The Suicide of Slothfulness

“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Romans 12:11

As the parent of four children, I believe I have discovered what is commonly referred to in the Science Fiction world as a “Time Warp.”  I have witnessed the phenomena myself, routinely; but, as yet, have found no way to consistently control it.

Let me explain.

Take a perfectly healthy, active, and able 13 year old (that’s usually about the age when the “event horizon” occurs). By all outward appearances they seem normal, operating within the same constraints of time/space as the rest of the universe.  Ask that 13 year old any one of the following – pick up your room, do your homework, empty the dishwasher, etc… – and something truly amazing happens.

While you continue to move forward in time at a consistent pace, for the 13 year old, time has come to a crashing halt.  Their motion is imperceptible, slower than a three-toed tree sloth, perfect suspended animation.


Then, just to mess with them, you mention that you are heading to the store for a soda, or going to the movies, and before you can grab your keys, they are showered, dressed, and buckled in the car and ready to go, as if their temporary pause in motion allowed them to propel themselves forward in time.

While I think I could get a grant to research this phenomena, I’m sure it’s something we’ve all experienced.  It’s nothing other than laziness, or what the Bible calls “slothfulness.”  The apostle Paul, as he describes the Christian life in Romans 12, speak directly to our attitude toward work, saying, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

“Do No Be Slothful in Zeal”
We don’t talk much about “Zeal” these days, so what exactly is Paul saying?  The word “zeal” here means “eagerness,” or “diligence.” Martin Luther translated this passage, saying, “Be not lazy as to what you ought to do.”

The Christian is never called to idleness and inactivity but to work and diligence.  We are laborers in the field (Matt. 9:37-38), set apart for good works (Eph 2:8-10), and called to “abound in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).

Yet so often we set ourselves on cruise control, coasting through the Christian life.  We let the Sunday School teacher or Pastor do the hard work of study in the word of God, and we sit back and take it all in.  We trust that the worship leaders will generate the right “experience” in worship to carry us through to next week so that we don’t have to put in the time ourselves from day to day.  There are others who will evangelize, others who will give, others who will pray.

Spiritual laziness is spiritual suicide.  We spend more time each day exercising our bodies and tending to our outward appearance than we do exercising our faith in prayer and study, and our witness to the world reflects this reality.  Our churches have fewer numbers every Sunday morning. Our witness to the world is a watered down, compromised, “God wants you to be happy and healthy” message with no power to save.  We are merely playing at Christianity and it shows.  This is why God’s word says, “Do not be slothful in zeal.”

“Be Fervent in Spirit”
The opposite of laziness is fervency.  The word “fervent” comes from the Latin “fervens” which means “boiling.” Rather than a lukewarm, stagnant pool of laziness, our spirit is to be roiling and warm in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Donald Barnhouse once wrote, “This [fervency] of the Spirit is the warmth of the soul touched by the love of Christ.  It cannot exist apart from the knowledge that we have been loved, that Christ gave himself for our sins, that we have been redeemed, and that the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in our hearts. Such a knowledge causes us to yield in full surrender to Him as Lord of all.”

Filled with the Holy Spirit, alive in the knowledge of this love and mercy in Christ Jesus, how can we help but be living and active for Him? When we consider the reality of His love and sacrifice for our salvation, when we remember our citizenship is in heaven, secured as an eternal inheritance, will we not seek to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12)?

“Serve the Lord”
The cure to slothfulness and the key to fervency is remembering that our service in all things is to the Lord. Filled with His love, living by His grace, we do all things for His glory (Col 3:17; 1 Cor 10:31).

Again Barnhouse writes, “The student studies as unto the Lord. In athletics he runs or plays the game as unto the Lord, and he can ask the Lord to enable him to hit the ball, get to first base, and around to home plate. The true Christian can ask the Lord to help him play to the utmost in order that his body may be fully rested in its ‘re-creation.’ We read as unto the Lord, we listen to the radio as unto the Lord, we look at television as unto the Lord.”  Everything we do is unto the Lord.

Let us rise from our slothfulness, as the Spirit fills us and moves us, that we may engage in the work the Lord has set before us, serving the Lord will joy and passion!


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