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The Audacity of Laziness

October 14th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 6: 6-11 (NLT)

 6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
      Learn from their ways and become wise!
 7 Though they have no prince
      or governor or ruler to make them work,
 8 they labor hard all summer,
      gathering food for the winter.
 9 But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
      When will you wake up?
 10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
      a little folding of the hands to rest—
 11 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
      scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

She was a nice girl, always saying hi to me in class.  Fairly pleasant in most situations.  All in all, I had nothing against her.  However, nothing could prepare me for her response on the last day of regular classes.

I was teaching eighth grade in Maryville, Tennessee at the time.  It was a U.S. History class and the young lady, whom I will call Tammy in this story, sat a few rows back from the front.  As an educator, I tried to set a high standard for my classes.  I expected them to respect themselves, their peers, and their teachers. I expected them to take notes and to prepare for tests and assignments.  I hoped that they would walk away from my classroom with more knowledge about the history and structure of our nation than when they walked in.  

That being said, my class wasn’t considered to be very difficult.  I didn’t require daily essays or extensive research papers complete with references and correct citations.  Our class consisted of the combination of direct instruction through note taking, reading, group activities, and media-driven presentations.  As far as I could tell, it seemed to be working.

It may have been working, but Tammy was not.

When it came to end of the grading period, I was a bit of a softy.  I just couldn’t stomach the idea of flunking a kid in eighth grade without doing my very best to make sure they had every opportunity to succeed.  I always believed (and research supports) that success is a much better motivator than failure. Thus, a few days before report cards went out, I called each student to my desk to show them their average as it stood at the moment.  I would then show them the assignments or tests that they were missing.  Usually, I offered them the opportunity to make up their assignment for partial credit.  In my mind, if they were willing to do the work and learn the material, that was kind of the point.

Tammy’s talent for skating the line between passing and failing could have earned her a gold medal.  I called her to my desk and showed her the grade she had at present.  It was a 64 or 65 . . . an F.  She didn’t bat an eye.  Looking through her grades, there was one major project she had not turned in.  This “0” was devastating to her average.  In fact, even a late grade on this assignment would guarantee a passing grade.  Low, but passing.

“Oh, Mr. Driver,” she said, “I did that!  I just never turned it in.”

Relieved that I may not have to fail her, I replied, “Oh, okay.  Well, where is it?”

“It’s in my backpack.  Oh, but I think I left my backpack in the gym.”

“No problem.  Here’s a note.  Go get it.”

Problem solved.  Tammy would go get it and all would be well.  I continued calling students to my desk to show them their assignments.  A few minutes later, I noticed that Tammy was still sitting at her desk.  

“Hey, why haven’t you gone to the gym?”  A typical middle-school shrug was her only response.  “Tammy, go get your backpack right now.”  Another few minutes passed and I looked up to find her positioned exactly where she was before.

“Tammy!  Why are you still sitting there?  I’m giving you the chance to pass this class.  I’m being nice!”

“Well, I don’t feel like walking down to the gym.”

I almost choked!  “What?!”  Now, you should know what was riding on this whole scenario.  I happened to know how she was doing in her other classes as well.  Bottom line was, if she passed my class, she would pass the eighth grade.  If she failed, she would have to repeat.  Yeah, one little walk to the gym was all that stood between her and high school.

I was flabbergasted.  I even called her to my desk, called her mother on the phone, and explained the situation to her.  After they spoke on the phone, Tammy went and sat back down.  Against all odds and defying all logic, she refused to go get her backpack so that she could pass the eighth grade.  I wish I could tell you that it worked out, but when it was all said and done, she had to repeat the next year.  Why?

One word: laziness . . . the epidemic of our generation.  Work is a four-letter word in more ways than one. We are undisciplined and prone to inactivity.  Laziness abounds.

Solomon was wealthy beyond comprehension, owning more land and treasure than any human being before or since.  However, he was not lazy.  History, biblical and secular, tells us that Solomon was a man with multi-faceted interests in science, architecture, philosophy, agriculture, and a slew of other areas.  He worked hard.  He studied hard.  Maybe that’s why he warned his son in the passage against the dangers of laziness.  He knew a that a “slumbering, lazy” lifestyle would lead him straight to “poverty” and “scarcity.”

Listen, rest isn’t bad.  Being lazy and experiencing rest are two different things.  And laziness is not just about money and productivity either.  Only working hard when we have something to gain personally is not the answer.  Good work ethic means that we give our full effort to every task of life.  It means that we can be trusted and that others can count on us to do a good job, even when the boss isn’t looking.

Tammy’s story is obviously extreme– most of us would walk down the hallway just for self-preservation. But laziness is still a powerful entity, lulling us into a drowsy state of inactivity . . . and inactivity breeds more inactivity.  The longer you lay around, you longer you want to lay around.  In other words, the more lazy we are, the more lazy we will become.  

If you’re waiting for the spiritual application, you just missed it.  Those who know Christ should be the hardest, most dependable workers in the family, in the classroom, or on the job site.  We don’t have to quote scripture to have influence on others.  Our work ethic and dependability are direct reflections of our character.  They put action to the faith we claim to have experienced.  They show that our beliefs are more than just philosophical rhetoric– that they “work” in real life.

Hey, rest assured that a guy or girl who claims to know Jesus and can’t be counted on to be on time, complete a task, or do a decent job is sending out mixed signals at best.  Such actions discredit one’s claim.  Just ask a few employers.  Hard work should be the backdrop of our lives, just as Solomon said.

I could write a book on this subject, so I’ll wrap it up for now.  May we each reassess what lies before us and set our hands to work diligently as if even the smallest of tasks might make a difference.  

By the way, they do.  Just ask Tammy.





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