The Sluggard

Proverbs 6:6-!5: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise:
which having no captain, Overseer, or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise out of thy sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as a prowler, And your need like an armed man.

A worthless person, a wicked man, Walks with a perverse mouth;
He winks with his eyes, He shuffles with his feet, He points with his fingers;
Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually, He sows discord.
Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy
."
(NKJV)

The ant could tell us some strange things.
She could tell about the houses they live in, some of which are forty stories high,
twenty stories being dug out, one beneath another, under the earth,
and twenty stories being built up over them, above ground.

The ant could also tell us about the different kinds of trades they follow.
For some are miners, and dig down into the ground.
Some are masons who build very curious houses, with long walls, supported by pillars,
and covered over with arched ceilings.

She could tell how some are carpenters, who build houses out of wood,
which has many chambers that communicate with each other by entries and galleries.
We would also learn that some are nurses, and spend their whole time taking care of the young ones.
And some are labourers who are made to work for their masters.
And some are soldiers, whose business it is to guard the beehive, and be ready to defend
their friends and fellow-citizens.

Solomon probably knew more than all of us put together.
He was also divinely inspired when he wrote the Book of Proverbs.
Solomon says, a sluggard is "a man void of understanding."
But the slothful doesn't think.
He sticks his chest out so that you would think that he knew it all.

He sees himself as a very wise man in his own esteem, for he has attitudes
which are meant to impress you with a sense of his superior abilities.
He has never taken the trouble to really think, and yet, he is always jumping to conclusions.

Yet he knows everything, and has settled all arguments in his mind.
Meditation is too much hard work for him, and he could never take time to learn,
so he just tries to be clever.

He does not want to know more than he knows, for he knows enough already,
and yet, he knows nothing.
This proverb is not complimentary about him, but Solomon was right when
he called him "a man void of understanding."

How can a man be void of understanding who has a field and a vineyard?

Whether he has a field and a vineyard or not, says Solomon, if he is a sluggard he is a fool.
And if you would like to see his name written out a little larger, he is empty of understanding.
Not only does he not understand anything, but he has no understanding to understand with.
He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard.

He may be called a gentleman, and he may have a vineyard and a field;
but he is none the better for what he has, in fact, he is so much the worse,
because he is a man void of understanding, and is therefore unable to make use of his property.

The ants teach us not to be like the sluggard.
The word "sluggard" is used 14 times in the book of Proverbs, and is used only in Proverbs.
We also see that there are eight references referring to the importance of work in the book of Proverbs.
That's a significant amount of references on this subject in the Book of Proverbs.

Today, we are going to take a look at sloth in the the Book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is all about living wisely in this world.
Proverbs teaches us about practical everyday living.
It provides us with some wisdom about idleness that has become a habit.
It tells us about a person who has become a sluggard.

Before we go any further let's learn about slugs.
Slugs are gastropod molluscs -- they are not insects.
Even though they are considered as repulsive as insects by most of us, slugs have their own unique slime.

Slugs either have very small shells or no shells at all.
Slug is a common name for an apparently shell-less terrestrial, gastropod mollusc.
See how much you learn when you come to church!

Slugs feed on leaves and can be pests.
The soft, slimy bodies of slugs are prone to desiccation
The land-living slugs are confined to moist environments and must retreat to damp hiding places
when the weather is dry.

Did you know that they sleep from 15-18 hours a day?
Did you know they are among the slowest moving mammals in the world?
They hang upside down most of their lives.
And they move so slowly that green algae grows on their fur, and then, they lick it for nutrition.
I know that isn't exciting news.

If you go to the zoo, you might observe a restless tiger pacing back and forth.
You could enjoy a monkey jumping and swinging through its cage.
You could even watch an elephant for a while because of its sheer size.
But you wouldn't get real excited watching a sloth.
It is too slow, too lazy, and it does too much of nothing.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of sluggard is "a habitually lazy person."
Some synonyms of "sluggard" are couch potato, deadbeat, do-nothing, drone, idler,
layaround, loafer, slouch.
Other synonyms are bum, good-for-nothing, dawdler, laggard, slowpoke, snail,
stick-in-the-mud, straggler; a clock-watcher, shirker, slacker; procrastinator; dropout, quitter.
Do you get the picture?

Isaac Watts wrote the first real hymnbook in the English language in 1707.
He authored more than six hundred hymns, as well as many books.
In addition to writing the familiar hymns, "Joy to the World" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,"
he wrote the following moral song:

" 'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
"You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head."

This message is about sloth.
It is somewhat risky to study that theme because quite frankly no one really likes to look at laziness,
which is another word for sloth.

Solomon was going throughout the country, and noticed a broken wall of a little estate
which belonged to a farmer in his country.
This estate consisted of a piece of ploughed land and a vineyard.
One glance showed him that it was owned by a sluggard, who had neglected it,
for the weeds had grown high and covered the ground.

From this, Solomon gives this instruction.
Men generally learn wisdom if they have wisdom.
We may also learn lessons from things that we do not like.

I am sure that Solomon was not pleased to see the thorns and the nettles that covered the vineyard,
but he nevertheless found instruction in them.
So, let us learn from them.
Like Solomon, let us see them: and consider them, look upon them, and learn from them.

The Bible tells us that there are several things that typify a sluggard.
He is lazy.
He will not begin things and he will let his opportunity slip away.
He will not finish things.
He will not face things.
He comes to believe in his own excuses, and to rationalize his laziness.
He is fearful of failure.
He thinks he's wiser than all the wise men and ignores their advice.
His life is made tougher because of his actions
As a result of his habits, he is restless, frustrated and feels the world is against him.

These things that describe a sluggard are very clear, and need very little explanation.
Within the time that we have, I want to focus on those things that are so prominent.

A sluggard is lazy.

A sluggard comes to believe in his own excuses, and to rationalize his laziness
like the old farmer sitting on a stump -- doing nothing.

An old farmer was sitting on a stump at the edge of his field when a tourist saw him,
and stopped to speak to him.
"How are things going?", asked the tourist.

"Oh, tolerable ", answered the farmer.
"I had some trees to cut down, but a cyclone came along and saved me the trouble."

"That's amazing!" said the tourist.
"Yes, the lightening set fire to the pile of trees and saved me the trouble of burning them up."

"Wonderful", exclaimed the tourist.
And then, he asked the farmer, "And now what are you going to do?"

The farmer stretched, spit a stream of tobacco juice and said,
"Oh nothing much, I'm just waiting for an earthquake to come along
and shake my taters out of the ground
!"

The lazy person has much to say about yesterday and about tomorrow.
"Tomorrow, tomorrow, not today, Hear the lazy people say." (German proverb)

The lazier a person is, the more he is going to do tomorrow.
He procrastinates.

Their thought process goes something like this.
"If I stay in my present position things will just get better for me somehow, someway, someday.
By my doing nothing, I will eventually drift into a better life and circumstances
."

They have the "someday syndrome."
"Someday, my ship will come in.
Someday, someone will offer me a fantastic opportunity.
Someday, the credit card companies will forgive my debts.
Someday, I will win the lottery.
Someday, my marriage will improve.
Someday, my children will stop getting into trouble.
Someday, my metabolism will increase and my fat will burn away.
Someday, I will get serious with God.
Someday, I will do something with my life."

You name it and they have a "Someday" for it.
Life doesn't work that way.

The drift in life is always down, not up.
The flow in life is toward defeat, not victory.
If you simply go with the flow, remember that the flow goes downhill.

Do you know what the Book of Proverbs calls "Someday" people?
"Someday" people are "sluggards."

Sad to say, but that there are people who are sluggards, and there are people on their way
to being sluggards.
It seems their only purpose in life is to eat from the gardens of others.
A person on their way to being a sluggard is a person who postpones responsibilities
that ought to be done right now, and says, "I'll do them later."

Procrastination is the first step in becoming a sluggard.

The lazy person is always going to get around to it tomorrow.
"I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof,
and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep
." (Proverbs 24:30-33)

A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks, but finds nothing.
The sluggard does not begin things.
He does not commit himself.
He is a procrastinator.
He deceives himself by saying "later."
So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.

So we must ask ourselves:
Am I the kind of person who doesn't do the things that need to be done?
Or, do I have good and necessary ideas, but I never start them?
For instance, have you ever noticed in yourself that you really ought to get involved in ministry?
But you never have -- you just keep coming up with excuses to avoid it.
You keep putting it off?

Do you constantly complain that you hate your job, but never do anything about it?
How about that class that you should take, or degree you should get that would allow you to change jobs?
How about that entire career change that perhaps would allow you to actually work
at something you really enjoy?

What is it in your life that you should plan today rather than put off?
What is your heart's desire that you can start planning and working for it?

Verse 16 it says, "The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly."
He considers himself wiser than seven men.
In the Bible, the number seven is a special number.
It is considered a number of perfection.
If you have seven people agreeing about something then you should know it's probably right.

But the sluggard thinks he is wiser.
It is better to stay in, better to avoid the danger, better to sleep and slumber.
He does not see his own foolishness.

Let's go a bit further with this deadly sin of sloth.
Of course, none of us want to be known as lazy or slothful.
We often do not see it in ourselves.
In fact, it could be asked should one even preach about this subject since generally
we seem to have a good work ethic.
We are busier than we have ever been.
We live in such a busy world that it would seem that sloth is in danger of becoming extinct.

But let me ask this.
Could it be that our business is really sloth in action?
That sounds like a paradox.
That's about as strange as seeing a sloth at the zoo running for fun.

However, perhaps we need to broaden our understanding of sloth.

We work diligently but the real question is "at what?"
Sloth is really a sin of omission, of neglect, of not doing anything.

This is seen in the farmer sitting in front of his shack in July.
A friend asked, "How's your cotton coming?"

"Ain't got none", he answered. "Didn't plant none. 'Fraid of the boll weevil."

"Well, how's your corn?"
"Didn't plant none. 'Fraid o' drought."

"How about your potatoes?"
"Ain't got none. Scairt o' tater bugs."

The man finally asked, "What did you plant?"
"Nothin,' " answered the farmer. "I just played it safe."

It is not the usual sin of commission, which is actively doing something wrong.
We may not be practising laziness in the form of sleeping and slumber,
but are we failing to do the things that should be done?

Are we like the ant who stores in summer for the winter, and who gathers during the harvest
when the opportunity is there?
Or are we doing something else?
We may be busy, but not with the things we should be doing.

Are we slothful with things of importance and our business is only a distraction?
No, we're not lying on the bed sleeping, but we are still neglecting what should be done.
We make a mistake if we see sloth -- as just lying in bed asleep.

One of our greatest fears should be that one day we will wake up, and our entire life
has passed by -- just wasted.

We should want to make sure that every second of every day we are using our time
to the best of our efforts.
So that when we turn 40 or 50 or 60, we can look back at our days and say, "I tried."
We may not have been successful, but we tried.
Knowing what we knew at the time, we did the best that we could.
Then we will have no regrets.
We didn't waste our time.
We didn't come up with excuses.
We didn't procrastinate.

Is that what you want your life to be?

If that is so, then what are you doing about it?
Will you think about making that change today?
Will you consider making those plans today?
Will you determine right now that you will give of your best to the Master.

"Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth.
Throw your soul's fresh, glowing ardor
Into the battle for truth.

Jesus has set the example,
Dauntless was He, young and brave.
Give Him your loyal devotion;
Give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart.
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.

Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave.
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love.
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.

Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin's ruin to save.
Give Him your heart's adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.

Chorus:
Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth.
Clad in salvation's full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.
-- By Howard B. Grose

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White