More than Laziness: The Deadly Sin of Sloth

Photo by  Susana Fernandez

Over the past several weeks, we’ve looked at three of the Seven Deadly Sins, including pride, envy, and wrath. Today we’re tackling sloth. For most of us, sloth is not one of those sins we think about often. In fact, sloth might be a something we never even considered a sin. Some of us might be asking ourselves, “what does it mean to commit the sin of sloth?” While we might have questions and doubts about the sin of sloth, the Bible and the church throughout history have discussed this sin regularly. 

What Is the Sin of Sloth?

For those who have heard the term “sloth” before, you probably think of physical laziness. While laziness is certainly an element of sloth, there’s more to this sin than just laziness. In Hit List, Brian Hedges defines the sin of sloth with four characteristics: (1) carelessness, (2) unwillingness to act, (3) half-hearted effort, and (4) becoming easily discouraged by any possible difficulty.1 If you weren’t sure what the sin of sloth was before, I’m certain you have a better idea now.

In our day and age, many of us are incredibly busy. In fact, often times when I ask someone how they are doing, this is their response: “I’m so busy right now!” Sadly, this is often my response as well. We feel as though we are constantly busy, and for many of us, we are busy. So, when we ask ourselves, “Am I struggling with the sin of sloth?”, we immediately say no because it is physically impossible for us to be lazy. However, if sloth is more than just being lazy, all of us should consider how we might be struggling with the sin of sloth in our own lives. 

Diagnosing Sloth

Am I careless? Proverbs 24:33-34 says, “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.” All of us need rest, but has our rest turned into negligence? Have we begun to not care and not give our best effort in whatever life circumstance that comes our way? When we become careless, we become like the man in Proverbs 24. Think through your life. How have you become careless in your relationship with God? Your relationship with your wife and children? Your job?

Am I unwilling to act? Have I begun to procrastinate? Proverbs 20:4 says, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” If we are unwilling to act we cannot expect to necessarily complete the tasks we must do and have the things we need. Procrastination is a real temptation for all of us. Tasks are often so overwhelming that we keep putting things off until it becomes practically impossible to finish what we need to on time. Student, are you procrastinating on your homework and projects? Parent, are you putting off that conversation you need to have with you child? When we are unwilling to act, we commit the sin of sloth.

Do I do everything with a half-hearted effort? Sometimes we have so much to do that we do not do everything with excellence. Our priorities get out of whack and we spend more time and energy on our job than we do with our relationship with God or our families. Much of our problem with half-hearted effort is not because we are lazy, but because we have done a terrible job of prioritizing our life. A friend of mine often says a person can only have five priorities at a time. Look at your life and list out your priorities. Do you have more than five? Perhaps much of our problem with giving a half-hearted effort is our inability to say no. 

Am I discouraged in the face of every difficulty? Life is full of difficulties. No one, including God, ever promised that life would be easy. Discouragement in the face of difficult situations is a reality we all have to deal with; however, potential difficulties cannot paralyze us from action. Sometimes past difficult situations cause us to fear the unknown, inhibiting us from any sort of future action. We must be resolved to know that difficulties will continue to come and that we can work through these difficult circumstances. 

Combatting the Sin of Sloth

How can we combat the sin of sloth in our life? I want to encourage you in two ways:

  1. Don’t quit. Life can be difficult, but this does not mean we quit. The Bible constantly calls us to persevere in all areas of life. When you begin to think, “This is too much, I’m too tired to keep going, I’m quitting,” remember these thoughts are not from God. God has called us to persevere and has given us his Spirit to help us in this pursuit. When life gets tough, remember God’s presence is with you, and because of this, you can persevere!
  2. Do Everything for the Glory of God. In two places, Paul reminds us that in whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Colossians 3:17 says, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We must remember our lives are not about us; they are about God. How we live our lives matters. We do not live for ourselves but rather fro God. When you begin to battle sloth, remember everything you do is for the glory of God.

Check out some of the previous posts on the Seven Deadly Sins:

1Brian G. Hedges, Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins (Minneapolis: Cruciform, 2014), 63.