The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly (Pro 26:13-16).
Few men believe they are lazy. Most of us think we work hard. That is what Proverbs is for. There are numerous themes in Proverbs, including money, speech, sexual immorality, and bad company. But hard work and laziness are among the most prominent. Proverbs exposes us. We say, “I am not a lazy fool” Proverbs says, “Let’s see about that.”
Proverbs 26:13-16 gives four signs that you are sluggard.
A Sluggard Creates Imaginary Difficulties to Avoid Work
“There is a lion in the streets.” “I can’t find my pencil.” “The computer was too slow.” “The mower wasn’t sharp enough.” “The sun was in my eyes.” “The traffic was bad.” “My health is bad.” On and on it goes. A sluggard looks at the work to be done and then conjures up imaginary reasons why it can’t be done. He or she makes excuses for not doing what he or she knows needs to be done.
The answer to this is not difficult. Do your job. What is your work for the day? What does God require of you? What needs doing? Then fix your mind and get it done. In our house, this excuse making usually comes school and chores. “Dad, I can’t do math because my sister is being too loud.” Or “I can’t take up the garbage because I can’t find my shoes.” When my sons come to me with an excuse like that I say, “Find a way to get it done.” A hard working man or woman does not let obstacles, real or imagined, get in the way of their work.
A Sluggard Loves Ease and Comfort
Verse 14 is a little more difficult to interpret. John Wesley thought the verse implied lots of action with little results. The sluggard moves and moves, like a door, but never advances. That is possible and could be in the background. But I think the main point is the sluggard loves comfort. He likes his warm bed and blankets. He does not want to get out in the cold and shovel the walk in the winter or endure the heat to mow the grass in the summer. Proverbs 6 has a similar idea:
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man (Pro 6:9-11).
The point is he chooses his own comfort over doing his job. He picks the path that is easiest at the beginning. Of course, it is easier to lie in bed than get to class, get to work on time, or take care of the little ones. But in the end this type of life leads to ruin, poverty, and pain.
I tell my kids, “Do the hard thing first.” If you want to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and Netflix at the end of the day when your work is done, that is fine. But don’t start your day looking for ease and comfort. Start out prepared to work hard. What needs to be done? Get up, get dressed, clean your room, make your bed, and put your hand to the plow.
The Sluggard Does Not Finish
Verse 15, especially the first line, is interpreted various ways. But the key idea, when put along side Proverbs 12:27, is that the sluggard does not finish his task. He kills a deer but refuses to skin and roast it. He prepares a meal, but it grieves or wearies him to eat it. He starts college, but gets two years in and quits. She begins a project at home, but it sits there undone. He never sticks at a job for long. The point is plain. Lazy people start and do not finish. The problem with this is the benefit of initial labor is lost because the sluggard does not finish.
I did not play football until I was in the tenth grade. My first few weeks of practice were terrible. I wanted to quit. Most guys had played since they were 6 years old. I was constantly getting laughed at and run over. But my dad had a rule; once you start a sport you had to go one whole season. I pushed through and kept playing. I ended up playing for three years and loved it. I learned many lessons on the football field that have been a benefit to me throughout my whole life. I am glad my dad did not let me quit.
A key to making sure this does not happen is be careful what you commit to. Pick your projects carefully. Can you take that on? Do you have time? But once you commit follow through. A man of God finishes.
The Sluggard is Proud
Here is the most damning characteristic of the sluggard. All three things listed above can be worked on and cured. But only if a man will listen and learn. Notice Proverbs 26:12, which precedes these verses:
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
The fundamental problem with the fool in Proverbs is not that he is lazy, sexually immoral, or has bad speech patterns. In other words, the problem is not that he is a sinner. The fool’s problem is his pride. Therefore he does not listen and does not learn. God has many ways of teaching us. These include the Scriptures, our parents, our elders and pastor, our children (yes children teach parents), employers, coaches, friends, and life experience. All of us are surrounded by “men who are sensible.” God brings experiences into our lives to teach us as well. The difference between the wise man and the fool or between the hard worker and the sluggard is that one listens and one does not. One learns from his mistakes and from those around him and one does not. One man is making the same mistakes as 35 as he did at 25. The other is not.
Proverbs is a painful read. Every time I read it I find areas where I need to grow. If you see yourself in these four character traits then confess your sin of laziness. Laziness isn’t just a bad idea. It is a sin against God. Flee to Christ and he will forgive. Then get out and work hard. Don’t make excuses. Don’t choose ease over labor. Don’t stop half-way. Do the work God has given you full throttle with joy and gladness.