In the face of all the multiple demands at seminary, the temptation to laziness can be acute. I’ve spoken with a number of students who succumb to laziness, to their own hurt. They have much to get done, but cannot get themselves to do it.
Often laziness will show up as procrastination; or choosing to do distracting or escapist activities instead of the work at hand. (For instance: Playstation, TV, movies, escapist reading, laying inactive on the couch, etc.)
Some factors that contribute to laziness:
- Physical exhaustion. Often people with high demand jobs or hours get to the point where they are so physically tired they cannot muster the energy to do something else.
- Lack of endurance. When you begin seminary it usually involves greater time demands than you’ve faced before. Adjusting to the amount of work to be done can be difficult when you’re not accustomed to it.
- Mental Paralysis. I am one who can get mentally paralyzed in the face of too many demands. I’ll get overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, so I’ll do nothing.
- Depression. Indolence and chronic un-motivation can be a symptom of depression.
Most of the time, however, laziness is a sin. The choice to be lazy is a choice, no matter what your circumstances are. It is a decision of will. The sin of laziness or sloth is about taking more joy in ease than in doing the will of God, or of executing the responsibilities reasonably expected of us.
Factors we’ve mentioned above can worsen the temptation, in the same way a married man’s temptation to lust is more problematic when his wife is out of town or he’s traveling. But the circumstance is not the problem.
A few theological reminders:
We were created to work. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15)
We are commanded to work. It’s easy to forget the Sabbath commandment (which we routinely break) begins with a command to work for six days.
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work….
(Exodus 20:9-10a, emphasis added)
We do need rest. Laziness, however, is not about rest. It’s about avoiding exertion.
We were saved to do good works. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Remember also the Bible is clear about the results of laziness:
- Fruitlessness (Proverbs 20:4)
- Poor reputation (Proverbs 10:26)
- Lying (Proverbs 22:13)
- Poverty (Proverbs 24:30-34)
- Procrastination (Proverbs 6:9)
- Hindrances (Proverbs 15:19)
- Conceit (Proverbs 26:16)
- Dissatisfaction (Proverbs 13:4)
- Death (Proverbs 21:25)
If you are succumbing to laziness, here are a few suggestions:
Take responsibility. No one is making you lazy; that decision is entirely your own. Don’t blame it on anyone or anything but yourself.
Be done with excuses. Your life is not that exceptional. Quit whining.
Take initiative. Laziness will only go by the exertion of effort on your part.
Look at the big picture of your life. What is it that you want to do? What’s your purpose in being at seminary?
Try keeping an activity log for a few days. What exactly ARE you doing? Write everything you do and how long it takes you. Just being aware of what you’re doing can help.
Break things down. If you find yourself overwhelmed, break down your work into hour long chunks, and assign them to your calendar. Then you can focus on just one thing at a time.
Simply your schedule. If you have too much to do, look for things you can eliminate or delegate.
Get counseling. Laziness can be a symptom of depression. Are you depressed? People in ministry are not immune! Most seminaries have free counseling-make an appointment.
Go to sleep. If you’re tired, sleep. Most Americans, in fact, are acutely sleep deprived. Beware of staying up late watching TV, vegging on the couch. It is not helping you. Go to bed.
Exercise. Done right, exercise is energizing, not tiring. I’m not asking you to run marathons, but a brisk walk will help improve your metabolism, and it will get you moving.
Watch your diet. Eating fresh and healthy choices will help feel more energized. Fast food can make you lethargic.
Be with people. I find it much easier to be lazy when other people aren’t around. There is a motivation in community. Studying in the library might be a good alternative to doing it at home.
Get perspective. You’re at seminary. Do you know what a gift that is? Do you know how many third world pastors are pouring themselves out for their people and will never have the opportunity for formal theological education? Be grateful, and work hard.
Repent. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for your sins so you could avoid work. Live worthy of the calling you have received.
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:10
Finally, a few quotes:
There is no fatigue so wearisome as that which comes from lack of work. – Charles Spurgeon
Nobody can think straight who does not work. Idleness warps the mind. – Henry Ford
Determine never to be idle… It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.
– Thomas Jefferson
A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he set out, will have condemned himself to second-hand thoughts and to second-rate friends. – Cyril Connolly
(From the archives.)