Summary: Spiritual laziness comes from poor theology and from creating the illusion of activity, leading to burnout. The grace of Christ takes us beyond such posing.
My topic today is spiritual laziness. Spiritual laziness. Now we are all familiar with physical laziness. Physical laziness is like spring fever, when the warmth of the air and the sound of the birds is far more attractive than the piles of paper on your desk or the lectures in your classroom. We just don’t want to do anything; we want to sit and dream a while. That’s physical laziness. Just can’t get down to earth to do anything but daydream.
And there is, of course, mental laziness. We don’t want to have to think. Mentally lazy people don’t want to do the work of thinking their own thoughts. Give it to me spoon-fed. Make it easy for me. I’m going to vote in the Maryland primary on Tuesday, so just give me some sound bites, tell me whether to beat the bush or raise the mcCain or should I gore the bradley! But don’t ask me to think. That’s mental laziness.
We know about physical laziness and mental laziness. But do you know that there is also spiritual laziness? Did you know that a person can mimic being a servant of the Lord, but in reality that person is spiritually lazy? Looks good, sounds good, maybe even smells good. But is nonetheless spiritually lazy?
I want to show you today, from the Scripture, where spiritual laziness comes from. I want to help you diagnose spiritual laziness. This message, by the way, was inspired by one of our deacons, who has said to me on several occasions, “Keep these people busy. Don’t let them have time to do anything negative. Keep them busy.” I’ve thought about that. And I’ve read the Scriptures about that. I’ve prayed about that. And the result is this message on spiritual laziness.
The apostle Paul confronted the disease of spiritual laziness in the church of Thessalonica. He discovered that some of the believers there were sitting back in the old rocking chair, enjoying all the comforts of salvation. But they didn’t think they needed to do anything as a result of being saved. They didn’t imagine that being a Christian had any practical implications. The Christians of Thessalonica had all kinds of ideas, but they hadn’t come down to earth to do anything real.
I confess, I see a lot of these folks in me. I feel this thing of not being down to earth. Why, I’ve got all kinds of dreams and visions running around my head. Coming up with ideas is never a problem! On any given day, I can come up with six impossible ideas before breakfast! The fact that they are too expensive, too time-consuming, or just too much work never seems to enter my mind. I like to live up in the clouds! But it’s another matter to come down to earth and do something real for the Kingdom. So I need to find out what Paul tells us about spiritual laziness. I suspect you do too.
First, Paul tells us that spiritual laziness is tied to poor theology. Spiritual laziness comes from poor theology. When we don’t understand what the Christian faith is all about, we do some things that actually point to laziness. But of course we would never admit that. Nobody ever admits to being lazy. Instead we invent what look like “spiritual” ideas to give ourselves an excuse for what is really spiritual laziness. Paul says:
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you.
Paul says that some of the believers had picked up the wrong theology; they were not living according to the tradition that they had received. Now you need to know just a little bit more about the background here. If you were to read the rest of this letter, you would find out that in that church there were a whole bunch of questions about when and how the Lord would come again. As I mentioned last week, they were up in the air, full of questions, about how and when and under what circumstances the Lord would return. Some of them had concluded that it was going to be next week, or maybe the week after that – soon anyway. And if the end of all things was going to be soon, then why should I sweat and strain now? If it’s all coming to an end, then I might as well just sit in the old rocking chair, sipping my sassafras and singing, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine”. Why worry about doing anything concrete if the end of all things is coming? If I know there’s going to be a flood next week, I don’t take out a thirty-year mortgage, do I?