Do any of you remember back in the day when, if you were a listless, visionless, slack-jawed, gum-smackin’ laggard, your parents and peers would look at you weirdly and they wouldn’t make excuses for you, or say you have some special disease like “lazyassotosis”, and that’s why you’re such a daft dasypygal?
In addition, how many can hearken back to a bygone era when you actually would be held criminally liable, or at least looked at weirdly, by culture when you didn’t try to help, if able, to stop a crime or rescue a damsel in distress?
Further, and I’m really going to date myself with this one, can any of you remember giving those able-bodied relatives of yours who sponged off the government that same look your dog gives you when he catches you having sex? Y’know what I’m talking about don’t you? That furrowed-brow gaze of confusion, disdain and personal embarrassment that makes you slowly back out of the room said person is in.
Historically, culturally and ecclesiastically speaking we used to view the slothful as the sinful. Nowadays, getting your money for nothing and your check for free is seen as a right; and people actually revel in what used to be a shame.
So, what is sloth?
Sloth is, essentially, the desire to sit on your butt and pick lint from your navel because you’re a jaded and dejected, bleak little monkey. Sloth is the sin, according to Dorothy Sayers, “which believes nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it will die for.”
The decadent tub of spiritual lard that’s satiated with this swill will not lift a finger to fight insanity or to stand for God or country because, to them, there isn’t anything worth getting riled up about. As they see it, life has sucked, does suck and will continue to suck, and they feel there’s nada they can do about it. Therefore, don’t ask or expect them to cheerlead any cause because the world, according to this gloomy group, is irrevocably hell-bent-for-leather. And anyways, being a sluggard is a simple sin in that all you have to do to do this is do nothing when you’re supposed to do something.
For clarification, when most folks think of someone who’s given to sloth, they usually conjure up an image of some bloated, slow moving, mumbling, unshorn, unemployed human sea cow with excessive eye boogers. The fact is that most indolents aren’t your typical, heel-draggin’ slackers. True slothfulness is easy to hide under a flurry of inconsequential activities and sudsy busyness.
Yes, you can be hectic, fit, religious and industrious and still be slothful. “But how?” you might ask. Here’s the real acid test to gauge whether or not you have this soul disease: when that which is consequential confronts you . . . such as the pursuit of God, the good, the true and the beautiful . . . how do you react?
Does that which is holy, just and good get a rise out of you and cause you to get off your butt and move into action? Or do you stand there and stare at the substantial like a calf looking at a new gate, and then shrug and say, “Whatever.”
Sloth cannot be simply reduced to just dallying. Classically defined, sloth is a sluggishness of spirit which is the byproduct of a Van Gogh-like spiritual gloominess that no longer sees the merit of the meaningful and, ironically, leaves one, as Os Guinness states, trying to find “meaning in its own meaninglessness”; like millions do on Facebook.
So, how does one fight off the noon-day demons, the mid-life malaise, the teenaged stagnations, and the bean burrito drowsiness? In The Sermon on the Mount, Christ tabled, in contrast to slothful soul sludge, a hunger and a thirst for righteousness.
Jesus, far from being a Pollyanna and far from ministering in easy and uncomplicated times, said one is “blessed” when, in the midst of all the major crapola that’s going down on the planet, including all the bad religion, corrupt politics and war torn nations, one still hungers and thirsts for that which is right. Jesus said you’re fortunate when you can keep focused on ideals and hotly pursue them when circumstances are screaming for you to jump ship.
Spiritually myopic people move into sloth mode when they’re confronted with the above crud. They see problems as a nice out from activity. They cannot see right when wrong is around. They cannot hunger for ideals unless the birds are chirping. Their conscious or unconscious response when their world ceases to look like a beer commercial is, “Forget you, guys. I’m moving to Disneyland.”
Jesus, on the other hand, was fueled by selfless passion rooted in a firm persuasion that good would triumph over evil in time and in eternity. This caused him to be, let’s say, “involved” with what was happening in His day.
Yep, for those who can read and have read the gospel, you don’t see Jesus dragging though life like George Costanza in passive indifference to that which was good, bad and ugly. He saw the ideal and saw what was currently being played out on the planet and, being the unreasonable, hopeful rebel that He was, He got a whip and started clearing the punks. If it wasn’t right, then he felt compelled to correct it instead of slothfully standing by and just watching.
* The above was taken and paraphrased from Os Guinness’ lecture on the Seven Deadly Sins.