It’s hard to admit, but there are times when I really struggle with laziness. I know, I know, how can I say that with all that’s going on in the ministry. But laziness isn’t merely inactivity. It can also be the wrong allocation of strengths and gifts that waste those strengths and gifts. It is the diffused illness of inattentiveness to proper priorities.
Let me give you an example. One of my great joys is writing. I love writing these devotionals. I love preparing homilies, and presentations. I really do love communication. But (and you knew that was coming) there are times when I sit at my computer and allow every email notice, every “ding” from some response to a Facebook post, every phone call, to interrupt my work as if I had to respond right then to every summoning of my thoughts. It’s sloth. It’s being inattentive. It’s destructive to my spiritual life. OH, confession time is over. How do we address this temptation to inattentiveness, to laziness?
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 6:9-12:
BRETHREN, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
St. Paul’s sermon in Hebrews has one, central theme throughout this powerful book of Hebrews: the word “Better.” We have a “better” High Priest. We have a “Better” message. We have a “Better” sacrifice, and so on. St. Paul is trying to show these Hebrew Christians why it would be folly for them to abandon their Christian faith and return to Judaism. And he does so by showing them why Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of every promise the Father made to Abraham.
So, St. Paul preaches the powerful homily that became the Book of Hebrews and in this passage we discover how to escape the illness of laziness or sluggishness.
First, God knows Us. The Lord sees clearly your struggle. Most people will never know the inner turmoil that someone has faced, but God sees it all. And that truth alone should be daily reinforced in your heart and mind to guard your life against becoming sluggish in your practice of the disciplines of the Faith. God knows perfectly how hard it is for you to be faithful, and I mean you, in particular. God knows your particular makeup, your uniqueness. God knows you so well that He sees completely what you are capable of and where you struggle to just move an inch. And His knowledge of you flows from His love for you.
Next, God gives us service to heal us. The work we are given to do in serving others is key to avoiding sluggishness in our lives. It’s when I allow inattentiveness to rule my mind that I miss opportunities to serve others. And that just feeds my self-centeredness, which reinforces my sluggishness and inattentiveness. It’s a vicious cycle that is broken when I serve another. It is not a coincidence that the “giant” of sloth or laziness is overcome by almsgiving. It is in the severe discipline of almsgiving that says I put my energies, my talents, my abilities, my time, and yes even my money, at the disposal of another so that all of these realities: My energies, my talents, my abilities, my time, and even my money are never allowed to own me!
Finally, God gives us a vision of the end. What will motivate me to not give up or to fall into the pit of sloth is a clear vision of the finish line of my life. No wonder the Fathers tell us to constantly remember our death. No wonder the Church has us pray at every service “For a Christian end to my life, peaceful, unashamed, and for the right answer before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.” I will never move from the slumber of my laziness if I don’t know WHY the effort is worth it. This vision of the glories of being with God we see at each Liturgy, in each icon, heard in every prayer, and seen in the clouds of incense invite me to rouse myself from my sluggishness and keep going!
Today, are you struggling with laziness in your practice of the faith? What motivates you to go to church (ON TIME!) and then volunteer your time and talents and treasures? Is it obligation? The Faith will never get your best if your motivation is obligation. No, the only way to defeat sluggishness is through Gratitude: to Give BECAUSE you are grateful, not because you feel guilty! This is how to be Orthodox on Purpose.