My husband preached Sunday from Proverbs 26:13. “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!’” Our pastor, who was away, assigned my husband this humorous and convicting verse. The topic was FEAR.
There is a deeper connection between fear and sloth than we might recognize. Sloth is considered one of the seven deadly sins. It is more than laziness. The Greek word is acedia. It is spiritual dejection that has given up on the pursuit of God. Sloth is life without passion. Soren Kierkegaarde wrote, “Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is wretched, for it lacks passion.” Sloth is passionless living. Nothing worth living for, nothing worth dying for. Sloth is expressed in a word frequently heard today: whatever.
So I’ve been thinking about lions, real and imaginary. The lions that keep me from courageously stepping into opportunities and responsibilities, the lions that possibly, maybe, as chance has it, for all one knows, time and tide permitting, could be in the streets; the lions that keeps the sluggard from commitment, duty and action; the lions that prowl the imagination and enervate faith.
The sluggard is illustrated in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30). The master gives one man five talents, one man two talents, and one man one talent. The first two men invested their talents for increase. The man with one talent buried his talent. When the master returned and asked for an accounting, he said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow. and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground” (Mt. 25:24,25). The master responded, “You wicked and slothful servant!” (Mt. 25:26).
Fear and sloth kept him from doing something with what he was given. My husband and I discussed: What if he had invested the talent for increase but failed? We believe the Master values the effort. And I think how often I’m afraid to step out because I might fail. I even tell myself that I might do more damage to the kingdom than good. Failure is nothing compared to sloth.
I’m looking at my life, identifying the lions and the excuses for inaction. I’m thinking, too, of the three application steps my husband suggested:
One, REFUSE TO BE COWED. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from us. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7,8).
Two, CLAIM THE PROMISES OF GOD. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Tim. 1:7).
Three, COMMIT TO ACTION. “See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 1:21).
Face the lions. Live the mystery.