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Proverbs 24:33–34  (ID: 2279)

A life of ease and relaxation is the ideal our culture promotes. But does God’s Word support such an attitude? Looking to the wisdom of Proverbs, Alistair Begg identifies the sinful characteristics and behaviors of a lazy person. The fall into indolence may cause us to stray from God’s plan for our work, relationships, and communion with Him. By steadfastly nurturing all areas of life, however, we will grow closer to becoming the followers God intends for us to be.

Series Containing This Sermon

Wise Words

Unlocking Treasure in the Book of Proverbs Proverbs 1:1–31:31 Series ID: 24301

Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, can I invite you to take your Bibles again and turn to the book of Proverbs? I’ll be referring to a number of places. If your fingers are nimble, then you can let them do the work. If they’re not, then you can perhaps check later to see that the things that I’m saying are actually in the Bible. But it’s always good to keep your Bible open so that you can see that what’s being said actually emerges from the text. I’m not here to give a talk, some dissertation, share with you things that I’ve been discovering as I read various magazines and whatnot. I want to be the servant of the text. I want to go in the kitchen, as it were, get the food, and bring it out. I’m not responsible to force-feed you with it, and I haven’t come on roller skates or with special bells that ring. I just want to be faithful to the task. And I hope that you will eat and be satisfied. God provides the food, of course.

The book of Proverbs is fantastic. There’s no question of that. You can read it and read it and read it and never think that you’ve learned it. I found my mother reading the book of Proverbs frequently when I was a boy, and the more I’ve read it now in adulthood, I’m sure she was looking for strength and wisdom and courage in order to cope at least with me, her one son.

It is an intensely practical book. You find in the book of Proverbs, if you like, godliness in working clothes. There’s no sense in which, in reading the book of Proverbs, it would appear that a godly life is somehow or another removed from the everyday events of our journey. But rather, we look into the book, and we find that it is intensely practical, it is actually distinctly uncomfortable, and it is immensely profitable.

We’re looking, over these few Sundays that we have in these summer days, at a number of subjects which emerge quite naturally and obviously from the text. And here, as we find ourselves on the twenty-eighth of July, is it, in the very heart of the lazy days of summer, I felt that it would be profitable for us to address the subject of laziness. Laziness. Now, I don’t want you to nudge the person next to you, as if somehow or another it was perfect for them. That kind of deflection will come back and bite you. But resist the temptation to immediately stab your teenage son in the back with a word: “See, I told you that you should come this morning. This one is definitely for you.” Be careful of that. Do be careful.

The book of Proverbs describes the lazy person as “the sluggard.” “The sluggard.” Not a very contemporary word, but quite a good word. It is defined by the dictionary as one who is habitually lazy or habitually inactive. They have determined a lifestyle that is framed essentially by indolence and by inactivity.

Just as a matter of interest, this morning when I got here, I went online and just punched in “laziness.” It occurred to me as I fell asleep last night there may be something on the internet about laziness. And so I punched in “laziness” and was staggered to discover that it threw up for me, initially, fifteen of the choices of 91,005 places on the internet that have something to say about laziness. Number one in the top ten is a site called Laziness Central, which you may be interested in, some of you—although those who would be interested in it would be too lazy to go on the internet and get it. “Laziness Central,” it says, “is dedicated to making the world lazier, one person at a time.” And the content includes resources for the lazy, various features, columns, and a forum for slackers. So, intrigued by this, I clicked on it, only to discover that you can’t bring up the page. Now, I don’t know, but I’m assuming that the reason it’s not there is because the person, you know, had enough to get the site up, but they were too lazy, actually, to put the rest of it on the internet. If that were the case, then they would find their faces very quickly in the pages of Proverbs.

What I want to do, then, is to look at this individual: he’s described as “the sluggard.” First of all, we’ll take a look at his lifestyle; we can’t say everything about him, but something. Then we’re going to drive past his house and look at his vineyard. And then, finally, we’re going to ask ourselves the question, Just in what ways does the cap fit, as it were, in relationship to this most important of subjects?

The Sluggard’s Lifestyle

Well, first of all, then, let’s consider his lifestyle. We could summarize it under a number of headings. I’ll give them to you; if you take notes, you might find it helpful.

First of all, by looking at 26:13 and following, we’re able to recognize that the sluggard is hinged to his bed. Hinged to his bed. Proverbs 26:14 says, “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” He doesn’t merely enjoy his bed; he’s stuck to his bed. He has, if you like, in graphic terms, two slots in his back which have been perfectly created to fit into the hinges on his bed, and when he gets himself into them and into the correct position, he is capable of movement—limited movement. He can turn to his left, or he can turn to his right, but that’s about it. He absolutely loves it. He makes movement but no progress. Where you found him at seven in the morning you can find him later at eleven in the morning, and perhaps at three in the afternoon.

This individual does not like to be approached directly. He doesn’t like questions that say, “Will you do this?” and are followed up by, “When are you planning on doing it?” He doesn’t like someone to come, as in the words of 6:9, and say, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” He never actually refuses to do anything; he just puts it off bit by bit. He deceives himself into thinking that he will get round to it. But by minutes, small increments of time—by minutes and by inches—this individual, he or she, allows opportunity just to slip away.

Secondly, this individual hinged to his bed is happy making excuses for his indolence. Indeed, as you read the Proverbs, you discover that he’s quite ingenious at inventing excuses. Now, we see this in all kinds of ways. Our children come dashing home from school on the last day of school, throw their bag down, never want to see it again in their lives, and immediately launch themselves into the opportunities of summer. And parental responsibility is such that we drive them here, we drive them there, we drive them everywhere. We sit and get eaten by mosquitoes all through the night as we watch them miss again and again their endeavors to try and connect with the softball with the bat which we bought them only a few days before. Finally, we drag ourselves home, and it isn’t long before one of them emerges at breakfast time—which can be anywhere between nine o’clock in the morning and three in the afternoon—emerges at breakfast time to say, “Y’know, I’m bored. I’m bored.” And so we say, “Well, why don’t you cut the grass?” And I’ve found that the cutting of the grass cures boredom immensely and immediately and also produces the most ingenious excuses that you’ve ever heard in your life.

The real danger is not the imaginary lion in the street. The real danger is the roaring lion, the devil, who loves to come and lull people into indolence and defeat.

The individual who has no mind to work—the individual who doesn’t want to work—never lacks for excuses for their idleness. If inside of them they have no desire to engage in endeavor… And incidentally, in the New Testament, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians that part of the responsibility of the pastor is to warn the idle—to encourage the timid, to help the weak, but to warn the idle.[1] Paul says to Timothy, “Make sure the people understand that if they don’t work, they shouldn’t eat,”[2] so that this call to endeavor is not unique to the book of Proverbs or to the Old Testament; you find it all the way out. And when you look at the lazy individual, they’re ingenious in excusing their indolence.

For example, still in chapter 26:13: “The sluggard says, ‘There[’s] a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming [in] the streets!’” No, there’s not!

“Why don’t you cut the grass?”

“There’s a lion in the backyard!”

“No, there isn’t! Where did you get that from?”

Well, the lazy person has managed to convince himself or herself of acts and facts that are completely nonexistent. And the longer they go in filling their mind with that kind of thing, they have imaginary reasons for their inactivity, and these imaginary reasons finally convince them of the fact that they can rationalize the fact that they don’t get up. Of course, the real danger is not the imaginary lion in the street. The real danger is the roaring lion, the devil, who loves to come and lull people into indolence and defeat.

Hinged to his bed. Happy to make excuses. Thirdly, hopeless at completing things. Hopeless at completing things. Chapter 12 and verse 27: “The lazy man does not roast his game, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.” Why doesn’t he roast his game? Well, perhaps because he never got his game! He set off to hunt, and as he began to hunt, he may even shot the thing or pierced it with an arrow, and then he said, “Ah, I’m not going over there for that. It was enough fun firing the arrow at it. Let somebody else pick it up.” Or he dragged the sorry carcass home and laid it against the side of the shed, and his wife asked him, “Are we ever going to eat this?” And he said, “Yeah, we’re gonna eat it. Don’t bug me! I shot it, didn’t I? I’ll get round to it.” And somewhere in the heart of winter, a sorry carcass, a skeletal structure, sticks its head out over the snow as a silent testimony to the fact that the lazy man gives up opportunity moment by moment, inch by inch, and he is confronted by the fact that he is hopeless at completing things.

If you look at 19:24, you find the same statement that is in 26:15: “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!” What a picture! He’d rather enjoy his laziness than his food. So you sit him down to eat, and there he goes, and he digs in, and he says, “Oh, I don’t know if I want to eat this.”

Now, let’s be honest, gentlemen. Our wives leave us alone, they stack the freezer, they do all the business, they go out, they get it perfect, they leave the list, they stick it where it’s supposed to be, and they tell us, “All you need to do—all you need to do—is take this out, pierce this, put it in here, and hey! Before you know it, you’ll be eating wonderfully well.” I’ve been on my own now for ten days, and I can tell you that I am not eating gourmet food. In fact, were it not for cinnamon Life and my toaster, I’m not exactly sure where I’d be. Why? Because I understand how easy it is to be lazy! The effort involved seems so demanding. I mean, all of that piercing of the bag and pressing the microwave. I mean, that’s… that’s work! And plus you have to wait for it! And who knows what’s happening to you while you’re waiting for it, standing so close to all that radiation? No, give me the cinnamon Life. I’ll be fine.

You go in the house, it’s populated by five university students, open their refrigerator, and what do you see? Nothing! Some old jar of peanut butter that looks as though it’s been infested by creatures from outer space, a half-finished ketchup, and an old bottle of water. You say, “What do I give you money for?” It’s a picture of laziness. And without wishing to be crass or indiscreet, the classic illustration of being unwilling to complete a simple task is surely to be found in the average bathroom. You sit down, you look at the toilet roll holder, and what is there? A cardboard tube! Now I ask you, what is so difficult about this? In our house, there’s no magic to it. We don’t even have to stand up; it’s a right-left movement. You go here, you bring it there, you unhook that, you drop it in the wastepaper, you put it on, you’re done. Everybody knows that! And yet there it sits, a silent testimony to indolence.

The same person is not only hinged to his bed, happy with excuses, hopeless at finishing things, but he’s also hungry for fulfillment. The lazy person will always be hungry for fulfillment. His cravings will always be unfulfilled. “The desire,” says Solomon—21:25—“The desire of the sluggard kills him,” because “his hands refuse to labor.”[3] He knows that he would love to have that, he knows what’s involved in getting there, but he doesn’t want to do it. And it is his laziness that short-circuits him. “The soul of the sluggard”—13:4—“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing.”[4] Not because he can’t but because he won’t. He’s made a habit of the soft choice. He says, “I can’t plow; it’s too cold.” And yet, he will hope that he might reap. You can’t reap if you don’t sow and you don’t plow.

And fifthly, the final tragedy of this individual is that he is proud in his own self-assessment. That’s the significance of Proverbs 26:16: “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.” In other words, he regards himself as something of a genius. He scorns his friends who are working hard. He believes himself to have found the key to learning without any inconvenient exertion.

And if you stay there in verse 16, you will notice that he is the last to see his own features. He’s got a blind spot here. He’s no idea that he’s lazy. In verse 13, he says, “I’m not a shirker; I’m a realist. There’s a lion in the streets!” Wrong. In verse 14: “I’m not self-indulgent; I’m just not at my best in the morning.” “Funnily enough, you didn’t look real good in the afternoon. And as I saw you in the evening, you weren’t looking particularly filled with endeavor then either.” In verse 15, his inertia—burying his hand in the dish, too lazy to bring it back to his mouth—is just an objection to people hustling him: “Don’t hustle me! I’ll finish when I’m ready. There’s no rush. What’s the big problem here? I’ll get round to it.”

And I don’t want to be unkind to teenagers, but if a teenage boy and a teenage girl do not seriously address this in their developmental adolescent years, they may give themselves a mountain to climb that is greater than they will ever conquer. Because they burn into their psyche tracks and mentalities that will be for them their natural default path whenever they move forward in their lives. And the picture here is comic, but it is also tragic. And we should not allow the comedic aspect of it to prevent us from recognizing just how tragic it is: hinged to the bed, happy with excuse, hopeless at completing things, hungry for fulfillment, and ultimately, haughty in my opinion of myself.

The Sluggard’s Vineyard

Well, that’s kind of representative of his lifestyle. Now, more briefly, let’s take a drive past his house. Chapter 24 and verse 30 and following. Let’s view his vineyard: “I went past the field of the sluggard”—verse 30—“past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.”

So his approach to life has paid its dividends. We go past this house, we say, “Either there is no one living in that house, or the person is unwell within it or has been removed on account of illness, or the person within it is, frankly, lazy.” Any one of those deductions would be valid.

Samuel Johnson has an immense quote on laziness. I’ll give it to you. It’s not an easy quote, but you’re a very intelligent group; you’ll get this without difficulty. He says, “Indolence is … one of the vices from which those whom it once infects are seldom reformed. Every other species of luxury operates upon some appetite that is quickly [satisfied], and requires some concurrence of art or accident which every place will not supply.”[5] In other words, if we have a craving for eating tubs of peaches, once you get a tub of peaches, you eat fourteen of them, it pretty well is satisfied. And furthermore, if you have a craving for peaches, and you’re somewhere where there are no peaches, then you’re going to have to be involved in some skillful art or in creating some context so that you can satisfy that desire. That’s true in most of these things. But laziness doesn’t need that! You can be lazy anywhere, anytime, without any help at all. Because laziness is nothingness. Laziness is defaulting to sleep and to just abject confusion.

He goes on,

But the desire of ease acts equally at all hours, and the longer it is indulged [it] is the more increased. To do nothing is in every man’s power; we can never want an opportunity of omitting duties. The lapse to indolence is soft and imperceptible, because it is only a mere cessation of activity; but the return to diligence is difficult, because it implies a change from rest to motion, from privation to reality.[6]

Everybody who has ever engaged in an exercise program knows this is the case. It takes no difficulty at all when the time comes around, whether it’s an alarm ringing or whether it’s somebody coming and calling on us, to say, “Ach, I think I’ll just stay here.” It doesn’t matter where “here” is! You can be in your house, you can be on the road, you can be in a hotel: “Ach, I think I’ll just stay here.” And the more that we develop patterns of, “Ach, I don’t think I’ll do this; oh, I don’t think I’ll apply myself; oh, I think I’ll get round to it later,” whatever else it is, we begin to establish a track for ourselves. On the day we determine to change, what a mountain we climb. We were running whatever it was. We were able to talk as we ran. We were able to increase our speed or decrease our speed. We could, within the limits of our own exercise program, do well. And then we said, “Ach, I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” And now, suddenly, we decided we’ll go again. We thought we’d start where we were. We didn’t start where we were. We’d only gone 150 yards, and we were walking. We couldn’t talk to our wives because we were completely exhausted and out of breath. Our neighbor up the street wants to know why we’re not speaking; it’s because we can’t… [makes noises of exhaustion].

And here’s the thing: the real issue about this, and the real tragedy of the man’s house, is that laziness is not an infirmity. Laziness is a sin. God made us to work. Indeed, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh … is a Sabbath to the Lord.”[7] And the contemporary quest for leisure feeds on indolence, feeds on a mentality which says, “Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do or when to work. I will just order my own program. And my desire in life is to reduce this six to as small a number as I can. And I’m certainly not interested in this one day of worship and rest and study and so on. All I want to do… ‘All I want to do is have some fun.’” Sorry, that was, that’s… What’s her name? Sheryl Crow. That just came out from nowhere. Sorry. “‘On the Santa Monica Boulevard.’[8] That’s all I want to do. And I’ll do it when I want, and I’ll do it with who I want, and don’t anybody talk to me about anything.” The Christian is supposed to be radically different from that.

Laziness is not an infirmity. Laziness is a sin. God made us to work.

The problem for the individual is that he is so stuck in his mentality that he’s unprepared to learn lessons even from nature. He’s not prepared to go and look at the ant—chapter 6; you can find it for homework. “Consider the ant,” says Solomon, “and be wise. He doesn’t have an overseer, he doesn’t have a manager, and still he is industrious.”[9] He knows what time it is, and he takes care of it. But to the sluggard, all time is the same. There’s no need to get too active; just take things easy, rest for a while. As a boy growing up in Scotland, Mars bars were definitely my favorite; they’re still high on the list. And the line as a child growing up was, “A Mars a day helps you work, rest, and play.” But for the sluggard, a Mars a day helps you rest. So, look at him as he lies hinged to his bed, surrounded by Mars bar wrappings: “Hey, get me another Mars bar, would you? It’s in my hip pocket. Get it out for me.”

Laziness is a sin. It affects the whole of our manhood and womanhood. It has an unperceived power. It needs to be rooted out. As parents, we have a great responsibility in this. And in a totally leisure-consumed society, the challenge for us is to breed children that are known for the quality of their work, for the consistency of their attendance, for the honesty of their endeavor, for the extra mile given in the place of their employment. These simple things will increasingly be the marks of the godly as our world gives up on the standards of God’s Word.

The Sluggard and Us

Finally, let’s say a word or two by way of application. His characteristics are clear. His house is a shambles; it’s all overgrown. What is the application to us?

Well, first of all, we need to recognize, as I say, that laziness is not something to be joked about, ultimately. It is a comic picture, but it’s ultimately tragic. It’s something that God wants to deal with in our lives in order that we might be our best. Some of us this morning would say that we know Christ and we follow after him, and therefore, it is legitimate for us to ask if there is any sense in which laziness is intruding into our walk with Christ: How am I doing in the things of God? How am I doing in my personal devotional life? What happens in my reading of the Bible, my own personal prayer? What about my commitment to the people of God, not forsaking the assembling of myself together? What about my commitment to the law of God, given not in order to make me acceptable to God, for Christ does that, but given in order that it might frame my life, and in order that I might obey it, and in order that I might fulfill with diligence the demands that it lays upon me as the Spirit enables me? How am I doing?

How are you doing? Has laziness crept into your soul? Are you as devoted as you were a year ago, two years ago, five years ago? Is your zeal burning bright? Is the lamp lit in your home and in your heart? Do those who know us best say, “There’s someone who’s going on. He’s listening to Romans 12:11: ‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.’ I can see that he’s doing that.” The wife says, “I know my husband is doing that. He doesn’t talk a lot about it. He’s not trying to make a fuss about it. But he is diligent in the things of faith. He is committed to following Christ. He is not a lazy man.”

You remember in James Taylor’s song, he describes that guy, he says,

He’s a lazy gent, he don’t pay no rent,
He’s … bent out of shape from living in a tent.

Some kind of funny looking money machine [this] is.[10]

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But [we’ve got] promises to keep
… Miles to go before [we] sleep.[11]

There’s no time for lying down, folks. It’s daytime. It’s work time. The “night is coming, when no one can work,”[12] but the darkness is dark, and the light is light. And we are the children of the light. We let our light so shine that men might see our deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven.[13] And that takes absolute dependence upon the power of the Spirit and absolute commitment to the tasks at hand.

And what about our relationships within our homes? What about our commitment to our marriages? What about diligence in relationship to that? Has laziness crept in? If people came and examined our marriages, do they see the flowers in place? Do they see that it is weeded, that it is cared for? Or do they see the walls broken down? Do they drive by and say, “There’s nobody lives in that marriage. Those are just married singles. Those people exist in the same house, but they have no communion. They have no celebration. They have no meaningful fellowship.”

My dear friends, let me tell you that in twenty-seven years of pastoral ministry, I am forced to conclude that if I take the evidence as presented to me, there are very few really fantastic marriages. And a significant part of the reason is because men quit on the job: “Well, she does this, and she… ” Forget that! You love your wife the way Christ loved the church.[14] You take care of business. You get at it.

I just read a book that was chiding anybody for saying what I’m now saying to you. I won’t tell you the book, ’cause I don’t want you to buy it. But the whole thesis of the book is, “Men don’t need to be told to be good anymore. What men need is an adventure. Therefore, beware of the pastors who tell the men, ‘Come on, now, be good.’ Listen to the pastors who say, ‘Have an adventure!’” Let me tell you: the best adventure you and I will ever have is found along the pathway of goodness, is found along the path of duty. Get to the thorns, and get to the thistles, and get them out, God helping you.

And in the work of the Lord, when I’m asked to take part, do I take part? Or do I just put things off bit by bit? “If you could call me a week on Friday, I’ll be back then.” And really, inside we’re saying, “I hope you never call me again in my life. I don’t want to hear about this.” Or are we the kind of people who are devoted? “Let[’s] not allow slackness,” says Paul, “to spoil our work … let[’s] keep the [fire] of the spirit burning, as we do our work for [the Lord].”[15] Let’s not become masters of the unfinished.

And to the extent that we have become masters of the unfinished, that we’re tending over a journey with Christ and a journey with those nearest and dearest to us that has broken down walls and thorns and thistles, and it is a royal shambles, we need, frankly, only one place to go: to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Say, “Lord Jesus Christ, look at me. I never planned to be here. I never thought that I would get here. I didn’t make a decision to become like this. Somehow or another, it has crept up on me like scarcity; it has seized me by the throat like a bandit. I see now that by small, incremental declensions I have grown so far from the vibrant, diligent, committed lover of Christ, and lover of my wife, and lover of my children, and carer for my people, and gentle to my employees.”

The best adventure you and I will ever have is found along the pathway of goodness, is found along the path of duty. Get to the thorns, and get to the thistles, and get them out, God helping you.

I find this very challenging. Because, as Wiseman says, “The sluggard is no freak,” just “an ordinary man.” [Sings:] “I’m just an ordinary man.”[16] Sorry, that’s My Fair Lady. Just “an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals … too many postponements.” You get it? “Too many refusals, too many excuses … too many postponements. [And] it has all been as imperceptible, and … pleasant, as falling asleep.”[17] It’s easy. It’s easy.

Finally, there are some here this morning, and frankly, you find this resentable. You are the master of ticking everything off. You have little lists for your lists. You have checks. You have circles, triangles, squares, and icky-dickey-do directly related to everything that you do. Your children know that you’re on it, your wife knows that you’re on it, your business personnel know that you’re on it, and frankly, the reason that you’re here is because you’re on the spiritual thing. If you were a little more on it, you’d be here at nine o’clock, but you’re on it—not bad. If you were really on it, you’d be here at six thirty, but you must deal with that yourself. But the fact of the matter is, you say, “You know, I don’t really need a talk like this. I mean, anyone in the community knows that I’m a committed guy. Look at my shoes. I actually shined the heels of my shoes.” (No girl should marry a man who does not shine the heels of his shoes.) “I am present when people ask me, I’m usually a little ahead of the curve, and frankly, I’m a good guy. Thank you for the talk on laziness. Very interesting. I’m never going to need it.”

Hold your fire. I want, finally, in the dying moment, to ask you this question, Mr. Businessman: Are you applying the same level of diligence to the discovery of who Jesus is and why he came and what it means to know him as you are to the pursuit of excellence which is valued and esteemed, and rightly so, and is commendable within your home and community? Are you?

Playing golf this week in western Michigan, standing on the tee, the three people around me began to talk about security. And I couldn’t address the ball because of the conversation. I couldn’t address the ball for a number of reasons, but mainly the conversation was my excuse. So I stepped away from it and engaged in the conversation. And the gentleman said, “You know, the Dow is down.” It was the day it came down five hundred points or whatever it was. “And I moved it into such and such, and I moved it here, and I moved it there.” And somebody came up with a definitive statement on security: “After all,” he said, “security is…,” whatever it was; I’ve forgotten what it was. But it was bogus! And I said to him, I said, “Sir, you know, there are no pockets in a shroud. I’ve done funerals now for twenty-seven years. I never saw anybody load a coffin up with cash. Surely security has to do with dealing with the terminus. Surely security has to do with dealing with the one appointment that you must keep, the one appointment that is in everybody’s diary, the one appointment that cannot be avoided. ‘It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this comes judgment.’”[18] Put it in your diary, Mr. Businessman. You are definitely going there.

Now, let me ask you: Have you applied the same level of diligence to the preparation for that appointment as you have applied in your life to securing your family’s future, etc.? And if not, why wouldn’t you? You’re a sensible man. “Well, I’ll get around to it, I suppose. I will finally get there. I’m not sure that I’m going to do it today or anytime soon, but I do have it in my portfolio somewhere.”

Well, be very careful, because the one thing about the sluggard is that he’s never on time. His favorite day is always tomorrow. He tells himself there’s always going to be a later opportunity: “Give me a little longer. Don’t press me now.” “Well,” said the hymn writer, “life at best is very brief,” it’s “like the falling of a leaf.”[19]

What would it profit a man if he was the most diligent man in the business, and his diligence was such that he gained the whole world, and his laziness in spiritual things was such that he lost his own soul?[20]

And finally, a word to the children. Thank you for listening to me. I see you out there. You’re going, “Is he stopping?” Yes, I’m done. I was done about five minutes ago, but now I’m stopping. Especially to teenagers: you need to deal with this, first on the spiritual level. You’ve got to settle this issue with God. No matter who your mom and your dad is, no matter what they’ve been to you, what they’ve done for you, how they’ve nurtured you and cared for you, there has to come a day in your journey where you say, “Lord Jesus Christ, I am lazy about these things. I can get up at 4:00 a.m. to play ball. I can caddy my brains out, provided the tips are good. I can stay up with my girlfriend to 2:00 a.m. I can play PlayStation till my fingers don’t work anymore. I can watch movies till 1:30 in the morning, I can go to movies at 11:00 at night. I can go to Denny’s 4:00 in the morning and eat their interesting food. But somehow or another, I can’t get this issue sorted out with you.” It’s not can’t, miss. It’s won’t. Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.[21] Do not ever put off to tomorrow especially a kindness that you can do today, and do not put off to tomorrow the claims of the Lord Jesus, who calls you to zealous, dependent Christian living.

Father, I thank you that the Bible is a lamp for our feet; it’s a light for our path.[22] It shines out for us. Our neighbors often say, “Why do you study that book? It’s an ancient old book. It really has nothing much to say.” They don’t understand. We’d love to tell them just how immensely practical it is.

Forgive us, Lord, our indolence. We’re all potentially lazy—lazy about our work, lazy with our relationships, lazy with our consideration of Christian things and our following after you. But don’t let this message, Lord, land on anybody’s head like an anvil, as if somehow or another the word was, “Now, pull up your socks and do your best.” My very laziness shows me that I must rest in Christ. I could never get enough endeavor going to work my way to heaven. This just shows me another fact that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I go to Christ, and I take my rest in him, and finding my rest in him, I endeavor that by his enabling I will work because of his love for me.

Hear, then, our prayers, and let our cries come unto you. Be with us in this day. May your grace and mercy and peace be our portion. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] See 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

[2] 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (paraphrased).

[3] Proverbs 21:25 (ESV).

[4] Proverbs 13:4 (ESV).

[5] Samuel Johnson, “The Usefulness of Advice,” The Rambler, no. 155 (September 10, 1751).

[6] Johnson.

[7] Exodus 20:9–10 (NIV 1984).

[8] Wyn Cooper and Sheryl Crow, “All I Wanna Do” (1993). Lyrics lightly altered.

[9] Proverbs 6:6−8 (paraphrased).

[10] James Taylor, “Sun on the Moon” (1988).

[11] Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1923).

[12] John 9:4 (NIV 1984).

[13] See Matthew 5:16.

[14] See Ephesians 5:25.

[15] Romans 12:11 (Phillips).

[16] Alan Jay Lerner, “I’m an Ordinary Man” (1956). Lyrics lightly altered.

[17] Derek Kidner, Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, ed. D. J. Wiseman (London: Tyndale, 1964), 43.

[18] Hebrews 9:27 (paraphrased).

[19] “Life at Best Is Very Brief” (1892).

[20] See Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36.

[21] See 2 Corinthians 6:2.

[22] See Psalm 119:105.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.