Summary: This is the final message in the series on The Seven Deadly Sins with the thesis that God’s ministry is never to be done slothfully by His people.
The Deadly Sin of Sloth
--Proverbs 6:6-11 and Mathew 25:14-30
James S. Hewett, former pastor of Saratoga, California’s Presbyterian Church, tells this story: “A class of high school sophomores had been assigned a term paper. Now the day of reckoning had come, the papers were due. The teacher knew that a particular student, named Gene, had not been working steadily on his paper as others had in the class. He was prepared for some sort of excuse. When the teacher went to collect the papers, Gene said, ‘My dog ate it.’ The teacher, who had heard them all, gave Gene a hard stare of unbelief. But Gene insisted and persisted, ‘It’s true. I had to force him, but he ate it.’” [SOURCE: --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 182.
Slothfulness is the sin of laziness, and a lazy person is often called a sluggard, especially in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs. Sluggards are slothful people, and sloth is the last in the list of “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Sluggards are found in both the physical and spiritual realms, for sloth is “the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.” [SOURCE: http://www.deadlysins.com/sins/sloght.html]. The opposite of a slothful sluggard would be a conscientious, diligent, energetic, industrious, persevering, thorough, tireless, vigorous worker.
Although sluggards are slothful when it comes to physical work, I can not recall meeting many if any such people. The closest I would say that I can remember such cases are such students as Gene in our opening story. Therefore, today, we are going to concentrate on overcoming sloth in the ministry of the Church as we are His hands and feet for bringing about His Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Recently I read the article “The Changing Face of Evangelism in America” by James Long in the March-April issue of OUTREACH MAGAZINE. The article confirmed that the Church has a wide open mission field in our own nation but that we are often missing the opportunity to be the hands, feet, and mouthpiece of Jesus in reaching our lost family members, friends, and neighbors.
Here are just a few of the situations we are facing in our ministry today. While 90-95% of Americans believe in God, only 17.5% are worshiping on a regular basis in a local congregation. In response to this fact, James Long concludes that we are “loosing ground, losing credibility, loosing the battle.” [SOURCE: James Long, “The Changing Face of Evangelism in America, OUTREACH MAGAZINE, March/April 2008, 68.] 86% of Americans “believe they can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church, and 78% think Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.” [Ibid, page 58].
Our society today is both postmodern and post-Christian in its lifestyle and thinking, yet people are still being saved and coming to know Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord. How is that happening? Not in great evangelistic crusades like those of D. L. Moody and Billy Graham and not very often in response to an altar call in the local Church. 59% of new Christians today tell us that they came to faith in Christ through family or friends, and 64% tell us that came about as a result of conversation, again not so much with preachers but with family members or friends who were authentic role models of a genuine, unquestionable Christlike lifestyle.
Our two texts today provide us pictures of how Jesus wants to use each of us as dynamic, industrious, energetic, tireless, Spirit filled ministers to love people and bring them to faith in Christ. The ant in Proverbs is a prime example for us to follow in our work of loving God and people and reaching out to the 82.5% of Americans who are not in God’s house today.
Writing in LEADERSHIP MAGAZINE, Bernabe Spivey relates this incident: “Going down some old cement steps, I noticed an ant carrying a leaf on its back. The leave was many times bigger than the ant. Then the ant came to a big crack in the cement that it couldn’t cross. The ant stopped a moment. I wondered if the ant would turn back or proceed into the crack without the leaf. Instead, the ant put the leaf across the crack and then crossed the crack by walking across the leaf. On the other side, the ant picked up the leaf and continued on its journey.” [SOURCE: --Bernabe Spivey, LEADERSHIP, Vol. 20, no. 23.]
I remember as a student at Asbury College one particular chapel service in which a young pastor preached on this text from Proverbs 6 that in the New King James Version begins:
“Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise. . .”