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The Sluggard: Empty at Harvest Time

by Andrew Davis on August 11, 2020

A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.-Proverbs 20:4

The Bible introduces us to many interesting people. Perhaps none is more tragic yet comic than the “sluggard” of the Book of Proverbs. The sluggard is a lazy person who can barely rouse himself to the day’s tasks. He is constantly laying around on his bed, resting up for his next day of inactivity. The only motion you see is his turning from one side to the other while he lays in bed, like a door turning on its hinge (Prov. 26:14)! The sluggard is so lazy, he dips his bread into the gravy dish and can’t even bring it up to his mouth (Prov. 19:24)! Perhaps he is waiting for his mommy to come feed him. Of course, he loves sleep so much that he neglects his house, so his yard is constantly overgrown with weeds and his fences constantly in need of repair (Prov. 24:30-34). The sluggard also has an active imagination. He is able to make up excuses rather than do the work needed: “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is roaming the streets’” (Prov. 26:13)! His active imagination also dreams that he is wiser than he really is…actually, he is “wiser than seven men who answer discretely” (Prov. 26:16).

Remarkably, although the sluggard is always looking for the easy way out, yet his life is actually far more difficult than if he had simply attended to business when he should have: “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway”  (Prov. 15:19). Isn’t it ironic that steady consistent work is easier in the end than the way of laziness!

Yet, the most tragic aspect of the sluggard is that his failure to plow in season results in coming up empty at harvest time (Prov. 20:4). There is a time for plowing, a time for sowing, a time for tending, then a time for harvesting. The sluggard misses the joy of the entire process, because he refuses to pay the price when the time has come.

So, it is also in the work of the gospel ministry that God has given us. Out of laziness and the desire for a comfortable life, we are unwilling to do the hard work of plowing up tough soil. We are afraid our neighbors, relatives, and co-workers will jump on us if we try to plant a seed for Christ. We make no headway in bringing up spiritual topics, neither do we invite them to church or challenge their thinking with a Bible verse. Even worse, we don’t pray for the softening rain of God’s grace to loosen the soil and make it ready for planting. We are not active in the hard work of plowing early on (John 4:38), and we miss the joy of the harvest time. And now is the day of harvest! We have, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to advance the gospel. It would be a tragedy on Judgment Day to have to explain why we missed these open doors because of laziness.

"Let us read these warnings about the sluggard and flee to the power of the Holy Spirit, who can make us bold energetic witnesses for the eternal salvation of those around us."

This year has been one of the most gut-wrenching in my entire life. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many aspects of daily life. The corresponding economic ravages have left many unemployed or with severe financial challenges in the future. The race-based demonstrations which flowed from a well-publicized police event, the death of George Floyd, have ripped at the fabric of unity—both general civic unity, and even unity within the Body of Christ. These agonies, if seen properly, give Christians an unprecedented open door for the gospel. Yet many have testified to me personally how the long hours of isolation at home has produced a great many bad habits, including lazy self-indulgence in electronic entertainment. Let us read these warnings about the sluggard and flee to the power of the Holy Spirit, who can make us bold energetic witnesses for the eternal salvation of those around us.

The sluggard wants an easy life… but oh, how much the sluggard misses! Let us not lounge when we should be plowing. If we plow, we will sow. If we sow, we will reap. If we reap, we will rejoice.