Focal Passage: Proverbs
Bernard Boyd taught New
Testament at my college. One day he lectured on Mark 3:28-30: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the
famous unforgivable sin. It wasn’t some legal technicality, he said, some
secret word that, once spoken, damned you forever. People were accusing Jesus
of getting His power from the devil, not God (v. 22). The sin was unbelief.
And it’s unforgivable, Dr.
Boyd said, because if you don’t believe in Jesus, you certainly won’t ask for
or accept His forgiveness.
He told about a woman who
was terrified that she had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, whatever
it was, and that God would never forgive her. Dr. Boyd told her, “Madam, if you’re
worried about it, you haven’t done it.”
Sloth is like that. If
you’re worried about it, you’re probably not doing it — not yet. But it can
slip up on you.
Sloth is not common
laziness, like not doing your chores. It’s a spiritual condition.
Neither is it just being
spiritually slack, like sleeping in on an occasional Sunday morning. It’s much
The Latin term is acedia
(a-SEED-ee-a), from a Greek word for “carelessness.” It means deep malaise,
utter indifference, apathy, unconcern. Spiritually, you couldn’t care less.
It can also mean failing to
nurture or cultivate: not taking care.
The metaphor in Proverbs
24:30-34 is perfect: “a vineyard in ruin due to sloth’s neglect,” the Learner’s
Study Guide says. The weeds take over, the walls fall down, and nobody cares.
It happens. Spiritual
neglect can lead to spiritual “care-less-ness,” then spiritual ruin. Skip
enough church, and eventually church no longer matters. Don’t read your Bible,
and one day you can’t find it. Fail to live intentionally for God and for
others, and you’ll forget how.
The opposite of sloth is
caring: loving God and neighbor, and showing it. But love, untended, fades. Not
overnight, but sooner or later.
Danish philosopher Soren
Kierkegaard told a parable: A wild duck, migrating south, stops in a barnyard
for the free food and decides to spend the winter. Next spring his wild cousins
soar overhead, flying north. The duck tries to join them, flapping his wings
and echoing their calls, but he’s grown too fat to fly.
The wild ducks come again,
southbound in the fall. The grounded duck watches the sky longingly as they go.
Years pass, until the day comes when the wild ducks wing their way over the
farm, uttering their haunting cries, and the duck in the barnyard no longer
notices at all.