During our first months in Brazil, aeons ago, two of our Portuguese teachers discussed, rather heatedly, whether or not Brazilians were by nature lazy. One believed it zealously, while the other noted how much time Brazilians spent getting to and from work, as well as how long their work week was.
Years later, a Brazilian brother shared his dream of retirement: living on the beach and spending his days in a hammock. That sounds pretty lazy to me. But then it’s retirement, right? I doubt, however, that many people would buy into his dream.
We’ll leave these arguments aside in order to recognize that some ethnic groups do share common characteristics. The apostle Paul recognized some among the Cretans. He wrote,
A certain one of them, in fact, one of their own prophets, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. Such testimony is true” Titus 1.12-13.
Proverbs has much to say about laziness, sometimes even making fun of the habits and excuses of the lazy (how politically incorrect!), so that we’ll see the folly of it. Here’s just one example:
The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there! If I go outside, I might be killed!” Proverbs 22.13 NLT.
Of course, laziness is a serious thing. One can even use spiritual justifications for it, such as Jesus coming back at any time. (There are supposedly some lazy preachers out there who only work Sunday morning and night for a few hours, but I’ve not seen one yet.)
Here’s what the workaholic apostle Paul said about that,
We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” 2 Thessalonians 3.7-10 NIV.
That sounds hard-hearted, does it not? But the church (and society) does people a favor who refuse to work by not supporting their aversion to work.
Refusal comes in many forms. One of the most popular is to feign sickness. Plenty of doctors will write you a prescription. There are sick people, for sure. But our modern social systems (speaking internationally) encourage sickness and idleness. It’s just true. Cretans aren’t the only lazy ones to inhabit the earth.
Where to go with this?
- Don’t be lazy. Look first to your own work habits (or lack of them). Work hard and work smart. Diligence will take you far. Give the example.
- Don’t encourage laziness. Don’t accept it. Don’t reward it. Teach against it — Scripture has plenty of material on it. Proverbs is a great start.
- Understand that work is a gift from God. Man was made to work. God works and put that need into the fiber of humans.
- Put your work in God’s hands so that he may be glorified through it and the Kingdom may reach others.
Jesus condemned a lazy servant, Matthew 25.26. Let not that condemnation fall on you, and help keep others from it as well. After all, laziness is a sin, and like all the others, the Lord can save us from it.