own eyes because he brilliantly creates a myriad of excuses not to work, e.g.: fierce lion attack and being murdered (Prov. 26:13 and 22:13). Laziness produces more laziness and the sluggard is ranked below a fool (Prov. 26:12).

 II. Everybody works, but not everybody is in control of their work.

While the diligent man/woman “rules”/controls/manages their work, the lazy person also works, but the work “ends in forced labor”(Prov. 12:24).  The sluggard’s procrastination, lacking assertion, leads him to be under the control of circumstances or of others, and leaves him as a slave to his labor instead of being in control of choosing when, where, and how he will work.

 III. Laziness causes us to lose the benefit of our work.

As the slothful person is too lazy to bring his food back to his mouth (Prov.26:15) and even to roast his prey (Prov. 12:27) which he did work for by hunting, in both cases he cannot quite finish the job (and the food is not eaten) even though he started with some effort. In contrast, the diligent person finishes the roasting task and feasts on “the riches of the hunt” (Prov.12:27).  Diligent people prize ALL their earthly resources and as stewards, they value everything God has put under their control (e.g., possessions, relationships with God and others, jobs, finances, talents/abilities). The wisdom of the diligent is to be a good steward (manager) of what belongs to him/her, taking care of all that is given him or that he earns, finishing the job, and putting all that he has to good use.

 IV. Small decisions about laziness have big consequences.

The sluggard does not tend to his vineyard and it ends in ruin (Prov.24:30-31), pointing to the lesson that overgrown, overwhelming nightmares are the result of slowly making little decisions not to value what God has given. It is often the little choices that cause the big trouble.

Solomon wants us as Christians to own our own messes, especially laziness. Our hope is that we do not have to be perfect, but we do need to turn our will to God, name our failures if possible, and ask our God of grace to work in us His forgiveness and give us our instruction to action. Using GOD’S wisdom, our small decisions can lead to big, good consequences such as our participating in God’s kingdom on earth with more stable relationships in our families, friends and others; finding meaning in our jobs; using our talents intentionally, using money purposefully, and being generous servants to others with all our resources.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you have areas of your life which you feel are in disarray? Was any of this mess caused by lack of diligence or just plain laziness/procrastination?
  2. Do you have any “go-to” excuses for laziness/procrastination?
  3. Laziness seems to be more a result, a way of coping with life. What lies/sins might we be believing about ourselves that would cause us to be lazy and perhaps even lead to depression? If we find lies, what do we do with them?
  4. Have you ever actually turned directly to God and asked Him for His help to make you a better steward (manager) of the talents/time/treasure God has given you? How often do you pray this? Share your experiences with your small group.
  5. Have you experienced any of the benefits of intentional diligence regarding your time, talents, and treasure? Can you encourage others in your group by sharing?

Introduction

We are continuing today in our series called “Hidden: Seeing God in the everyday moments of life.” We started this series in the Old Testament book of Esther which taught us that God is working in our lives every day. Even when we face trouble, even when it’s tough to see him, He’s at work.

Then we turned to the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Proverbs was written by King Solomon, one of the wisest men in the world. In Proverbs, we are learning to see God in the sense that He has woven Himself and His wisdom into the fabric of the universe so that we see Him in the way the world operates. We see God’s wisdom, not just in the physical creation and operation of the world, although we do see him in that, but we also see his wisdom in the moral operation of the world.

God has designed the world so that nine times out of ten if we pay attention to the way God has called us to live, if we do the right thing and obey him, life is better! Our families are happier and more stable. We are more fulfilled, and we tend to have more lasting wealth obviously in the next world but even in this one!

If we look at life the way the book of Proverbs teaches us to, we will see God in the everyday moments of our life. So that’s what we’ve seen in Proverbs. It doesn’t get any more “everyday” than what we are going to talk about today, because today we are going to talk about work.

We’re going to do that by looking at one of the most comical characters in all of the Bible. We’ve looked at money. We’ve talked about Lady Wisdom last week. We talked about the Fool. Today we are going to look at “the Sluggard,” the lazy man what the King James Version calls “the slothful man” (who are all the same guy). We’re going to look at his counterpart, the diligent man.

Today as we look at these characters, we are going to get very, very practical. We are going to learn four truths that these characters teach us about work, and diligence and managing the resources in our lives.

This is going to be kind of convicting! If we really think about what Solomon is saying, there will be something here today for each of us. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the very first Bible Passage I ever really studied and applied to my life was a verse from Proverbs about the Sluggard. I was amazed at how many areas of my life it spoke to. It affected the way I did my job and the way I looked at the resources and opportunities in my life. It affected the way I looked at my marriage and friendships. I was amazed to see how much I got out of that one verse. So we’re going to look at that verse and others today, as we look at the Sluggard.

This is probably the only time you will ever hear me say this, but I am NOT going to ask you to turn to a passage in your Bibles today, because we are going to be pulling passages from all over the book of Proverbs. Remember we said Proverbs reads like a big bag of fortune cookies. It has all these one-liners that you really have to think about to fully get. Well, there are fortune cookies all over the book of Proverbs about the lazy man and the diligent man. We’re going to read several of them today. Some have a few verses together. Some are just one off verses by themselves, but they all relate to laziness, diligence and work.

We’ll start today where we left off last week in Proverbs 26. Then we’ll read others. Remember last week we talked about the Fool, and we said he was almost the most hopeless character in Proverbs. Today we are going to meet a guy who outdoes even the fool! Let’s read God’s Word:

Do you see a man 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, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer sensibly.

– Proverbs 26:12-16

 

Here are some other passages about laziness:

 

As vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them.

– Proverbs 10:26

 

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!”

– Proverbs 26:13

 

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

– Proverbs 12:24

 

The lazy man does not roast his prey, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. Then I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

– Proverbs 24:30-34

Today we’re going to learn four truths about laziness from the sluggard and let me just jump right into them. The first one is this:

If You’re Lazy, Any Excuse Will Do

This guy, the Sluggard, is lazy! He’s so lazy that if we won an award for being lazy, he would send someone else to pick it up! He does not like to work. He would much rather sleep. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” He’s lazy: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” My kids used to love that image. They found it hilarious! You get the point, right? He’s anchored! He may roll a little to the left. He may roll a little to the right, but he’s not getting out of bed!

He’s lazy! So how did he get this way? He got this way at least in part, because for him, any excuse not to work will do. Any excuse will do. Let me show you what I mean. Look at Proverbs  26:13. Without any explanation, right after he says “There is more hope for a fool than a man wise in his own eyes” Solomon says this:

The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”

– Proverbs 26:13

Now did that catch your attention when I read it? The first time I read that, I thought what on earth is Solomon saying? What does that mean? Is Solomon saying the Sluggard is a very observant person? Is he saying he’s fearful? Is he perhaps a wildlife biologist? What is the point of that verse?

I wondered. Then I looked at Proverbs 22:13, which states this proverb again but does it in a slightly clearer way. It says:

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!”

– Proverbs 26:13

When I read that, it made it clearer. Because this time he’s not just making one statement, he’s making two. What he’s saying is this: You never know what might happen if I get out of bed and go to work. I might get axe-murdered in the streets, or I might get eaten by a lion! Now, is he really going to get eaten by a lion? No, but any excuse will do. I might get ebola. An asteroid might fall out of the sky. I might get hit by a watermelon slingshot (if you saw that video that I mentioned last week!). Solomon’s point is that if you don’t want to work, it doesn’t matter how outlandish it is. Any excuse will do!

By the way, this is why the Sluggard is wise in his own eyes. Remember how Solomon said “There is more hope for a fool than for a guy who is wise in his own eyes?” Then he said “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly?” Do you know why the sluggard is wise in his own eyes? Because he’s super-intelligent! He’s a creative genius! You have to be a Mozart, you have to be an Einstein, to come up with all those excuses to stay away from work! Not just anybody can do that!

When I was working masonry construction in college, I worked with a guy that everybody called, even to his face, Fat Larry. Fat Larry was one Lazy Dude! But I’ll tell you something. He wasn’t stupid! He could talk circles around you. He always had reasons why you shouldn’t actually work. Why the hard thing at the moment was always the wrong thing to do! That’s what Solomon is saying. If you’re lazy, any excuse will do.

In this, Solomon is teaching us something important. Laziness begets more laziness! Laziness produces laziness. Because to be lazy, you have to be a master at making excuses. When you talk to others, you have to make excuses why you didn’t get things done!  When you are thinking about work, you have to make excuses as to why you shouldn’t actually work. If you really get good at it, you can convince yourself that you really are right and that everyone else is crazy for wanting you to work so hard, that there really is a lion out there, and you become wise in your own eyes!

You can’t mow the grass in the morning, because it’s too wet. In the afternoon, it’s too hot. In the evening, it looks like it might rain. There’s always an excuse. Solomon is saying “watch out! Don’t deceive yourself! Beware the excuses, because if you’re lazy any excuse will do!” So the first thing this guy teaches us about work is that if you’re lazy, any excuse will do

Everybody Works But Not Everyone Is In Control of Their Work

This point is counter-intuitive, but it’s very important! Look at Proverbs 12:24. This is the first passage I ever studied about slothfulness, and it’s the first passage that I ever really intentionally applied to my life. I remember in the old King James Version, which was the kind of Bible I was using at the time, said “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule, but the slothful shall be under tribute.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I studied it and found that the word “tribute” referred to a tax in the form of slave labor. So the New International Version puts it this way:

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

– Proverbs 12:24

Now just like it is with so many verses in this book of Proverbs, when I first thought about that it didn’t seem like a super earth-shattering concept. It’s no surprise that diligent people tend to get promoted, and that lazy people tend to be the peons in life! My parents had been telling me that my whole life! So I thought “OK, that’s nice.”

But then I really thought about this verse, and I realized that Solomon is saying something else as well. Something I hadn’t thought of. Everybody works! Did you notice that? Who in this verse works? Everybody. The diligent person works, because he is leading, he’s ruling, he’s in authority, so he has to do the work to exercise that authority. No surprise there. But the lazy man? He also works! He’s doing slave labor. I thought “Now that is really an interesting concept!”

So I started looking around in my life, and I found that by and large it’s true! It was summer time when I first studied this passage, and I remember being in my comfortable, air-conditioned car and driving past a guy that was standing out roasting in the heat. He had no shade, no sun screen, hot, dirty clothes and he had a sign: Will work for food. All of a sudden, I realized: Do you know what he’s doing? He’s working! For his food! He doesn’t have a job, but he is working. I don’t know how he got there. I’m not saying he is a lazy man, but he’s working! Just as sure as the guy in the Statue of Liberty outfit with the sign for the tax preparer is working, this guy’s working!

Then I had some people call the church I went to and say they had just gotten into town and they needed money for gas. We got calls like that all the time. I’m sure some of those calls were legitimate and some were not. We helped some of those people, and some we didn’t. But I realized “They’re working. They’re making sales calls just as sure as Ricky Tharrington works when he sells insurance. They’re working.” Listen, everybody works. Whether we’re diligent about it or lazy about it, everybody works!

But not everybody is in control of their work. Did you notice that? The diligent man is in control. He is ruling. So he chooses when and how he works. But the lazy man is doing slave labor. He works at someone else’s convenience. Not his own. I realized that what Solomon is saying to us here is this: Nine times out of, laziness doesn’t keep me from working. It just keeps me from being in control of my work.

Then I looked at my own life. I thought about the times when I put things off, like when you let the grass get a foot high before you mow it. What happens when you do that? Well one thing’s for sure: you’re not on your own schedule any more. Now you don’t get to mow it when it’s convenient for you, because your dad (if you’re living at home) or your wife are giving you the hairy eyeball. They are saying “NO, you WILL mow it now! It looks like a jungle out there! And that’s usually in the hottest part of the day when your friends want to go do something that is the most fun ever! But you have to mow NOW! And it’s twice as hard, because the grass is so thick it keeps stalling the mower, and you have to go over it twice. It’s bad for the grass, and it’s just a mess!

Then I thought about all the other times I’ve put things off. I realized nine times out of ten, laziness doesn’t eliminate the work. It just eliminates my control over when and how I do the work! So (1) if we’re lazy, any excuse will do. (2) everybody works, but not everybody is in control!

Laziness Causes Me to Lose the Benefit of My Work

We’re going to look at a couple of verses on this one:  The first one is found in Proverbs 26:15, right in the middle of that first passage that we read, that describes the sluggard. Solomon says

this:

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

– Proverbs 26:15

Now this Proverb actually shows up a couple of times in the book, so Solomon wants to make sure we remember it. When I first read it, kind of like the Proverb we looked at in the last point,  I thought it was a pretty simple verse. I thought Solomon was just describing the depth of the lazy man’s laziness, because this is pretty bad! It’s pretty bad when you reach for a piece of chicken and leave your hand in the bucket, because you’re too lazy to pull it back! So I thought it was about how lazy the sluggard really is. But again I think Solomon is saying something a little deeper in this verse. We can see what Solomon is saying more clearly in 12:27. Look what he says there:

The lazy man does not roast his prey, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

– Proverbs 12:27

Now I love this verse! It’s one of my favorite verses in Proverbs! But to understand what it’s saying, we have to think about the culture of Solomon’s day. First of all, what does the Sluggard need to do with this meat? Roast it. Why in Solomon’s day would you roast a piece of meat? To make it edible, so you could use it, but also to preserve it. Because what’s going to happen to that meat if you don’t roast it? It’s going to rot!

OK now, second what kind of meat does Solomon say this is? It’s prey. Your translation may have “game.” The original word is “tsayid.” It’s a very specific word that is often translated venison, but it’s a wild animal.

That’s very important, because how did the sluggard get this meat? He went hunting. This isn’t a chicken that he got from his farm or a piece of meat that someone gave him. This is game meat. He had to hunt. Now here in America, we often think of hunting as just sitting up in a tree somewhere, waiting for something to cross your path so you can blast it. But in most of the rest of the world, that’s not how it’s done.

In Africa, we would consider that unethical. There you walk for your game. I have a cape buffalo on my wall. I hunted hard for five days for that buffalo. The day I got it we walked almost 20 miles through the bush. I got cut up by thorns. I came about twenty feet from being killed by an elephant. The guy in front of me almost stepped on a black mamba. The real work started after I knocked that buffalo down, because we had to get it on the Land Rover and get it back to camp. It was a lot of work! Here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a whole lot easier in Solomon’s day.

So here’s the point: This guy has expended a whole lot of effort to get this chunk of protein. He had to go find it, knock it down, recover it, and get it back to the house. Now he only has to do ONE THING to gain the benefit of all that work. He has to roast it. Because if he doesn’t, what’s going to happen to that game meat? It’s going to spoil, and it will be no good to anyone. But he doesn’t!

Now think about the verse with the dish. It’s saying the same thing: The sluggard buries his hand in the dish. He’s too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. What does that mean? Solomon’s not just showing us how lazy he is. He’s pointing out that the guy sees the benefit of the food in the bowl. He puts forth the effort to reach to it. Now he only has to do one more thing to get the benefit of it: Pull his hand back and put it in his mouth. But just like with the game meat, he can’t quite finish the job!

So what is Solomon’s overall point here? Well, look at the second half of 12:27. The contrast with the diligent man shows us. Solomon says:

The lazy man does not roast his prey, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

Now unlike the word “tsayid” or “prey,” which is very specific, the word “possessions” is a very general word. It just means “goods” or “wealth.” The idea is that the diligent man prizes ALL of his possessions, all of his earthly goods, all of his resources. So he prizes the ones like venison  that he really had to work for, but he also prizes the ones he didn’t have to work for, the ones that just happen to come to him the windfalls in his life. Unlike the Sluggard, the Diligent Man prizes, he values, he esteems everything that God has put under his control. How does he prize it? He’s a good Steward of it. He takes care of it. He finishes the job. He puts it to use.

When we put this all together, we get the meaning of this verse which I think is this: Diligence causes me to make the most of everything that God has placed at my disposal, while laziness causes me to lose what I’ve already put forth the effort to gain.

Let me say that again! I studied this verse too when I was younger. It’s pretty convicting. It made me look at myself closely! Because with this verse, we’re way beyond the question “Am I going to get out of bed and go to work?”

Now we’re way beyond laziness and diligence just in my workplace. Now we’re talking about all the resources in my life. I think about my stewardship, my management of my possessions. Am I taking care of them or am I going to lose the benefit of what I’ve worked to gain? Has the oil been changed in the car? Because you know what happens if you don’t do that. Does the house need painting? If you don’t, moisture gets in, things get warped and the next thing you know you’re replacing the siding. Am taking care of my stuff? My physical possessions.

But then I also think about other resources, like my relationships. Am I investing in my marriage? Do I value that? Do I treasure the wonderful wife that God gave me? Because the diligent man does that.

What about the talents and abilities that God gave me? Am I valuing those? Does he want me to use them for his Kingdom or to make this a better world? Or am I just letting them go. Am I developing my spiritual gifts?

What about my money? What about my time? Diligence causes me to make the most of everything that God has placed at my disposal while laziness causes me to lose what I’ve already put forth the effort to gain.

I’ll tell you what I did the first time I ever studied this passage. I made a list of all the resources that God had placed at my disposal, my job, my possessions, my relationships, my skills, my education. I went through each one on my knees and asked “Am I valuing this? Am I being a good steward of it? Am I diligent about the way I treat it?” It was convicting! But it changed my life.

Diligence causes me to value what God has placed at my disposal, but laziness causes me to lose the benefit of my work. So (1) If you’re lazy, any excuse will do.  (2) Everyone works, but not everyone is in control of their work. (3) Laziness causes me to lose the benefit of my work. Can you see how practical God’s word really is? It really will help us see God’s wisdom in the everyday moments of our lives! Now one last truth:

Small Decisions About Laziness Have Big Consequences

Solomon gives us one last sort of more sobering Proverb about the Lazy man. Look at what he says:

I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. Then I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

– Proverbs 24:30-34

Now when you read this verse, some of you may be going “sounds like my yard!” And yeah, this sermon is going to bring on some long “honeydo” lists. But what is Solomon saying? What is the point? This guy’s farm, which is his livelihood, is in total disarray. The path, where you’re supposed to walk, is blocked by thorns. The field, where you’re supposed to grow crops, is covered in weeds. The stone fence, which is supposed to keep bad things out, is in ruins. It’s kind of a metaphor for his life – no mobility, no productivity, no protection, total disarray.

It would be totally overwhelming to own that farm. It’s just a giant broken-down overgrown nightmare. You would probably look at that farm and say “I don’t even know where to start,” kind of like when you’re overwhelmed at work. You’ve got papers piled up to here, and you don’t even know where to start. Kind of like when your car has 15 things wrong with it and you can’t fix them all. You’re going where do we start? Tires? Brakes? Tail-lights? Kind of like when you’re up to your neck in debt and you don’t know how to get out. Kind of like when your marriage is in total disarray and you go we’re so distant how did we get to where we see things so opposite? How did it get this miserable? How do we even start to fix this? Fixing things in that level of disarray is like facing an army all by yourself. It’s overwhelming! How did it get that way? Look at:

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

– Proverbs 24:32-34

It gets to the point where it’s like facing a band of thieves that are stealing your livelihood or an armed man that you can’t defeat. But do you know how it got to that point? One little decision at a time. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest. One little decision at a time. One decision to not value what God has placed at your disposal. One decision not to finish the job, not to see that task through. One little decision not to have the difficult conversation in your marriage. One little decision not to engage your kids this time. One little decision to metaphorically roll over and go back to sleep like a door on its hinges.

Small decision lead to big consequences. That’s the undoing of the Sluggard. It’s the undoing of us all in the areas of our lives where we are slothful. OK sometimes our lives, our jobs, our marriages, our finances face big unforeseen catastrophes but most of the time nine times out of ten it’s the little choices that lead us to big trouble. Solomon calls us to acknowledge that, to take responsibility and not to say “Well see, the situation is so overwhelming there’s nothing to be done, and it’s not my fault.” Because you can do that, right? When it gets that bad, you can say “Nobody can fix it now, so don’t blame me for not trying.” You can do that, but Solomon calls us to own it.

That’s hard, especially when we’ve been making excuses which is probably how we’ve gotten there in the first place! It’s hard, but there’s hope, hope in Christ, hope in owning our slothfulness in whatever part of our lives we have let go, whether it’s a job or a relationship or our finances or our resources. Maybe for some of you, it’s your relationship to God. You’ve not been treasuring him at all. You’ve been living your life as if he doesn’t exist.  Well listen, whatever the issue is if you ask Christ to help give you a new heart toward that issue He will.

He’ll do something else too. That principle, that small decisions about laziness have big consequences, doesn’t have to just work against you. It can also work for you. You can get out of slothfulness and into diligence. The way you do it is one decision at a time, because the diligent man isn’t just a guy who wakes up one day, makes the big decision that he’s going to have wonderful relationships, and well-maintained equipment, and a full bank account. That’s not who the diligent man is at all! He’s the guy who makes the little decisions correctly – a little work here, a little saving there, a little extra attention to this part of my life – that’s how diligence comes.

Little decisions. Lots of little decisions, but they have big consequences. That’s how we begin to see God’s wisdom work for us. As we live according to God’s design, as we focus on his priorities and say no to the foolishness that tempts us, we begin to find: Families that are more stable, more fulfillment in life, and even lasting wealth. We see God powerfully working for our good in the everyday moments of our lives as we live out his wisdom.