Sister to Sister: A Culture of Sloth?

lazy_womanTomorrow night (Tuesday) is podcast night. Join us if you can at new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women at 7 CST. If you’re all tied up then, be sure to go back and watch the archive later.

There are lots of 2013 societal topics that are covered in the readings we’ve shared this month; too many for an hour. So I’ll just mention one topic that jumped out at me from the Proverbs. If you’re just getting to that, then go ahead and notice, as you read, all the references to sloth or slothfulness or to the sluggard. The Proverbs writer covers the topic and covers it thoroughly. I believe many of his words are extremely relevant to our nation and, even particularly, to the debate that’s been ongoing in the last three weeks about big government, entitlement and ObamaCare.

Recently, when my phone was on the blink, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted one of her Obama phones. She had inadvertently been sent two of them. Another friend recently told me she was asking her boss to stop giving her so many hours on the job because if she worked too many hours, she would make too much money and she would have to start paying rent. I know there are many of you who could tell similar stories.

It’s important to say that the Proverbs writer included much about the responsibility of God’s people to help the poor. I want to be compassionate and responsive toward those who are in need, understanding that the needy brother is the Lord (Matthew 25). But I must say that the government that has taken on many people who are able to work, but find it easier to live off of said government, has made it increasingly difficult to find truly needy people and to be discerning about how and when assistance is needed. This doesn’t absolve me of the responsibility to help when I see needs. It just muddies the water when so many able-bodied fathers are choosing not to provide, so many mothers are having multiple babies out of wedlock on the tab of the government, and so many goods that are given to children are confiscated nowadays by their parents, who are often grabbing every available commodity to convert to cash for drugs. Our world of slothfulness and accompanying sins has just made it harder to be stewards in benevolence.

I believe accountability for self betterment and for repaying debt would also be greater if those in need were more dependent on their families and the family of God and less dependent on government. I believe that, when we as Christians help people, we do so with a primary motivating factor–that being the salvation of souls. If I am investing in a person financially, as a child of God, I am also interested in that person growing to a maturity level at which he or she will want to work diligently to provide for needs, be faithful in attendance and be accountable to the family of God, as we all are. But if the needs are met by the government, that personal and local accountability for improvement is negligible, at best.

Also, it’s interesting to notice that slothfulness is sometimes manifested in the person who is “looking” for a job, but believes that most available work is beneath his skill level or simply beneath his “comfort zone.” Sometimes the government benefits that one can retain while unemployed may be a better gross income than that of many jobs. One young girl told me recently, “Yes. I need a job, but I refuse to flip burgers.” The Proverbs writer said this: “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing (Proverbs 20:4).” Sometimes, in America, we simply can be more comfortable when unemployed, so we may refuse to “plow in the cold.”

Howard Kainz of Marquette University articulates well something we all know. He says, “It goes without saying, that the cure for sloth, whether physical or spiritual, is to be found only in the activation of free will, which offers to everyone the possibility of overriding inertial tendencies, and changing directions; and with redirecting one’s reserves of energy, and/or tapping new sources of energy—e.g., friendships, psychological motivations, and, in the spiritual life, prayer or retreats” (“The Anatomy of Sloth,” Crisis Magazine, 2013).

May we all see the great value of having a good work ethic and the tragedy of human inertia.

So here are a few more of the many wise words from the Proverbs about sloth. See if you can find more as you read.

I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:30-34)

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