Sloth is a simple sin to identify, right? I mean, all you have to do is find your average teenager and you’ve got the dictionary definition. Now, I am not going to lie, I get a brief image in my brain of Sid from Ice Age. But really we all know what sloth is–it’s being lazy. Sloth is when you don’t want to work. We see Paul talk about sloth in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 when he says “If anyone is unwilling to work, he should not eat.” In fact, for a lot of Americans, I think that while we would admit that we don’t have to work as hard as a lot of the world we also would say that America was founded on hard work. Most of the people I know work pretty hard. I mean, not sweatshop hard, but forty-plus hours a week hard.
I would say that most Americans would look at 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and say “yeah, that sounds about right.” But I think there is another form of slothfulness that is more subversive in American culture. We are slothful in our theology. Now those of you who are not slothful in theology might be thinking that isn’t what Paul is talking about there, and your right. Paul talks about theological slothfulness when he writes to Timothy. He writes in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”
Now, if you are a Gospel-dependent believer like me you kind of get uncomfortable when the words work, works, or worker are used because it starts to sound like we earn our salvation. Or maybe you are reading the context and you know that Timothy was a pastor and you are thinking “well obviously he has to work at it, it’s his job.” But I think Paul’s words here should draw out a parallel for us.
During His temptation Jesus told Satan, quoting the Old Testament, that man needs not only physical nourishment, but also spiritual bread. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the man who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat. But in a very real sense, those among us who do not study the Scripture don’t get spiritual nourishment. In modern churches there seems to be an abundance of people who desire to come in and be served, who want to rely on others to deal with the hard stuff while they just take in the experience. But what Scripture teaches us is that those who are not workmen, laboring to understand the things of God, will starve out their faith.
Perhaps one of the failings of Protestantism is that while we have claimed rightly the priesthood of all believers, we have trained our churches into the priesthood of no believers. When it comes to our spiritual life, it is not simply that the man who does not work should not eat. The man who does not work cannot eat. Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets saying that we should love God with our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our strengths. How can we, then, deny God the affection of our minds? Ponder these passages:
For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.~2 Cor. 10:3-5
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.~Rom 12:2
Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.~1 Pet 5:8-9
I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist,fulfill your ministry.~2 Tim 4:1-5