The sluggard in the Bible is a tragic-comic character, one who is lazy to the point of ridicule and full of excuses, many of them feeble. ‘I can’t plough today because it is too cold. I can’t go outside because there may be a lion in the streets, or I may be murdered on the way to work’, Prov. 20. 4; 22. 13. He is bone idle, preferring indolence to hard work. ‘Just a little slumber, a little sleep, a little folding of the hands to sleep’, Prov. 6. 10. He buries his hand in a dish of food but is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth, Prov. 26. 15. He is irresponsible, easily diverted, an unreliable messenger, the sort of person you would not trust with an important errand. ‘As vinegar to the teeth and as smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him’, Prov. 10. 26. The picture of the slothful, lazy person turning upon his bed like a door on its hinges and unable to get up is comical. It reminds us that with some lazy people there can be a lot of activity but no progress –tossing and turning on a bed but not getting anywhere, for instance. Yet the picture is not only of one who is too idle to do anything. It is more of one who is full of excuses and reasons why a task should be done tomorrow, not today. The resulting failure in business or in private life comes gradually little by little. In this way the sluggard is the poorer because of wasted opportunities, lack of drive and purpose.
The example of the sluggard is given to remind us not to put off important things in life just because we can’t be bothered. How often, for instance, have we been meaning to put things right with someone but have neglected to do so, to write that letter to a friend, to pick up that phone, yet the weeks go by. More importantly, for how long have you been meaning to put things right with God and you still haven’t? ‘Oh, tomorrow will do’, ‘I haven’t time just now’. Well? Will you be finally caught unprepared to meet God because of feeble excuses and lack of drive? The old saying ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ is quite true, but time is not all it deprives us of.
‘I went by the field of the slothful … And lo, it was all overgrown with thorns; and nettles had covered the face thereof and the stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction’, Prov. 24. 30-31. If that field is a picture of your spiritual life, fruitfulness and relationship with God, Isa. 5. 1-7 what does it look like today?