My high school football coach was fond of an old expression: “Laziness will kill you.” He used the saying to push us to run and hit hard during practice so that we would play well in the games. But it was clear that warning us about laziness was also supposed to be a life lesson. Work hard and you will enjoy success, but slack off and take it easy and you will become poor. Not just financially ruined, but weak in your body and spirit, too. My coach’s love of hard work and discipline was very biblical, as was his hatred of laziness and its disastrous consequences.
Today passage in Proverbs encourages Christians to look to the ant as our model for work (Proverbs 6:6). Unlike the playful and lazy grasshopper from Aesop’s famous fable, the ant works hard during the summer to harvest and prepare food for the lean winter months (v. 8). The ant does not need his queen constantly watching over him to work; he just knows his job and does it faithfully each day (v. 7). This should be how all Christians work! Laziness has always been a sin that fallen humans must battle, especially young people and perhaps young men most of all. But in today’s American culture that places such high value on comfort, east, and convenience, laziness has become an epidemic disease afflicting every generation. Simply put, most people like to sit around and have others do things for us and we don’t like to push ourselves hard and break a sweat. But Proverbs warns us that lazy habits and attitudes in youth will create lazy adults who may suddenly find themselves without jobs, money, and fulfillment in life (vv. 9-11). Worse still, lazy people have little or no impact for the gospel because they look no different from their lazy, lost friends, family, and neighbors.
In teaching sixth grade for the past eight years, I have seen many students struggle with their grades because they don’t like or even know how to work. They have to learn how to buckle down and pay attention in class (yes, good listening, thinking, and note taking requires effort and concentration), do their homework and actually learn from it, and study effectively for quizzes and tests. As their teachers, we work hard to help our students (passive) learn how to be students (active). But we can only help the students who are willing to work and try. We cannot help students who are unwilling to change their lazy attitudes and behaviors. We do our best to challenge and motivate our students, but as my high school football also used to say a lot (and I repeat often to my students), “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
Decide now in middle and high school, before life’s consequences become a lot more serious, that you will be a hard worker in school, sports, chores, and everything else. Change will take time and effort. If you have lived like the grasshopper for many years, living for nothing but fun and entertainment and mooching off the hard work of your parents and others, then learning to live like the ant may be a process that takes years to complete. In truth, I am still fighting against lazy habits I created in my youth and I am 37! Laziness is a mortal enemy that does not die easily. You will be swimming against the cultural stream; many of your classmates and “friends” may not share your biblical mindset about work and laziness. But God will help you and over time, you will see the fruit of your labors if you hang in there and stay the course. May God help us all to be more like the ant today.
The Text (Proverbs 6:6-11)
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler,
8 Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest.
9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep—
11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.
Questions to Think About
- Are you known by your teachers and parents as being a hard worker or a lazy person? Explain.
- Do you believe that laziness is a sin? Why or why not?
- In what areas of life do you struggle most with lazy attitudes and habits? What changes can you make to become more hardworking in these parts of your life?
- Have you ever talked with your parents about how much hard work has helped them in life? Most parents want their children to work hard, but not all parents know which Bible verses support their desire. Today’s passage might be something they want to talk about with you!