Sloth was one of the original "Seven Deadly Sins" first promoted by church leaders in the Middle Ages: Sloth. Lust. Anger. Pride. Envy. Gluttony. Greed. This list was made most popular by Thomas Aquinas in the Thirteenth Century. When we examine the list, we see the seven are not as much sins as they are attitudes and dispositions that result in sinful behavior. Paul says we are not to be conformed to our sinful flesh nature, but be transformed, changed, people by controlling, renewing, our mind. (Romans 12.1-2). Then he lists virtues that we are to cultivate, virtues that are opposed to these deadly sins. A similar contrast is found in Galatians chapter five: Here the acts of our sinful flesh nature are contrasted with the Fruit of the Spirit.
Indeed, sloth has been around since the beginning. For us it means laziness, something we're all guilty of. We may joke about it, prefer not to talk about it, but it is a major sin. When we examine Romans chapter twelve more closely we pick up on our areas of laziness...
Sloth in Ministry. "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." God has gifted each of us differently according to His grace. We don't all serve Him in the very same way, but with our talents, gifts! What is our Kingdom Gift? Why is it that many of us have been in the church for decades and never discovered our spiritual gift? We know our worldly talents and make use of them in our careers, but Spiritual Gifts, not so much. God wants us to find our place in His Kingdom Work. Paul says "zeal in ministry" is a part of our worship in service.
Sloth, Laziness in Love. "Be devoted to one another, honor one another." "The Fruit of the Spirit is love." Love is singular. Love is a sign that God lives in us through the Spirit He's given us. Love is the bouquet; the other virtues are the flowers of love. Love is the soil out of which all other virtues grow. "God is Love!" Indeed, if He lives in us, we will love; agape even our enemies! Sloth in love exhibits itself in such things as: Envy. Hate. Selfishness. Selfish ambitions. Jealousy. Gossip. A critical judgmental spirit. Sowing discord. These are lazy attributes because it takes genuine work to love, forgive, place the interest of others before self. It's easy to talk about others rather than bridle our tongue. Agape love is a work!
Lazy in Attitude & Disposition. "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." We all know those who seem to focus on the negative, always! Nothing ever goes right in their life; it's always poor me; they exhibit a victim mentality, an Eeyore complex. Listen, it takes genuine effort, work: To rise above the events of the day. To always count our blessings. To live in joyful hope regardless of what's going on around us. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is knowing that God is Sovereign, that He is mine and I am His; that "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ." Knowing that I am forgiven, Heaven bound. "Rejoice always" takes determinate effort. Joy is knowing I'm OK!
Our disposition is to be like Jesus: "Your mind, heart, attitude, disposition, behavior should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be held on to, but made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant." Indeed, controlling our attitude and disposition takes effort, work.
Sloth in Fellowship. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge." "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." "Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not covet. Love your neighbor as yourself." "Bear one another's burdens."
Lazy in Faithfulness to Country. The chapter ends, but the context doesn't. There is more work to be done: "Submit to governing authorities... Because they are God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." Being good citizens in any governmental system is a work, some more than others. For the first century, primitive church, it took real discipline and effort to submit to Caesar in areas of taxes, service, and living by his rules. It's evident in Scripture that Paul was not saying faithfulness in all things. The early Christians never bowed the knee to Caesar saying "he is Lord." We have a duty to God and country; God first then governmental rules. God desires we work to fulfill duty to country.
Lazy in Edification. "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters... Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another; make every effort to not put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Church, we have a choice, we can edify, encourage, and lift one another up, or we can judge, bite, and devour one another; tearing down that which God has built. We are not judges in His Kingdom, but brothers. Paul and Peter disagreed, disagreed to the point that Paul withstood Peter to his face about his bigotry. But they were both safe and saved in God's Kingdom. It is a good work to be patient with those who believe differently. "We who are strong ought to bear with the failing of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighborfor his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself... So may God give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus... Accept one another, then just as Christ accepted you..."
Well, I hope you agree that we are all guilty of some Kingdom Laziness, Sloth, in one or more of these areas. Hope you agree that part of our worship to God has to do with our work, labor, in His Kingdom in both attitude and behavior.
May God bless our efforts to rise above Sloth.
Bella Vista Church of Christ