A Living Sacrifice To God
Scriptures: Romans 12:11
This is part five of my series “A Living Sacrifice to God.” This morning we will be looking at verse eleven where Paul continues to explain to the Christians in Rome what it means to have a renewed mind.
When I was young my father worked several odd jobs in addition to his full-time job in order to make ends meet. He would often take my brother and me to work with him. One of the jobs he had was doing yard work for one of the local physicians in town. We would be out there working and it would be hot and tiring. When I got tired of course I would start goofing off as kids do. My father would remind me to get back to work and I would do enough “to get by.” As I half worked, I would keep an eye out for the physician so that when he drove up he would see me hard at work with my dad. One day my father looked at me and said, “Rodney you really got to work when you saw the doctor drive up.” When the doctor was paying my father for the work we had done, he looked at my brother and me and said we were hard workers. My father looked at me with a look that said, “You may have fooled him but not me.” I had several of those instances as I was growing up. A few years later I accepted the fact that my work was representative of me. This started when I joined the Boy Scouts. I learned that how I did a job was indicative of who I was. I had a choice; I could be known as a hard worker or my reputation could be one of someone who was lazy. I chose to work hard because this is what I saw in both of my parents. This is the mentality that Paul addresses in Romans 12:11 which says, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
Do you know that when you begin walking with God your relationship with Him will show up in how you handle your business? Do you know that you cannot have a renewed mind and operating with the Spirit of God leading you and be a problem child on your job at the same time? How we handle our business (spiritually and naturally) is evidence of a spiritually renewed mind because with your renewed mind you will think differently about your jobs and how you do it. You won’t see yourself as serving “the man” but as serving your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is how you will show up!
How many of you have worked with someone who was a Christian and yet they were lazy on their jobs? They got the job, accepts their paycheck every week, and yet you know that they are not fully doing the job they are getting paid to do? How many of you know people who were fired from their jobs because they refused to do the work and once fired they talked about filing a lawsuit for wrongful termination? How many of you work with people who on the surface does everything right in Church but on their jobs nobody likes them because they are mean and lazy? There is not much worse than a Christian who is both mean and lazy! I point these examples out because in the midst of telling the Christians in Rome how to live with a renewed mind, Paul suddenly throws in the thought that they should not be lazy in doing their business. And I want to say up front that your “business” is not just your secular employment, but anything that you are supposed to be responsible for. It includes the business you handle on your job and in your personal life. Christians are not supposed to be lazy, but diligent hard workers as they are working for the Lord. I want you to understand this because it affects every area of our lives, even when we were kids. Young people, I want you to know that this applies to you also. If you are being lazy in school and not doing your best, you are not doing what God would have you to do as His child. He expects our best in everything we do, from how we complete our school work to how we do our chores.
When you read what Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, it appears that he was addressing some lazy attitudes in the Church. You know the ones. He said, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” The word “slothful” comes from the Greek word okneros which means lazy or idle. It carries the idea of a person who has a do-nothing, lethargic, apathetic, indifferent, and lukewarm attitude toward life. Someone who walks around with little desire to achieve anything believing what will be will be. This word slothful is the same word that Jesus used in Matthew 25:26 in the story of the talents. One servant did nothing with what his master had entrusted him with so when the master returned, he was not happy with him. This is what the master said to that servant, “His lord answered and said unto him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not spread: you ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with interest.’ Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him who has ten talents. For unto everyone that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:26-30) How many of you know that this story about the talents was really a story about our being busy doing the Work of the Kingdom? We do not have time to be lazy or idle. This lazy, wicked servant was cast into outer darkness because he produced nothing significant with the resources that had been entrusted to him. In the context of these verses, both “slothful” and “wicked” denote an attitude of apathy that should have no place at all in the life of a Christian.
The Bible contains many references to laziness and the impact of it. This morning I want to share some select Scriptures with you that cover a variety to areas where our laziness can cause us problems, both in the natural and spiritually. As you listen to these Scriptures, I ask that you consider your past, your present and where you will like to be in your future relating to the things you want to accomplish in your life and the efforts you will put towards it. Let’s start with the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs 6:6-11: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Who having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provides her food in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you sleep, O sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall your poverty come upon you like a vagabond, and your want like an armed man.” Solomon, in these verses, addresses the sluggard who loves his ease, lives in idleness, minds no business, sticks to nothing, brings nothing to pass, and in a particular manner is careless in the business of religion. While slothfulness is a sure a way to poverty, diligence in business is every man's wisdom and duty. The ants are more diligent than slothful men. No insect is more laborious and none is more fondly attached to or more careful of its young than the ant. It is a fact that they do not lay up any meat for winter as they provide their food in summer. Ants do not need food during the winter as they sleep during that season; but for autumn, during which they wake and work. The point Solomon was making is that we should be busily working at the appropriate times, not because someone is watching over us and demanding that we work, but because the drive to work is within us. Turn to Proverbs chapter thirteen.
Proverbs 13:4: “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” The misery and shame of the slothful is that they desire and do not receive. They desire the gains which the diligent receives, but they hate the pains which the diligent take in order to get it. They covet everything that is to be coveted, but will do nothing that needs to be done in order to get it. They would rather borrow money for a lottery ticket than get a job! We often hear many religious people expressing a desire to have more of the Divine life, and yet never get forward in it. Why is this? The reason is, while they have the desire, they do not stir themselves up to lay hold upon the Lord. They are always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. They seek to enter in at the strait gate, but are not able, because they do not strive. Desire alone will not make us take action! We must have the desire and then act on it.
Proverbs 19:15: “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Slothful people doze away their time, bury their talents, live a useless life, and are the unprofitable burdens of the earth. What makes this so bad is that for any service they do when they are awake they might as well be always asleep. Even their souls are idle and lulled asleep, their rational powers chilled and frozen. Laziness impoverishes men and brings them to want. Those that will not labor cannot expect to eat, but will suffer hunger. I want you to see this: an idle soul, one that is idle in the affairs of his soul, will take no care or pains to work out his salvation and thus shall perish. Our laziness touches every part of our lives.
Proverbs 20:4: “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” The sluggard has ground to plow and has the ability to do it as he can plough, but he will not! He will always have some excuse as to why he cannot do it. In this example it’s the cold. This is what I want you to see. Spiritually and naturally, the present is intimately related to the future; and the future will faithfully reflect the character. Life stands in the same relation to eternity as the time of ploughing does to the harvest. If this life is spent in neglect of the soul, there will be eternal poverty. Our future is based on what we are doing in the present.
Proverbs 24:30-34: “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and weeds had covered its face, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall your poverty come like a robber; and your want like an armed man.” On one occasion Solomon looked over the broken wall of a little estate which belonged to a farmer of his country. It consisted of a piece of ploughed land and a vineyard: One glance showed him that it was owned by a sluggard, who neglected it; for the weeds had grown and covered all the face of the ground. It was God's purpose that this vineyard should bring forth better things than thorns and nettles. He desired to see it covered with choice vines, whose branches should be loaded with clusters of refreshing fruit. But this could not be unless man would be a co-worker with Him. God did his part. The rain watered the soil, the sun shone upon it, but man refused to dig and plant, to weed and cultivate. And by withholding his power to labor he limited God's power to bless. Our laziness limits what God can do through us to help others! Whatever God has blessed us with (talents, money, knowledge/understanding, etc.) should be used for the benefit of His kingdom!
Proverbs 26:13-16: “The slothful man says, ‘There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.’ As the door turns upon its hinges, so does the slothful upon his bed. The slothful hides his hand in his dish; it grieves him to bring it again to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men that can answer reasonably.” I want you to picture this lazy person who turns over back and forth in his bed as a door does on its hinges. This person is so lazy that they put their hand in a dish to grab food but it is too much work once they have the food to put in in their mouth. Spiritually this is comparable to you hearing the Word here every Sunday which is food for your spirits and you refuse to take it and eat it. Your spiritual life is starving because you refuse to eat (absorb) what is needed for your spirits.
Ecclesiastes 10:18: “By much slothfulness the building decays; and through idleness of the hands the house leaks.” In this verse the writer states plainly that if we do not do the work to take care of our homes, they will fall into decay. The same applies spiritually. We can decay spiritually if we are not doing the work to maintain ourselves. I have just a few more from the New Testament before I close.
Colossians 3:23-24: “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ.” In these verses the apostle was speaking to slaves, who must have felt their condition to be tiresome and degrading, but he applies a principle which altogether transforms it. They were to feel and act as servants of Christ. This principle is of far-reaching application. We are to serve Christ by discharging all the duties of life so as to please Him. This means that whatever we do it is to be done for the Lord. So when we are working on our jobs, do it unto the Lord. When your boss is irritating you and being unsupportive, do your job not to please your boss, but to please God. If we all worked to please God our supervisors could not complain much about the quality of the work being done.
2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” If you don’t work, you don’t eat (at the public expense). It would seem from this that the evil of which the apostle here complains had begun to operate even when he was with them. There were those who were disposed to be idle (lazy), and who needed the solemn command of an apostle to induce them to work. People who refused to work were not to be supported by the church. The law here laid down by the apostle extends to all who are able to work for a living, and who will not do it, and binds us not to contribute to their support if they will not labor for it. Christians are not commanded to support other Christians who refuse to work and this include those who have a job but don’t want it so they lose it and then expect charity from the Church. This is a hard lesson for some to learn and for others to execute. Our final Scripture is found in the book of James.
James 2:17-18: “Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, ‘You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” The faith that does not produce works of charity and mercy is without the living principle which animates all true faith, that is, love to God and love to man. I want you to see this, we may, incorrectly, call a dead corpse a man which is not the case. The man is the spirit that lived in that body. So as the body is different from the man who lived within it, so is nominal faith differs from that which is real and helpful. Works of faith gives life to our faith. No works shows that the faith we are supposed to have is actually dead and is in need of being buried or revived.
Paul told the Christians in Rome to “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” He instructed them to not be lazy, both as it pertains to their natural business and even more important, their spiritual business. How we walk before the Lord in this life will be demonstrated in our diligence to do what needs to be done. If we are lazy, the work will not be done. It does not matter what area we examine, laziness will always stop short the work that God is trying to do through His people. I ask you this morning to search out your lives. If there is laziness in any aspect of your life, take the step this morning to remove it.
Until next time, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
(If you are ever in the Kansas City, KS area, please come and worship with us at New Light Christian Fellowship, 15 N. 14th Street, Kansas City, KS 66102. Our service Sunday worship starts at 9 a.m. and Thursday night Bible study at 7 p.m. We look forward to you worshipping with us. May God bless and keep you.)