Sinning Like a Christian: Sloth

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith
Rev, Rita S. Platt
March 23, 2014
Sinning Like a Christian:   Sloth

Scripture:  Matthew  26:36-46

We are continuing our series based on William Willimon’s book Sinning like a Christian and this week we are focusing on sloth. It hardly seems this is a sin worth examining, especially for hard working, high achieving , “I’d rather do it myself” independent Americans.

We are a purposeful, driven nation. Sloth is different from anger and pride, the two sins that we have discussed and examined previously. They are the result of things we do. Things we do are sins of commission.   Sloth is a sin of omission. It is what we are not doing. Sins of omission are much more difficult to recognize.

Let’s look at the story of Jesus and the Rich Ruler recorded in Luke 18:18-25:  A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’”

He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.   Luke 18:18-25 NRSV

When Jesus called the man to be a disciple and told him the requirements of discipleship he became sad.   The Greek word used here doesn’t say he walked away from Jesus-it is not what he did.  The story is about is what he didn’t do.  He couldn’t bring himself to walk toward Jesus. He could have become a disciple, but he missed the opportunity.

Sloth is a sin against our potential. In painting Sloth in his “Seven Deadly Sins,” Bosch depicts a man sitting comfortably in a cushioned chair before a warm fire, his dog curled at his feet.  A woman, seemingly a nun, holds out a rosary and a prayer book. But the man contently sleeps. Sloth doesn’t take advantage of the means of grace we have been offered. Sloth can easily go undetected in our lives. Sometimes we recognize missed opportunities:

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”  Mark 14:32-41 NRSV

The disciples – Peter, James and John, who went with Jesus to the Garden of  Gethsemane –  had no idea the opportunity they missed  when they fell  asleep while Jesus was praying in  anguish. The account is recorded in all three synoptic gospels.  In the days following his crucifixion I am sure they thought about that night. I am sure they wished they had taken advantage of the opportunity, but the time had passed.  The times when we do recognize it the opportunity is usually gone; but most of the time we don’t. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can recognize more opportunities if throughout the day we pray this simple prayer:

Lord, show me the opportunities you have given me. Help me use every moment to its fullest potential. And we know that God will hear and answer our prayer.