Jeremiah 17:5-8 Amplified Bible
Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in and relies on mankind,
Making [weak, faulty human] flesh his strength,
And whose mind and heart turn away from the Lord.
“For he will be like a shrub in the [parched] desert;
And shall not see prosperity when it comes,
But shall live in the rocky places of the wilderness,
In an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord
And whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.
“For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters,
That spreads out its roots by the river;
And will not fear the heat when it comes;
But its leaves will be green and moist.
And it will not be anxious and concerned in a year of drought
Nor stop bearing fruit.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
On the surface, spiritual laziness looks like not getting up early enough to pray and read your Bible, but it really goes much, much deeper than that.
When I searched the Internet on this topic, the vast majority of articles and blog posts focused on the necessary disciplines of bible study, Scripture Reading and Prayer time, busy at “work” versus quiet time, going to church, serving others.
And all of those things are critically important in the life in God’s backyard.
However, from personal experience, those disciplines and commitments are almost impossible to stick with unless the root of spiritual laziness is dug up and destroyed.
Not praying regularly, reading the Bible daily, and committing to regular fellowship with other believers are usually symptoms of something buried much deeper in our souls.
It’s kind of like trying to be losing weight. You won’t stick with a diet until your heart, mind, and soul are aligned and motivated to do so. You may persevere for a brief while based on sheer willpower and stubbornness, but it won’t become a lifestyle until the spiritual battle is won within the deepest parts of your being.
So, what is spiritual laziness if it’s not the failure to regularly implementing the classic Christian activities and routines?
To discover this answer, we can turn to the Biblical analogy of trees and fruit, which is used more than a hundred times throughout scripture.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
In these verses, we discover that trust in God — a deep, abiding, unwavering, uncompromising trust — is the key to a fruitful life.
That means that not trusting in God for anything and everything — i.e., being worrying, trying to control outcomes, not submitting to God’s sovereignty — is at its core true spiritual laziness.
Therefore, all of those wonderful and incredibly vital habits I mentioned earlier are the fruit of being spiritually active, but they are not the tree itself.
The tree described in Jeremiah is fruitful because it’s rooted in the trust of the Lord, day and night, season after season, storm after storm.
If you and I are feeling mightily slapped in the face right now, please know that I and uncountable numbers of other “Christians” are right there with you.
If I were to reveal my list of weaknesses, laziness has never been in my top 10.
If anything, I am at times too energetic and too driven.
A former supervisor of mine once said to me, “Your level of energy and dedication and devotion to your work makes your co-workers nervous.”
And he did not entirely mean it as any kind of high and glorious complement, and now many years later I have come to understand why – “its unheard of.”
I’ve also realized that what shows up in my work habits is just as spiritually connected as what comes out in my sacred disciplines for the Lord.
Outwardly I appear to have it all together.
My actions indicate a preponderance of fruitful behaviors and activities, but truthfully, they only mask a deep, soul-level weakness — an overwhelming need to outperform, to overdo, to achieve — all because I have unrecognized or unacknowledged or unconfessed, unrepented trust issues with our God.
This is why being busy with the tasks of proper spirituality or duties of religion has in the past left me feeling drained, empty, and disconnected from God. But until recently I never genuinely realized “laziness” had anything to do with it.
If this still doesn’t make sense to you, bear with me for a few moments more.
The connection between laziness and mistrust is simply this: striving to trust God for everything takes great effort, put forth on a continual, consistent basis.
And not just for a few weeks or months.
Trust grows in layers throughout your lifetime.
One decision or trial at a time.
That means trusting Him even when we walk through long seasons of waiting, difficulties, or disappointments.
When we do not trust the Lord, it bubbles out into our lives in the form of busyness, trying to control situations or others, legalism, worrying, anxiety, escapism, the pursuit of accolades, or wealth, grumbling and complaining, and a whole host of other manifestations.
Eugene Peterson, the editor of The Message version of the Bible puts it this way:
“Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness … in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.”
An August 11, 2012, mental health article in the New York Times titled “The Anxious Idiot” illustrates Peterson’s point beautifully.
“Laziness: it isn’t a characteristic usually associated with the anxious. If anything, people tend to view the anxious as more active and motivated than normal, because they are more haunted by the specter of failure. And yet long experience has taught me that it is laziness … that is the foremost enemy of the anxiety sufferer, for laziness prevents him from countering the very patterns of thought that make him anxious in the first place.”
You may or may not be much of a worrier.
Anxiety may be the last thing you resort to when times get tough.
if we struggle with anger or a need for control, then we also likely struggle with trusting God when difficult people or disturbing situations come into our life.
While the article in the NY Times was written without any spiritual connotations or recommendations, it definitely gets to the heart of the matter: every person has a decisive choice to make when confronted with the daily decisions of life.
We can make the genuine effort to trust in God, genuinely let go of our own desires, and genuinely implement His divine recommendations for a healthy, fruitful life, or we can genuinely slide down the path of least mental resistance into our comfortable, but usually very genuinely detrimental, very bad habits.
This is why Paul says our faith is like running a race.
He doesn’t say it’s like sitting in a meadow on a sunny day having a picnic.
Our participation and consistent effort are required.
Hebrews 12:1-2a says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith.”
One of the best parables of the Bible encourages us to risk everything we hold dear in order to walk closely with God.
Matthew 25:14-30 Amplified Bible
Parable of the Talents
14 “For it is just like a man who was about to take a journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his possessions. 15 To one he gave five [a]talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he [made a profit and] gained five more. 17 Likewise the one who had two [made a profit and] gained two more. 18 But the one who had received the one went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 And the one who had received the five talents came and brought him five more, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted to me five talents. See, I have [made a profit and] gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’
22 “Also the one who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have [made a profit and] gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’
24 “The one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a harsh and demanding man, reaping [the harvest] where you did not sow and gathering where you did not scatter seed. 25 So I was afraid [to lose the talent], and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is your own.’
26 “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked, lazy servant, you knew that I reap [the harvest] where I did not sow and gather where I did not scatter seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money with the bankers, and at my return I would have received my money back with interest. 28 So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
29 “For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away. 30 And throw out the worthless servant into the outer darkness; in that place [of grief and torment] there will be weeping [over sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [over distress and anger].
We read here about the parable of the talents, which tells the story of a wealthy business owner who gives three employees each a sum of money and asks them to take care of it for him while he is away on a trip.
Two of them immediately invested the money so that it would earn interest.
The third one was fearful of what would happen if he made a mistake, so he simply buried the money for safekeeping.
When the owner returned, this is what happened:
“But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?” And then the passage closes with this warning: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
In commenting on this parable, Oswald Chambers said,
“The person who is lazy naturally is always captious (i.e., sully or a whining). ‘I haven’t had a decent chance,’ and the one who is lazy spiritually is captious with God. Lazy people always strike out on an independent line.”
Of course, our definition of independence is different today than it was back then (circa 1900).
Today we typically use the word independence in a much more positive fashion than Chambers intended.
His implication is that lazy believers chart their course separately from God’s recommended path.
Therefore, when it comes to “spiritual matters,” they can all too easily use the excuse of independence — or what they believe to be our unique situation — to justify laziness, rebellion, or fear and so very much more.
Jesus, on the other hand, calls us to be utterly dependent on Him.
As Oswald Chambers further says in his writings, we should never forget that our ability to trust in God and to serve Him with boldness — despite the risks to ourselves — isn’t measured by what we are capable of or what we desire to do.
Instead, our abilities should be grounded in the promises of God never to fail us, leave us, or ask us to do something that He cannot achieve through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
In fact, the greatest miracles of life come when we are at our weakest and trust God to perform His work within us for the benefit of others and His glory.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 NLT says, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
So, these verses imply that the weaker or more fearful you and I may be of what God has asked you and I to do, the greater becomes the opportunity for Him to work miracles and display His genuine glory.
Theologically, all of this may sound like solid truth to you, but if you are still wondering what it all means for the day-to-day living and walking with Jesus, perhaps the following words of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs will help you turn these spiritual implications into daily actions.
As with most Biblical truth, there is great irony in God’s command to trust Him in Proverbs 3:5-6, which says simply:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
These verses contain two actions for us to follow: trust and submit.
We must genuinely participate in the process.
To bear fruit like the tree, we must remain planted by streams of living water.
Yet to keep ourselves out of spiritual laziness and make the efforts required of this command, we must simultaneously learn to simply rest.
Yes, you and I absolutely read that right.
To overcome laziness, we have to learn to be still.
When we build Sabbath margin into our daily lives — not just on Sunday — we will have the time to breathe, think clearly, and engage our complete being — mind, body, and soul — in genuine pursuit of Rabbi Jesus and Savior Christ.
The tree grows because it is beside the river of life.
We will only grow in Christ when we take the time to drink of His strength and learn of His wisdom.
So, while I said at the beginning of this devotional message that prayer, Bible study, meditation, and worship are the first fruits of trust, they also become the essential building blocks of greater, greatest, trust as we faithfully apply them.
But we will never see them appear, nor be able to taste them as long as we allow busyness to proliferate in our lives, numb us to the real laziness of our hearts.
When we allow laziness to dominate our decisions and motivations, we only end up serving a false god, and not the true King of Glory.
Laziness, or not trusting God, like any other sin feels good for a season.
Other than busyness, it often shows up in forms of escapism, like mindless TV watching, endless smartphone use, endless devotion to video games, endless social media surfing, or a myriad of physical indulgences, coping mechanisms.
But when we look it square in the eye and call it for what it is, we realize it’s all about our trusting or not trusting the unseen God to do what He says He will do.
Today, I would ask you, fellow traveler, where are you and I planted?
Are we putting “a few roots down” near the river of life, while allowing others to seek their comfort in the tainted soils of self-reliance or personal comfort?
If so, ask God to help you find them again, dig them up, and transplant them into His unending goodness and strength.
It won’t happen overnight, but when you wake each morning, His mercies will be new, and God’s miracles will be waiting to sustain us through this “process.”
For Further Reflection and Daily Spiritual Journaling
The questions and readings below can be used for a single-day study or for our re-organization, re-prioritization of our daily quiet time throughout the week.
Day 1 – Describe in your own the words the difference between striving to perform for God (i.e., doing something out of duty or to achieve) and participating in God’s work in your life.
Read Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:14-26.
Why do you think you are sometimes motivated toward busyness or performance?
What is God leading us to change? How? Write them out as a prayer to Him.
Day 2 – Read Lamentations 3:22-23. In what ways are you experiencing God’s mercies today or have in the past? How are they new or different to you now than they were yesterday? If you’re in a place of struggle right now, ask God to help you recognize and receive His mercies.
Day 3 – Read, re-read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. How are you and I similar to the good servants? In what ways are you and I being like the fearful servant? Journal about why you think that is, and what the Holy Spirit is revealing in your heart.
Day 4 – Take some time to be still before the Lord today.
Begin by reading Proverbs 3:5-6 and then meditating on it.
Ask God to interrupt you and I at any moment with what He wants to whisper to yours and my heart.
For more about “being busy” and practicing stillness and what it means,
Day 5 – Spend some time reflecting on our schedules and our commitments at work, home, church, in your community, and other volunteering roles.
Read Luke 10:38-42.
Luke 10:38-42Amplified Bible
Martha and Mary
38 Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. 40 But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” 41 But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”
Go to God in prayer and ask Him to reveal areas where you, I, are too busy like Martha and where you and I need to be more studious and quieter like Mary.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
All-Knowing Father, you authored my life, you know and direct my future. You make all things work together for my good. Pray! Help me to trust you as I think about my future. Give me peace of mind. Whatever happens, I know that you are working for my good and your glory. Help me to live with freedom, knowing that my future is in your mighty hand. I do not know what is around the corner, but nothing can take you by surprise. I face uncertainty but I can be certain that you are in control and that you are good. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.