Fighting Sloth-like Tendencies

Posted by Karen Soole Karen Soole
It is not uncommon at the end of a bible study to ask for prayer requests and one recurring theme seems to be managing with the pressure and workloads that people face: too much to do and not enough time, tiredness and stress are the order of the day. Time management seems to be the need of our times, and we can take courses in it. The presumption being that we all work so hard we need to learn how to prioritise.

We run Christian seminars on this. One of my daughters recently found herself in such a seminar; it was all about not putting herself under too much pressure in a desire to achieve academically. I confess that when we spoke about it later it made us laugh – that really is not her issue. In fact if any camp leader wants to run a seminar encouraging my kids to work harder please feel free. Because the Soole’s problem (with perhaps one outstanding exception which does not include me or my kids) is that we veer towards laziness given half the chance.

When I have a busy schedule I can run around madly fitting in everything - that is not my problem, but when things quieten down I procrastinate, flit about on the internet and find time has slipped through my fingers and my to do list is still as long as it ever was.

Laziness is addressed in the bible but I haven’t found anything about working too hard. Working for the wrong motives - yes, working on one thing and neglecting others – certainly, but work in and of itself is good. The wife in Proverbs ch.31, albeit that she is a poetic rendition of the truly wise life, works so hard that it exhausts me just reading about her. Working hard is the normal expectation in scripture. In the past people talked about the protestant work ethic because the bible is clear, hard work is good and laziness is foolish and should be avoided. We need to be like the ant:

Go to the ant, O sluggard;

Consider her ways, and be wise.

Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,

she prepares her bread in summer

and gathers her food in harvest.

How long will you lie there, O sluggard?

When will you arise from your sleep?

Proverbs 6:4-9

There is an initiative this Lent called ‘I’m not busy’ – - encouraging us to give up busyness. It suggests among other things that: ‘we take some time out to do nothing every day. Time it. Sit still. Let life be’. I often quote from the poem Lesiure by W.H.Davies:

What is this life, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?

But this poem is not advocating doing nothing, it is about looking at things more closely, slowing down and contemplating. Walking my dog helps me do that. It's a great time to pray and meditate. I’m not against slowing down. My fight is against unconstructive time wasting, in myself and as a parent in my teenagers. Perhaps a different initiate for Lent could be

I’m not sure what it says about us that we don’t talk about our tendency to laziness or perhaps it is just our household who can fritter away minutes and hours doing nothing – often in front of a screen. One of the most helpful things I was ever taught was ‘learn to use 15 minutes well’ sometimes I succeed in this although I’m still learning. But the next time I’m asked for a prayer request in the middle of everyone complaining about work being hard (and it can be) I will be honest and ask for prayer to continue the fight against laziness.