During this past week’s episode, we wandered into sluggard territory. And when I say that I wandered into that territory, I mean that I used my frequent flyer points and checked into my usual room.
Battling laziness and an unproductive lifestyle can be a real challenge. Especially if you are similar to me and you LOVE serving yourself. You love serving yourself so much, in fact, that you don’t even want to make yourself serve yourself (Prov. 26:15)
Now before we go any further, if you find yourself physically unable to function in daily life, seek out some help. You very well may be experiencing depressive symptoms and could benefit from biblical counseling or other solutions provided by a medical doctor. I’ve been there. Betsy’s been there. It’s alright to get help. It’s not alright to suffer under the guilt of a malfunctioning body.
Now back to Sluggardville.
Why is it in this day and age, where we have modern conveniences out the wazoo, we still find it difficult to get the most simple tasks completed – or even started! What’s the major malfunction??
Well, a helpful resource Do More Better by Tim Challies, has brought to my attention the real issue is not just a motivational one, but a theological one. When we have a misconstrued idea of who God is, what He has done, and how we are to respond, we can adopt or continue to live out the soul of the sluggard. We see in the beginning God modeling how He works – He created all things, they were good, and then at the end of His creating – He rested. Now before the fall, we were called to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth. However, thanks to man’s sinful actions, against a holy God, our spiritual and physical realities were doomed to death. Not only that, we still are required to fulfill this command of working – but it is going to be exhausting and produce little fruit!
In the beginning of Ecclesiastes we read how our labor is futile. We work to only do it all over again. And we work for what perishes. We toil and toil, yet all we have to show for it is constant toiling.
Agh! WHY! (says every person who does the same thing day in and day out with little to no visible fruits of their labor)
But, enter Christ. God in flesh. The God incarnate. Fully man and fully God. He took on flesh, worked daily for the Lord, perfectly loving God and loving neighbor, and completed the work for us. We no longer have to strive to not be dead. Our biggest problem – solved. In Christ, we don’t get the wages of our sin. Instead we get the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
So, what does this mean for our working? How is this supposed to help me not be a lazy bum all the time? Well folks, because Christ finished the work that we couldn’t do, upon adoption as Sons we get the Holy Spirit. Through this incredible gift, we are equipped to do every good work. That’s right, we were saved so we could do good works! Because doing good works brings glory to God and our purpose is to glorify God! These good works express our love for God and love for others.
Not only that, we know that our work is not futile. Even if it seems futile (I see you toddler mom’s out there), we are working for Heavenly rewards. No longer are you working for the perishable, but when you do good works, you get to glorify God and love others; and by consequence, store up riches in heaven. These riches are even greater than any perishable wealth we gain here, because they are God fulfilling our every desire in Himself (Psalm 16:11). WIth every good work we do here, we are making the character of God known to others as well as experiencing conformity to Christ ourselves. The longing we will increasingly experience as we know and love Him to greater degrees while on Earth, will be satisfied when we are with Him in Heaven.
So what constitutes a good work? Well in James we read that faith and good works are inseparable. Good works are evidence of our saving faith. We cannot be merely hearers of the word and not doers. And these tasks, we should put ourselves to do, are works that the Lord is concerned with. In the world there are many things considered “good works” that are in fact in opposition to what God has commanded us to do. However, we know that the law can be summarized in loving God and loving neighbor. We read in Galatians that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (5:6) and that we were called to freedom, but “not to use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” (5:13-14).
Works of the flesh (that we are not to do) are :sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, disensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like those” (Gal. 5:19-20). But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). We are to be imitators of God, walking in love, “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5: 1-2). Therefore, we shouldn’t be focused on good works that benefit ourselves (immediate satisfaction, or for self-centered ambition), instead we should be laying down our lives, our wants, our goals, our comfort to display the works of the Spirit – the fruit of the Spirit.
We should be working as Christ did, laying our life down for the brethren. That means, anything you do, you are placing the needs of others ahead of your own. You live to make others successful, to display Christ to them, to empty yourself in order to fill others with the love you’ve been shown in the Gospel. Any work that fulfills the need of someone else, is a good work. Any work that requires self-sacrifice to the betterment of others, is a good work. When you are patient with your fussy child, you are doing a good work. When you do anything that relieves a burden off of someone else, you are doing a good work. When you imitate Christ throughout your day, displaying the fruit of the Spirit, you are doing a good work. Doing good works isn’t some extravagant show, most of the time, it is simply laying down of our own life for another. It doesn’t always come in the form of “look at this great achievement from my good works”. It is humble, it is meek, it is contrary the flesh and that is why we need the Holy Spirit to do them. And ultimately our overarching charge is to go and make disciples. Nothing requires more self-sacrifice, or a supernatural ability to love and put others before ourselves at every turn.
Once we have the proper view of what good works are, and how we are able to do them in the first place, we can move on to the practical stuff. This is where I can point you to a couple places that have been of benefit to me. One is Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle. It revolutionized the way I think of “woman’s work”. She does a fabulous job of encouraging women to dig in deep to their calling, not settling to just do the bare minimum to get by, but to make your life a testament to the ability of women in the home. Whether that is through cooking, organizing, home-schooling, creating, money management – anything that we are responsible for can be beautified and point to the glory of the Lord.
Second is Do More Better by Tim Challies. He has done such a fabulous job at laying the foundation of our true problem in fighting laziness and being unproductive. Linked below is his webpage for the book and some of the worksheets he recommends using.
Christian, I am praying now that you and I would see the field set before us. That we would reap what has been sown and grown by the Lord. That we would lay our lives down, making disciples and loving our brethren to the Glory of God.