Yesterday, I had the blessing and opportunity to teach the Bible class in the congregation at Torrijos Carter. I decided to dedicate that time in a class that I prepared while still in Memphis on “Being diligent to the Lord.” This class started as a five-minutes-devotional a couple of years ago, and has been growing since that time as it is a topic that is needed to be studied more and more.
This class involves two sections: the first one is a study of 2 Timothy 2:15, a word study of the Greek term σπουδάζω which is translated as “study” (KJV) or “give diligence” (ASV) in that passage, and how it is used the other times that is found in the Bible, and also includes some secular tips on how to be diligent in our work, studies, and lives, with a spiritual approach after each tip. The second part, the one that will be discussed in this article, involves a lot of study in the book of Proverbs, and a comparison between ants and sluggards. A lot of details were given about ants, even a Thai proverb which reads “To be as diligent as an ant”.
Some interesting facts about ants, according to antARK are quoted here[i],
- The total weight of all the ants in the world is the same as, if not larger than that of all humans.
- Some ants can support up to 100x their own weight upside down on the glass.
- One ant species owns the record for the fastest movement within the animal kingdom. They can close their jaws as fast as what it takes us to blink 2300 times.
- The ant is one of the worlds’ strongest creature in relation to its size. Ants can carry 50 times their own body weight, and they will work together in small or large groups to move even heavy objects.
- Ants move an estimated 50 tons of soil per year in one square mile.
- Ants worst enemies are not us, but other ants.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11).
Ants are very diligent in what they do, and the Bible gives us a clear reason to look at them, but let us focus, for a short time, in the other element of the previous passage, the sluggard.
A very simple definition of the word sluggard by Webster-Dictionary is, “a habitually lazy person”[ii]. It has nothing to do with the animal that appears on the cover of the article, except for being the same word in Spanish (sloth and sluggard are translated as “perezoso”). This animal is known because of his slow-motion, if you have not seen the animated movie Zootopia, ask your children or grandchildren about Flash, the fastest sloth working in the DMV.
While this short study about sloths is not part of the Bible class material I taught yesterday, I found necessary to add it to this article. The diet of this “cute” animal is based on leaves. Leaves are not easy to digest and does not provide a lot of energy. The digestion process of sloths can take a month or more to complete. Because of this, this animal needs to adapt and conserve energy.
They move only when necessary, and when they do move, they move very slowly. In fact, they move so slowly that sloths are the slowest mammals in the world.[iii]
So, this animal is not lazy after all, it is just part of his design. The wise Solomon was not writing about him, but about people who decide to be lazy all the time. Some other pearls of Solomon’s wisdom can be read as follows:
- Proverbs 6:9 – Does God wants us to be sleeping all day long?
- Proverbs 10:26 – A sluggard is a charge/pain to those around him.
- Proverbs 13:4 – We must be productive in order to prosper.
- Proverbs 15:19 – My mom, while I was a little boy, used to tell me, “The lazy man and the stingy man walk the same road twice.”
- Proverbs 18:9 – Would you consider this a compliment?
- Proverbs 19:15 – It is not too late yet to wake up and start working.
- Proverbs 19:24 – How sad for any person to get to be this way in his/her life!
- Proverbs 20:4 – Will you stay at home without nothing to do and nothing to eat?
- Proverbs 21:25 – I can wish many things, but if I do not work for them, I will never get them.
- Proverbs 22:13 – So lazy that did not attempt to run or hide, always giving pretexts even to save his/her own life.
- Proverbs 24:30-34 – You better wake up and start working before you get in trouble.
- Proverbs 26:13-16, we already read these concepts, but pay attention to v16, the sluggard thinks that he knows everything, how wrong is he!
- Proverbs 30:24-25 – ants might be small, but they are prepared, what about you?
Dear friend, being big in size does not determine our true greatness, the way we serve our Lord and being diligent to what He expects from us does it.
During class, one brother asked if laziness is a sin. I did not answer at that moment, but, as part of the conclusion of the class, we covered part of this answer. In the Old Testament we cannot find a statement which says “Thou shalt not be lazy”, but the concept is in the context of several of the passages we read. We are under the New Testament, and the concept is found in the context of several passages. Our Lord Jesus Christ condemns it as part of the Parable of the Talents,
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” [all emphasis added, MR] (Matthew 25:24-30).
The Catholic church and her traditions teach on “seven deadly sins”, and includes slothfulness as part of them, the other ones are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, and wrath. A faithful Christian does not follow the traditions of men, our Lord taught about that (Mark 7:7-9), and the apostles taught about that (Acts 5:29). There is no doubt that sin is deadly, but it cannot be grouped as just a particular number. The apostle John, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, clearly and simply wrote,
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:4-10).
So, getting back to the Bible in order to answer what our brother asked, the apostle Paul, as part of what we might consider Christian Ethics, or as labeled in some versions as “Marks of the True Christian”, wrote, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
The word translated as “business” can be translated also as diligence, so, it is not about going to the market, as currently used, but as getting busy, to get involved in a purposeful activity, as Merriam-Webster defines as an archaic word (busyness)[iv].
Christians cannot be lazy people, Christians cannot just come to Sunday services and spend a couple of hours sitting in the pews and believe that that is just what they needed to do. Christians cannot consider that the Lord’s Supper is the only act of worship required each Sunday. Christians need to get busy in the work, to be diligent to do whatever they can to serve our Lord. It is not just about seeing or listening about the example, but being the example,
“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister. And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fulness of hope even to the end: that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” [all emphasis added, MR] (Hebrews 6:9-12).
The inspired James with simple words wrote that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
Dear reader, when you are tested, do you like to fail? If you are a current school or college student, would you like to pass or fail the grading exam? If you are applying for a job, would you like to be hired or dismissed? When that glorious day comes, would you like to be approved by God or rejected by God? That has been the focus of this article, a summary of the Bible class we held yesterday.
“Study to shew [Give diligence to present, ASV] thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Let us be servants of our heavenly Father. Let us be diligent to do what He requires of us. Let us be ready for that day when we can stand in front of him, as approved by Him, as workmen that have no reason to be ashamed, by living our lives according to what is right, the word of truth.
I am, and I know you are too, looking forward to that moment when we will be able to hear these beautiful words coming from the mouth of our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Let us be diligent and work together, to be there together.
God bless you!
[ii] “sluggard”, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sluggard
[iv] “busyness”, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/busyness