Sloth And Zeal

Pity the poor sloth. An animal so unhurried that it was named for one of the seven deadly sins. Sloths, as we all know, are very slow-moving animals. Their bodies are made to conserve energy, and they spend most of their time hanging upside down and sleeping. As a result, they are seen as being lazy when it actually helps them to avoid predators and stay safe. Nonetheless, they are stuck with a rather negative label. The Bible speaks of sloth, an activity or rather inactivity which is sinful. We often equate slothfulness with laziness in our work. The book of Proverbs doesn’t present the sluggard in a positive way but encourages us to be diligent in our work and thoughtful about what we are doing. As a door turns on its hinges,    so a sluggard turns on his bed.A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;    he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes    than seven people who answer discreetly. Proverbs 26:14-16 No one should desire to be a sluggard. But there is more to sloth than just laziness in our work. Our spirituality can also suffer from a lack of attention. Ligonier Ministries defines biblical sloth as, “laziness that comes from carelessness about the commands and priorities of God, a lack of love for God and His ways.”   Paul tells us in Romans 12:11 to “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Guarding against spiritual complacency is essential. Many people would be horrified to think others see them as lazy or slothful but in their spiritual life, they have let things go. We don’t need to strive to impress God with hours of prayer or Bible study every day. But we do need to consider if we are keeping our spiritual fervor alive and healthy.

Out Of Control

I saw a news report last week about two men who stopped their cars on a major city freeway, got out and started fighting with each other. They were literally rolling around on the asphalt while cars were trying to get by. No one was sure what prompted the road rage during the rush hour, but many commuters expressed concerns about their own safety. What’s with people getting so angry in traffic that they need to get into a fistfight? It’s hard not to see the wisdom in James’ instructions. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20) Anger is a serious problem in our world. Judging by the number of times it is referenced in Scripture, I don’t think this is a new problem. Here are some other verses teaching us about anger: People think that there isn’t much you can do about being angry other than just letting it all out. The Bible makes it clear that we have more control over our anger than we usually admit. We can be slow to anger and not quickly provoked. That’s a decision we can make. We can refrain from anger and offer gentle words rather than stirring up conflict. We all struggle with anger at times. Yet we aren’t at the mercy of anger or the foolish people around us who just ‘make us mad’. The problems we see come from a belief that we can’t control our emotions. As Christians, we have the benefit of the Spirit’s work in our lives producing good fruit. We aren’t helpless. If anger seems to be out of control in your life, it’s time to ask for God’s help, it’s what he intended.

The Monster Within

The devil was travelling across the desert when he came upon a few of his minions who were tempting a holy man who was easily shaking off their evil suggestions. Try as they might, the demons couldn’t get the man to sin. The devil watched for a while and then stepped in to give them a lesson. He leaned over and whispered in the holy man’s ear, “Your brother was just made bishop of Alexandria.” Suddenly a scowl of jealousy clouded the peaceful face of the man. His whole demeanour changed and his body drooped. “That,” said the devil to his imps, “is what I recommend.” The holy man wasn’t tempted with sins of the flesh or inflated wealth but hearing something good about a rival (his own brother) depleted him of goodwill. We live in an age where envy flourishes. We are envious of others’ careers, travel, body type, house and or family. You name it. Envy is that feeling that what someone else has should be what we ought to have. Worse, malicious envy is when you want to take it away from the other person. As one evangelical dictionary puts it, envy is the “sin of jealousy over the blessings and achievements of others.” Envy isn’t pretty and left unchecked brings more problems. James 3:16 tells us, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” Better to check it early and not let it take hold. Do you have any envy to confess?


A dominant driver in our culture is convenience. The business world is obsessed with finding ways to make it easier for us to buy things. We can barely stand to purchase something if it takes more than 3 clicks. You get the feeling that inconvenience must be purged from society. It’s not just that we hate to be inconvenienced by everyday chores: we are increasingly annoyed by having to do them at all. We want instant gratification without effort or sweat. The danger is that we lose the capacity to develop patience and self-discipline which has always been necessary for the development of character. The Biblical poster-child for instant gratification is Esau.  He was the older twin brother to Jacob. Esau, after a tiring day, gave away his inheritance to Jacob for the price of a bowl of soup. The Message paraphrase puts it like this: “Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.” (Hebrews 12:16-17)Hebrews 12 deals with the subject of discipline and why it’s necessary. We are encouraged to stay the course when things get difficult. We are to “run with endurance”, “struggle against sin” and, “not grow weary or fainthearted.” In other words, spiritual growth takes some effort. Time-saving devices are great, but when it comes to the development of our faith, there is no shortcut. It’s necessary to pass through the dark and challenging days in order to strengthen our character. We carry burdens in prayer to develop the muscles of faith and trust.  In our suffering, we identify with Christ who suffered for us. The discomfort we feel causes us to yearn for something better. None of these things are convenient and yet they are necessary to our Christ-like development. So watch out for the Esau syndrome. Don’t trade away the blessings of God for your short- term appetites. That might leave a bitter taste.