Solomon has been spending his time instructing his son in the ways of godliness and common sense so his son can have the good life now. Solomon teaches on a topic that all of our children need to hear about before being released into the world. Solomon discusses the characteristics of the sluggard. Laziness is a real problem in our children. It seems they begin life with a tremendous amount of energy, but by the teenage years, they do not want to do anything. If we do not teach our children about laziness, they will continue to take the path of the sluggard. As with the previous studies, we will look at the characteristics that Solomon describes concerning the lazy person, and if it sounds like our lives, then we will need to be openhearted to make changes.
The Day of the Sluggard (26:13-15; 22:13; 19:24)
Proverbs 26:13-15 describes a day in the life of the slacker. “The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. The lazy manis wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (Proverbs 26:13-16; NKJV).
The sluggard’s day follows a well-worn routine. It begins in bed (26:14). He will not get out of bed. Like a door on its hinges, the lazy person just keeps rolling over in bed. He is “hinged” to his bed. He just wants five more minutes in bed. Then, he wants another five minutes in bed. He does not want to get up and he sleeps the day away. When the sluggard finally gets out of bed, he looks out the window and believes he sees a lion in the streets. Solomon is showing that the lazy one will come up with any excuse possible to get out of doing work. He will even come up with some extreme excuse to not do the work needed for the day. “I can’t work today; there’s a lion in the street!” Rather than work, the lazy man goes to enjoy a leisurely meal. He makes a promising start: he gets his hand into the dish, but he is too lazy to bring his hand back to his mouth. He is even too lazy to take care of himself. While the world is working away, the sluggard wastes the day away with naps and excuses why work cannot be done. Yet, in all of his laziness, he thinks he is smarter than seven sensible people.
While Solomon using some hyperbole in these illustrations, the point is very clear. The life of the lazy is ridiculous. Now, no one thinks of himself as lazy. If I were to take a poll and ask you to raise your hand if are lazy, I dare say that no one would raise their hands. However, if I were to ask if you personally knew a lazy person I think all of us would raise our hands. The point is that there are numerous lazy people in the world; we just don’t think that we are one of them. So let us allow Solomon to tell us the characteristics of the lazy. Though we do not think of ourselves as lazy, we may find that we are the lazy person.
The Characteristics of the Lazy Person
The Difference is not in Desire (13:4; 21:25).
We may think that one of the key characteristics of the lazy person is that they do not have any desire. We may think that they lack ambition and simply do not want anything in life. But this is not true and would be a false measurement of the lazy. The lazy do have ambition and desire much in life. “The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied” (13:4). Notice that both the lazy and the diligent crave and have appetites. To think that having desiring means that you are not lazy is false. In fact, Solomon said in Proverbs 21:25, “The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” Again, notice that the lazy person has desire, but the desire ends in frustration because the lazy refuse to do the work necessary to make the desire reality.
Remarkable ability to think up excuses (26:13; 22:13).
“The lazy man says, ‘Thereis a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!'” (22:13). It is not that people have actually said these words. Rather, Solomon is showing the remarkable ability of the lazy to think of ridiculous excuses to not work and actually believe in their excuses. The lazy searches for any opportunity to get out of doing work, rather than looking for the opportunity to get work accomplished. Even when there is clearly work to be done, the lazy will avoid the work. “The slacker does not plow during planting season; at harvest time he looks, and there is nothing” (20:4; HCSB). Somehow, the lazy makes excuses for not plowing during planting season. Yet, the lazy still goes out to the field at harvest time, expecting a crop, even though he did not do the work. It is hilarious to read this proverb, yet the truth is chilling. How often people today think they should be have possessions and provisions, yet they are unwilling to work to make those provisions. You are not going to be able to pay your bills if you are not working. It is an obvious connection that many people fail to recognize.
Inability to make a decisive start at anything (24:33; 6:9-11).
Everything is always “a little longer.” “I won’t do it right now; I will do it a little later.” “I will work a little later.” “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest’— Your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.” (6:9-11). The response of the lazy is that he needs just a little longer to get up and do the work required. Rather than get up and start a task, the lazy meander at a few different tasks, making it look like they are working.
Inability to bring a task to completion (19:24; 26:15; 10:26).
Any task that the lazy does attempt is never brought to completion. What little effort is given is never enough to finish the job. “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, but will not even bring it back to his mouth” (19:24). The lazy person puts his hand to the task, but never finishes what he starts. So bad is his lack of completion that he becomes a pain to the people in his life. “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him” (10:26). Solomon describes how untrustworthy the lazy are. You cannot send him on an errand because he will not get the job done.
I would like to sum up these last two points that Solomon makes into a word that we often use today: procrastination. We often excuse procrastination. In fact, we some times place a little glory in the procrastinator. But did not Solomon just describe the procrastinator in these last two descriptions of the lazy person? The procrastinator does not make a decisive start at anything, always saying that he will do it later. Also, the procrastinator typically does not finish the task, leaving things half done. Friends, we do a great disservice to our children and to our family members to make light of procrastination, because it can so easily turn into deep laziness. We need to teach our children the importance of starting a task, working hard at the task, and completing the task. The task is not important and often we fail because we think it is not a big deal that our children do not take out the trash or clean their room. Yes, in the scheme of things trash removal is not a big deal. But what is important is allowing laziness to breed in our children. Of course, this is a greater problem when our children become teenagers and they get very lazy. We need to be concerned about teaching our children some sort of work ethic so they can be function adults who can provide for themselves and for their family.
Overcoming Laziness (6:6-8)
Solomon tells us how to overcome the tendencies of laziness. Solomon tells us to learn from the animals. “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and be wise! Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.” (6:6-8; NLT). Solomon instructs his son to go to the ant and learn from its ways. The key point that I believe Solomon wants his son to learn from the ant is that the ant is a self-starter. The ant displays discipline and foresight. The ant works without oversight, realizing the need to finish the task.
Work, Not Excuses.
It is time for us to stop thinking of every reason not to work in life. But this is really true in regards to God. We make so many excuses as to why we cannot be a worker for God. We are too tired, too busy, too inexperienced, and any number of other excuses we may come up with as to why we are not volunteering to be students of God’s word, teachers of Bible classes, and evangelistic to our friends.
Start, and Finish.
We should be people who are starters and finishers. We may wonder why any of these things matters. But our work ethic is a reflection upon God. Consider the word of God: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:23-24). We need to teach this to our children that this is the reason we are not lazy and why we work hard: because we are serving God in everything we do.