Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sluggard - Proverbs, part 3

What are your ambitions in life? Not necessarily your “dream” life, but when you look back at the end of your life, what would have been a good life, a life well lived?  Career, home, family, involvement in the Great Commission, etc…? We are surrounded by a culture that holds out a great many things but seems to be training us to pursue and value leisure rather than diligence.

We can probably all think of examples of how our culture worships leisure.  Consider these examples: the new movie Avatar grossed $2,467,962,011; The Dark Knight - $1,022,345,358; the video game Grand Theft Auto IV earned $500-million in its first week of release; Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was the first video game to exceed $1 billion in sales.  These numbers are staggering.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things. Rest, relaxation, and entertainment are good things. But is rest, relaxation, and leisure what life is all about? Is it true that the best things in life are free?

We are going to consider the sluggard in the book of Proverbs. Let’s see if we can discern his characteristics and the outcomes from his/her life. I think our Lord has something to tell us about our pursuit of relaxation from the life of the sluggard.

"Sluggard" Proverbs:

Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 10:26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.

Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 15:19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.

Proverbs 18:9 Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys

Proverbs 19:24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.

Proverbs 20:4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

Proverbs 21:25-26 The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 26 All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back

Proverbs 26:13-16 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” 14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. 15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. 16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.

So, what characteristics did you see?  Here are some I found:
Characteristics: lacks self control; has no initiative, not a self-motivated person; lacks long-range planning; focuses on the immediate; has great desires/cravings; foolish; lazy; no follow through, doesn’t finish what he starts (even when he’s gotten up the energy to actually start something); doesn’t do the work it takes to get the desired result; chooses to be this way, he refuses to work – it is a conscious choice; unrighteous; makes lame excuses; has an unhealthy love of sleep and rest, won’t get out of bed; arrogant; procrastinator; distracted/not diligent; wastes opportunity after opportunity; prefers laziness to labor; wants an easy life rather than one spent doing good.

What about results?  Did you see the outcome of the life of the sluggard?
Results: has a lack of resources ($, skills, opportunity, etc…); harms those around him – disastrous to an employer; brings ruin to whatever he’s involved in; poverty; does not get what he wants in life; has nothing to fill his great desires; has a painful, difficult life; is unable to help others since he can’t even help himself.

Lessons Learned from the sluggard

So, what can we learn from the life of the sluggard?  Many things, but consider these five:

1. Work is an appointed part of a godly life – Colossians 3:23-24, 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

2. Work is not a result of the fall of mankind into sin. Even before the fall man had work appointed to him – Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”; 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

3. Purposeful work is a good gift from God.

4. We should not adopt the view of our culture – despising our work and worshipping our leisure.

5. We reflect the character of God in work by caring for others, in producing things, and in being purposeful in our actions. Your work is to take what God has made and shape it and use it to make Him look great. You were created in God’s image to image Him forth in this world.

My Story

Let me close with a personal example from my life. I spent the first twenty years of my life, in many ways, exemplifying the sluggard. I lived for pleasure; I lived for myself. I squandered my education and did not learn the things that I could have. As a result I had a lower ACT score and did not get any scholarships to college. My freshman year in college was spent in partying and trying to avoid any responsibility and my grades greatly reflected this.

In short, I was wasting my life. I was no good for myself, and I was no good for anyone else. I had great aspirations for a full life but in reality the outlook was pretty bleak, and yet I couldn’t even see it. I just figured that it would eventually work itself out. I was a sluggard.

It was right around the time of my twentieth birthday, in January of 1992, that God took mercy on me and changed me. It was then that He called me to see the waste of my life and to see the treasure of His Son, Who had died and rose again for my salvation. With this my life had new meaning and direction. I knew that I was privileged to spend my life living to know Him and to make Him known. Although definitely not perfectly, I began to study and work to honor God with my education. By His grace I was able to not squander the rest of my education and went from almost failing to graduating with honors.  I don't say this to brag in any way but rather to highlight the great mercy and grace of our God.  He alone gets the glory; if left to myself my life would be in ruins.

The temptation to be slothful is always there for me and that is why I daily need Christ. He is my only hope before a holy God. I am immensely sinful and imperfect but He is my righteousness. He is the one who died to free me from sin’s penalty, to bring me new life, and set me free from sin’s mastery. As I look to Christ I see God’s calling for my life is infinitely better than my natural, sinful inclinations.

Knowing that this amazing God has set me free from sin and death, and now I want to invest my life in pleasing Him and being a blessing to others.

How will you live your life? What will be the sum total of your life’s value? Consider the ant, look to Christ, and then walk in the new life that He provides for your blessing and His glory.

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