What are the symptoms of slothfulness?
God knows our hearts, and He warns us to guard them with diligence: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We should be alert to signs of slothfulness and reject the temptation to put forth anything less than our best efforts. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24).
Typically, the following characteristics are trademarks of a slothful person:
Making Soft Choices
Slothfulness develops gradually as a person makes “little” decisions with the goal of maintaining comfort and taking the easy path. A sluggard’s choices may include decisions to stay in bed a little longer, extend lunch and coffee breaks at work, or spend time in idle chatter. A slothful person may procrastinate or refuse to work in adverse conditions.
These actions may seem harmless initially, but soon they can set the standard for a way of life. Minutes frittered away add up to significant losses.
- “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10–11).
- “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15).
- “As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed” (Proverbs 26:14).
Disregarding Time and Seasons
The sluggard is not a self-starter. To him, one day is as good as another. He assumes that what he does not do today can just as easily be done tomorrow. The sluggard does not understand the value of time or the meaning of seasons. His basic philosophy is to live for the moment and let the future take its own course.
The slothful person does not consider that he must one day give account to God for the way he has used his time. He sees nightfall as a justifiable reason for sleep, not for examining whether or not he has earned it. He considers winter an intrusion on his life, not a time for which to prepare and a time when he can enjoy the fruit of his labors. Therefore, the sluggard has little and becomes dependent on the diligent, by whose industry he will be kept alive.
- “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (Proverbs 12:24).
- “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Proverbs 20:4).
Leaving Tasks Unfinished
A slothful person is lethargic in everything he does. Each job becomes a mountain in his path instead of a door of opportunity. If he is visited by success, he does not recognize or value it. To the sluggard, success simply means more work. Thus, he allows opportunities to slip by and permits half-completed jobs to spoil. Even the maintenance of what he possesses or governs becomes a burden to him.
- “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down” (Proverbs 24:30–31).
- “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious” (Proverbs 12:27).
- “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through” (Ecclesiastes 10:18).
Living in a World of Wishful Thinking
When the sluggard is not sleeping, he thinks about the things he wants to do and the things he wants to get. However, he never takes action to make his hopes a reality. The tension between his restless mind and his inactive body produces destructive frustrations.
- “The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not” (Proverbs 21:25–26).
- “A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again” (Proverbs 19:24).
Being Unproductive in the Workplace
A slothful employee is a destructive influence in a company. His lack of initiative and follow-through actually costs the company rather than benefiting it. In fact, fellow employees regard his absence as a relief, because they can get on with the tasks at hand without having to get him out of the way or do his work for him.
At first, employers may try to overcome the harmful effects of slothfulness by transferring the sluggard to a less strategic position of responsibility. Unfortunately, this choice often motivates the employee to merely give excuses for why things did not work out as they should have, thus fueling his discontentment and disloyalty.
- “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Proverbs 18:9).
- “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him” (Proverbs 10:26).
Limiting Activities by Self-Induced Fears
Sometimes slothfulness is the result of irrational fears, and if left unchecked, it will generate more irrational fears. As an escape from his fears, a slothful person sleeps.
- “The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets. As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed” (Proverbs 26:13–14).
- “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth . . . . His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant . . .” (Matthew 25:25–26).
- “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets” (Proverbs 22:13).
Slothful behavior is often completely rationalized in the mind of the sluggard. He declares he would work if only there were fewer obstacles in his path. Because he has convinced himself that he is merely waiting for more favorable working conditions, he stubbornly denies accusations of laziness. “The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason” (Proverbs 26:16).
Throughout Scripture, we are challenged to work diligently and to do all things in a manner that brings glory to God. Turn away from the tendencies of slothfulness! “Be . . . not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:10–11).
This material was developed from pages 221–222 of the Men’s Manual, Volume II.