Not many of us would think that we have a problem with slothfulness, or laziness. In fact, it does not seem to be a problem that Australians as a whole struggle with – on the contrary, Australians are known for being hardworking and diligent, with some studies even suggesting that we are the most hardworking people in the developed world.
This is especially true for Christians, juggling full time work, church commitments, families and occasionally squeezing in a social life (although that’s usually the first to go!) If anything, we might be tempted to think that our problem is actually with busyness. But the term ‘sloth’, in its original context, is not referring to physical activity, rather it has spiritual overtones incorporating feelings such as despair, depression and boredom.
Understood as such, slothfulness quickly becomes more relevant and hits home hard for many of us. Is our physical activity only a cover for our spiritual malaise? Has our outward busyness become an excuse for having a poor spiritual relationship with our heavenly Father?
One potential reason for spiritual slothfulness is a flawed understanding of our relationship with God. The dominant phrase that is used in evangelical circles is that we are in ‘rebellion’ against our God and while this is certainly a helpful illustration, one must be careful of distorted applications that can creep in. Because the act of rebellion is an active action – conjuring images of political coups or uprisings, we assume that unless we are actively working against God, then we are spiritually healthy. Yet this could not be further from the truth.
In revelation God issues this warning to the church in Laodicea, ‘because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth’ (Rev. 3:16). It is very rare that a Christian will actively decide to reject God; it is far more likely that they will become lukewarm and slide quietly out the back door.
Spiritual slothfulness then, is a sin that we must all guard against, whether you became a Christian yesterday or are the Minister of the church! We can check our spiritual temperature in many practical ways, for example, by seeing if we are spending time with God through our private devotion times, or whether we are striving to emulate Jesus in our relationships. The danger here however, is the speed with which our sinful hearts will turn these good things into a legalistic checklist and so fail to solve the problem.
The real solution that is given to the Laodicean Church is beautiful in its simplicity: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me’ (Rev 3:20).What a great comfort for the Christian struggling with slothfulness – what a simple cure! Just open the door. God is there knocking, he is searching us out and is desperate for us to turn back to him.