I recently finished a teaching series on the seven deadly sins, and I saved the best for last. Or so I thought. Compared to the other sins, I thought a message on sloth would be the most fun to prepare because surely the Lord would not need to deal with me on the topic. Sermon prep is always a bit beautifully painful because the Lord confronts me over parts of me that need to change, and I knew I was in store for His gracious rebuke when I signed up to preach on pride, malice, greed, etc. But as one who wakes up early, seizes the day, and believes that hard work pays off, I thought the sermon prep time on sloth would be painless.
But then I prepared this message on sloth. I have been slothful. Sloth is an enemy within, even in the midst of busyness and drive.
I found that when the early church fathers spoke of sloth, they were speaking of something much deeper than activity. Just as a full schedule and a busy routine does not equate productivity, a busy life does not eliminate spiritual sloth. We can be filled with sloth on the inside and be very busy on the outside. Because sloth is about apathy and not activity, you can be slothful and very busy at the same time.
Because sloth is failure to pursue our first love, busyness can actually be a good cover for the sloth beneath the surface. Thomas Aquinas stated sloth is aversion to the divine good in us. Of this profound quote, Rebbeca Konyndyk DeYoung’s explained:
This may sound pretty mysterious to us, but when his readers heard the phrase, “the divine good in us,” they would have immediately understood it as referring to what Aquinas had just said in the questions on charity—the “divine good in us” is our participation in God’s nature via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by grace.
Sloth is indeed deadly because it kills the joy of knowing Jesus more, of participating with Him to become more like Him.
Instead of being averse to the Lord’s work within us, we are commanded to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13). We are not to “work for our salvation” as Christ has done all the work for us to make us right with God. But because of what He has done, we are to work out the implications of Christ ruling over all parts of our lives.
I hated working out in high school, mainly because most of my friends could lift more than me. And I hated being asked “Do you even lift bro?” But this working out is different and better. As we work out salvation, the fruit of the Spirit is seen in our lives. The Divine works in our character. This is better than muscles. This is about maturity that lasts.
The command to “work out our salvation” is sandwiched between God’s great work in us. He came here to rescue us (Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore, work out your salvation. “For it is God who is working in you to will and work according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) God is the One who does the ultimate changing of our lives as we work out our salvation. We get to enjoy and partner with the Divine who now lives within us!
To enjoy Christ and His gracious work, sloth is an enemy that must be slayed.