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What the Bible says about Idleness, Habit of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 24:30-34

Many proverbs refer to the deleterious effects of neglect or passivity involving the sluggard as both the perpetrator and recipient of ruin and waste. It is a perennial theme throughout the wisdom literature of the Bible:

» Proverbs 15:19: The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, but the way of the upright is a highway.

» Proverbs 12:27: The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man's precious possession.

» Ecclesiastes 10:18: Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks.

In each of these examples, destruction, decay, or corruption are shown to be the cumulative effects of neglect. A modest coat of paint will protect metal and wood surfaces from rust, rot, and the ravages of weather. However, doing nothing will cause structures to decay incrementally, looking as though terrorists had intended to destroy them. Who needs bombs and explosives when the same effect can be accomplished by doing absolutely nothing?

David F. Maas
Could You Be a Spiritual Terrorist?

Proverbs 26:16

Can a lazy person be proud? We have a saying: "Poor but humble." According to God's Word, all too frequently a reason that a person is poor is because he is proud. The truth is often just the opposite of the saying.

How do many wealthy people become so rich? It is because they are willing to take advice and apply it. They humbly listen to the counsel of those with experience, who are already successful, and in following that advice, they themselves become successful. Their humility leads them to seek counsel and follow the advice.

On the other hand, the poor are frequently poor because they either will not seek the advice, or if they do seek it, they find reasons not to apply it. God is referring to this inaction here. Laziness is a sign of pride.

We would not normally think a person who is out of a job and needs one desperately would do that. However, a lazy person thinks so much of himself that he believes that things should come to him without working. He thus justifies or excuses himself, saying:

  • "The conditions really are not quite right."

  • "If I am going to do that job, I first need a new car."

  • "That job is too far away."

  • "The pay is not enough for all that I would have to do."

  • "If I go there, I will have to move."

He is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who can render a sensible reason. At the root of his "wisdom" is pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Six)

1 Thessalonians 5:3

Undoubtedly, these people's minds were on what would happen to them, and similar things should be on our minds. We find out a little later that some of them had actually quit their jobs because they believed the return of Christ was so near. They were just going to wait it out. They were misinterpreting Paul's sermons.

Do we think this cannot happen to Christians today? The biblical record is clear. These Thessalonians were going to wait idly. But time was rushing by, and Paul had to admonish them to get back on the job—both physically and spiritually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic

2 Thessalonians 3:8-9

They simply quit working at their jobs! They were just going to wait out the time until Christ returned. What spiritual category would we put them in? How strange and twisted the people's judgment was becoming! They were neglecting their relationship with Christ because they were losing contact with Him. The Spirit of God was diminishing in them, and its influence was just evaporating away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ

Related Topics: Idleness | Idleness, Habit of


 

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

Commentators believe these brethren stopped working due to misunderstanding the nearness of Christ's return. Nonetheless, they were breaking the pattern of conduct set by Christ Himself and taught by the apostles. Jesus worked right up until He was crucified. Paul calls their conduct unacceptable and serious enough that those brethren who were patiently working should withdraw from those who quit (II Thessalonians 3:6)!

This example contains a practical truth about work that is not mentioned but is helpful to understand. Costs are tied to work, whether it is for the Lord or an employer, and not the least of these is sacrifice on the part of the laborer. Jesus teaches this in Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'”

To be an active, producing Christian, Jesus says that, in laboring under and with Him, we must deny ourselves and then take up, carry, or bear up under whatever the cost may be. Thus, sacrifices are involved in Christian responsibilities, as well as in our day-to-day job, but Jesus particularly aims this comment about Christian works at His followers. Denying ourselves is required because the carnal nature is always present and invariably desires to take it easy and do the wrong things through ingrained habit. However, if we give in to this, profit in Christian life diminishes.

This we do not want because, without denying ourselves, life is guaranteed to be a failure. Recall how concerned Solomon was about profit. Life will be profitable if we do the right things, but sometimes, to do so we must literally will ourselves to do what is required. Sacrificing is the only means to accomplish what needs to be done.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Two): Works

1 Timothy 5:11-13

This is similar to my own experiences regarding people who are unemployed. If they are unemployed for any period of time, if they do not have strength of will, they learn to be idle. "Learn to be idle" is a difficult Greek construction, though the New International Version renders it well: "They get into the habit of being idle." It is not that they sit down and study how to be idle, but over a period of time—even though they may start out looking for a job and using their spare time in a profitable manner—inertia sets in.

Notwithstanding their good intentions, they start rising a little bit later, taking their time doing this or that. They find over time that it is far easier to sit around and drink their coffee, call their neighbors or brethren, chew the fat, and talk about this or that person:

"How is he doing?"

"Oh, fine!"

"But you know he has a problem."

"Oh, does he?"

"Yes. His marriage is not going well."

"Well, you know, I went through a problem like that back a few years ago. Maybe I'll give him a call and give him some advice. It is tried and true! It worked for me. If he needs me to, I'll go over and watch his kids for him."

And pretty soon they are fully involved in somebody's marital crisis when they should not have even known about it! It is evident that being a busybody is linked with gossip, tale-bearing, and scandal-mongering. They usually go hand in hand.

Once a person starts messing in other people's business, before long he is telling his friends what is happening and how wonderfully he is advising and helping these people. Soon all sorts of rumors are flying back and forth about so and so and this and that. Like a law of nature, it is only a matter of time before a relationship conflict erupts. What is then present in the church? War and disunity!

Experience shows that it often comes back to bite the meddler! The Old Testament provides a graphic image of what happens to such a person: "He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears" (Proverbs 26:17). And just a few inches away from those dog's ears are big, sharp teeth! When we meddle in other people's affairs, it comes back to hurt us. No one wins when meddling happens.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's So Bad About Busybodies?


 




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