Food For Thought: What Is A Sluggard?

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Here again we have the wisdom literature of the Book of Proverbs to give us some simple food for thought. What is a sluggard? Simply, it is a slothful, or lazy person. None of us are strangers to laziness. It is a common enough malady as we grow through the stages of childhood and adolescence. But, most are able to mature out of it and take on the duties and responsibilities of adult life. It is not that the temptation goes away. It is still there, but giving in to it as adults is dangerous to our eternal souls.

I am reminded here of the great early English Renaissance author, Geoffrey Chaucer, and his Parson’s Tale from his great work, The Canterbury Tales. The Parson’s Tale is not really a tale at all, rather, it is a short, clear sermon on the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth, or sluggardliness, is one of those deadly sins. In the Parson’s words, “Accidie (sloth) does all tasks with vexation, slackly and without joy, and is encumbered by doing good. It restrains prayer. It is the rotten-hearted sin of Sloth. It leads to despair. The remedy is Fortitude.” All of this is evident in our verse for today.

The great irony of laziness is that the lazy person is not without desires, but he or she is unwilling to pay the price of the hard work that is necessary to attain them. Because they are unwilling to suffer the pains of responsibility, they never do what is necessary to obtain their goals. As a result, their desires are never achieved. This is cause enough for despair. There is a way out though. As the second clause of the proverb points out, “the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Why? Because the diligent have developed the habit of “Fortitude,” that is, they have developed the mental and emotional strength to face adversity, or the temptation toward laziness, courageously. Where laziness is the habit of avoiding what is difficult, because it is painful; courage, or diligence, is the habitual disposition to take whatever pains may be involved in doing what one ought to do for the sake of the good life, the life of Christ.

Because the diligent are interested in doing the good, that is, the things that are worthy of our God given humanity, they are willing to endure the difficulties and to face the struggles that naturally come to those who are engaged in efforts to do the good in this world. They are willing to endure the hard work of life and because of this they are, more often than not, “fully satisfied.” In their accomplishments they experience joy. When they look back on their hard work, the suffering is not forgotten, but is replaced by the joy of knowing that they had willingly paid the necessay price to obtain the “pearl of great price” that they had so diligently sought. The joy is not in the thing that has been achieved, but in the pleasure of knowing that one had the courage, and the diligence to take on the necessary struggles, to endure against the odds. This is the fullness of satisfaction that belongs to those who remain diligent in the hard work of the Christ life in this broken and sinful world.

Lord, strengthen us so that we may face, endure, and overcome the many difficulties, great and small, that come to us for choosing to follow your commandment to love one another as you have loved us. Give us the necessary graces we need to be courageous and diligent in our efforts to serve you and our brothers and sisters in this world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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