A lazy person is one who is unwilling to work or use energy. The Bible’s teaching about laziness, and similar qualities like idleness, slothfulness, and complacency, are clear and strong. In part, what God’s Word says about laziness is in contrast to what it teaches about the significance of work.
The Bible teaches that laziness is sinful. Instead, it champions effort, diligence, and wisdom in work. Working has been part of God’s design since Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. Laziness impedes work that supports families, helps societies, and strengthens churches.
Is laziness really that bad? How should people work like ants? What is the result of laziness? Does laziness make life harder or easier? What did Jesus say about laziness? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
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Is laziness really that bad?
Many people are surprised that the Bible considers laziness to be sinful. The tendency is to think that sluggishness with regard to work isn’t that bad. People reason that expressions of laziness like procrastination, making excuses, poor effort, and incomplete tasks aren’t as bad as other sins. Sleeping a little longer, indulging in a little more screen time, and resting before working isn’t like murder or adultery.
Perhaps some believe that because the behavior, or lack thereof, isn’t hurting anyone, then it’s permissible. Maybe others get confused about the morality of laziness because, by definition, a person isn’t doing anything. Yet the Bible teaches not doing something can be just as sinful as doing something. James 4:17 reads, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV).
Yet the Bible’s definition of sin isn’t confined to something that hurts another person. Rather, sin is that which violates God’s moral standards, which laziness does according to Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church even included laziness (i.e. sloth) as one of the Seven Deadly Sins along with other rebellious behavior like pride, wrath, and lust.
“Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
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What does the Bible teach about laziness?
The Old Testament’s teaching about laziness is straightforward and powerful. Jesus reiterated the teaching in his ministry with strong warnings against idleness with regard to work. The Bible’s instructions about laziness aren’t ambiguous or enigmatic.
How should people work like ants? Proverbs 6 contains a passage that encourages people to work like ants. Ants aren’t idle. They diligently work for their needs like food and shelter. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (v. 6-8).
Do ants sleep more than they should? No, but some people do. Sleep isn’t inherently sinful, and some need more of it than others. Yet sleeping more than is necessary is a way that some people avoid work. “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” (v. 9-10).
“If I rest, I rust.” ~ Martin Luther
One result of laziness is poverty. Regarding the person who rests and sleeps too much, Proverbs 6:11 teaches that poverty will come upon them “like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Sometimes lazy people don’t experience the natural result of their idleness because other hard-working people provide for their needs. The Bible doesn’t support the idea of enabling those who are able to work, but don’t because they are lazy.
Does laziness make life harder or easier? Lazy people falsely believe that their idleness is easier than working. In an immediate sense, this is true for some people because laying in bed feels better to them than working. Yet, immediate, instant gratification is short-sighted and unwise when it comes to working.
Proverbs 12:24 reads, “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” In others words, those that work hard will be in charge of those who are lazy. Laziness kills dreams, destroys goals, achieves nothing, and fails to help a person realize and maximize their God-given gifts and skills.
Another way that laziness hurts people is by creating more problems for them. Ecclesiastes 10:18 reads, “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.” A person who avoids the “problem” of working to maintain their house, creates new problems like rot and leaks.
A person may sleep longer because they want to avoid the “problem” of work, but what they accomplish in multiplying their problems. Being reprimanded at work is a problem. Losing a job is a problem. Not being able to pay bills or provide for one’s family are examples of problems that being lazy may create.
“Idleness is the devil’s best friend.” ~ J.C. Ryle
Lazy people exchange small problems in the present with big problems in the future. Proverbs 19:15 reads, “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”
Lazy people are also in a perpetual state of want, entitlement, and self-centeredness. Proverbs 13:4 reads, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
Did Jesus say about laziness? Yes. Jesus emphasized the sinfulness of idleness in relation to doing his work in the world. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus taught, “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (Matt. 25:26-27).
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Laziness encourages temptation. Work fulfills God’s design for people and enables righteous labor-related processes and outcomes like manufacturing a product, providing a civil service, or helping people in need. Avoiding work removes a person from God’s design and sets them up for unholy behaviors in an acute way because they are living outside of his intended purposes.
Thomas Brooks writes, “By doing nothing men learn to do evil things. It is easy slipping out of an idle life into an evil and wicked life. Yes, an idle life is of itself evil, for man was made to be active, not to be idle. Idleness is a mother-sin, a breeding-sin; it is the devil’s cushion – on which he sits; and the devil’s anvil – on which he frames very great and very many sins.”
Examples of Laziness in the Bible
- Ezekiel 16:49, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (ESV) “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.” (NLT)
- Matthew 20:6, “And about the eleventh hour [Jesus] went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’” (ESV) “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’” (NLT)
“Idleness gives great advantage to the tempter. Standing waters gather filth.” ~ Matthew Henry
5 Bible verses about working hard
- Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
- Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”
- 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
- Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”
Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Twentieth-century man needs to be reminded at times that work is not the result of the Fall. Man was made to work, because the God who made him was a ‘working God.’ Man was made to be creative, with his mind and his hands. Work is part of the dignity of his existence.”
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