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I lived my teenage years in a tourist town with a nearby theme park. Based on Al Capp’s classic comic strip Li’l Abner, all the character actors had practiced shticks they used to entertain the crowds that came to enjoy a good family day filled with amusement rides and southern fried fare. The first exchange occurred as guests entered the park on the shuttle. “Working hard?” the tour guide would ask one of the characters. “Working hard? Hardly workin’!” It never failed to get a laugh.

Americans by and large still maintain a hard-working culture. But our expressions don’t reflect it. “Take it easy” is a common farewell, working for the weekend a common goal. These sentiments stand in contrast to the least emphasized aspect of the Fourth Commandment.

Most are familiar with “keep the sabbath holy.” The full commandment reads:

Exodus 20:8-11
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. KJV

Sabbath keeping is a source of great controversy among many Christians. The greater body of Christ observes the “Lord’s day” on Sunday. But the Lord turned water to wine. He never converted the first day of the week—what we call Sunday—into Saturday.

Most who acknowledge that what we call Saturday is really the sabbath dodge its spiritual significance with an appeal to being set free from the Law. While they may get upset when hearing a coworker take the Lord’s name in vain or sit comfortably listening to a message on not coveting, a defensive uneasiness sets in when someone proposes to reserve Saturday for holy, restful endeavors.

I’ve never heard much controversy about the five-day workweek or doing the household chores on the weekend.

I have been on the employer side of the labor equation for over three decades. People still dutifully come to work, but it seems to me that fewer and fewer come to work. Work is not a curse or burden. It is a privilege granted to us from God to provide purpose and productivity to our lives.

Genesis 2:15
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. ESV

Before the fall, in his perfect state, man worked in Paradise. Slothfulness is a sure path to poverty, both of soul and solvency.

Proverbs 18:9
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster. KJV

The Hebrew word translated “slothful” in the verse above means to be slack or let loose, like when one slackens the reigns. This gives evidence of the character connection between laziness and immorality. A slothful, lazy person lacks discipline in their inner life.

Proverbs 24:30-32
30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. KJV

Like Solomon, we should consider the condition of the lazy man’s field and receive instruction. His first observation was that the field of the slothful was covered over with thorns. What does this tell us? In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that the thorns in the field were the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.[1] Promises of prosperity without work are lies crafted to part people from their money. Many there are that will spend a dollar they can ill afford for the chance at financial independence. But buying lottery tickets is a fool’s game.

Why do we seek a windfall of sudden riches? Because we believe that financial security means soul security. If we didn’t have to worry about the bills, we tell ourselves, we wouldn’t have any worries at all. But worry isn’t a bank account issue. It’s a heart issue. Money is fleeting. God is eternal. Which do we trust to meet our needs?

Solomon’s second observation on the field of the slothful was that it was covered with nettles. We have moved from thorny stems to the pointy leaves of weeds. Job 30:7-8 identifies nettles as the gathering place of vile and foolish men. Jesus correlates thornbushes with the hearts of evil men in Luke 6:44-45. These insights tell us that lazy people gravitate to the company of the wicked.

Thirdly, Solomon tells us that the wall about the slothful’s field was broken down. This tells us that a lazy person lacks self-control.

Proverbs 25:28
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. KJV

Relaxing is no sin. The Lord provided us with an entire day to enjoy His company without the distraction of labor. But like thorns and nettles, laziness can creep into our lives in ways and places we don’t expect if we aren’t mindful of our time expenditures. Working wholeheartedly as to Christ is a blessing we should participate in with joy.

In the next post, God willing, we will look at different ways we spend our time in order to be more able to weed the gardens of our lives and continue to be fruitful in the Lord.

[1] Matt. 13:22.