Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” — Your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11, NASB)
Of all of the sins a man can commit, few are as serious as the sin of sloth. Laziness has destroyed countless families and been responsible for even more people descending into the ranks of poverty. Today, an entire generation has grown up without any knowledge of hard work, content to merely slaughter the most people in a Halo match. They care nothing of true responsibility and expect any problem to resolve itself in less than the time it takes to watch a Simpsons episode. When hard work comes by, they flee from what needs to be done or just ignore it entirely by taking a nap. What do the Scriptures say about laziness?
Proverbs 6:6-11, which I’ve quoted above, demonstrates God’s desire for us to apply ourselves to our work. As an example, Solomon presents the ant. The ant could easily be considered the model worker. It always obeys and never rebels against authority. Complaining and murmuring about circumstances aren’t something the ant is capable of. It works hard to prepare for the cold winter months when the colony’s food supplies will dwindle. As verse 7 says, the ant requires no oversight in order to complete its assigned tasks. Furthermore, the worker ant never receives thanks or even the smallest recognition for what it does. Yet the ant presses on and never looks back
As humans, we should endeavor to do the same. Even the lazy man will work hard when somebody is breathing down his neck. My preschool-age daughter, for instance, will clean her room twice as fast when I’m standing over her barking orders than when I’m not. A real work ethic would thus be defined as working hard when nobody is looking or when no thank you is in order. When the boss isn’t around, it means finishing your work; it means working hard even when you don’t receive even the slightest acknowledgment from others.
Besides putting forth effort into what we do, this passage highlights the importance of not sleeping all the time. When I was a lazy teenager myself, sleeping in was my hallmark. There were days my feet wouldn’t hit the carpet until 2 in the afternoon. According to verse 9, the sluggard spends much of his time in such a state – always sleeping and never working. What’s more, we see in verse 10 that he’ll make excuses for it too: “‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest'” (Proverbs 6:10). Those who are lazy will make constant excuses for not doing their work – everything from procrastination to quite literally sleeping on the job.
Verse 11 outlines the bitter temporal consequences of the sin of sloth. “Your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:11, NASB). In other words, the sluggard will have poverty as a constant companion, and God will not see fit to bless him materially. The image of a “vagabond” portrays poverty as smashing its way in suddenly and not withholding mercy. In this same way, financial affliction overtakes the lazy. Elsewhere in Proverbs God affirms this simple principle: “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4, NASB). The lazy man may have trouble even satisfying basic needs. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul writes, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. (NASB)” Although Paul was writing in the specific context of ministry, he chose to set an example by working to support himself and thus demonstrated this universal idea.
As believers, we must stand guard and be ever watchful towards the sin of laziness. Few other sins can so thoroughly cause God to nullify His blessings. He may even see fit to remove material comfort and possessions for the purpose of instilling a solid work ethic. Let us not be slack in glorifying God through our hands.