MANAGE | Jun 13, 2024

Laziness vs. Rest

Dr. Richard Swenson, author of The Overload Syndrome and Margin, writes that… “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity.”

These days, too many of us are physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially overloaded. The “room to breathe” that Dr. Swenson writes about is called “margin.” For many people, there just isn’t enough time, money, or energy left at the end of the day to recuperate. Then everything starts again at full throttle the next day.

Unfortunately, a no-margin lifestyle can have severe physical and financial consequences. Sleep is just one example. According to The Sleep Foundation, nearly half of people in the U.S. have trouble sleeping, and around one-third of adults sleep less than seven hours each night.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to expensive health problems, including diabetes, anxiety, obesity, and heart disease. Not only that, but research from the Rand Corporation shows that more than 2% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product is lost due to workers’ lack of proper sleep.

Perhaps you find things moving too fast in your life. Working late nights and weekends might seem necessary, but burning the candle at both ends is ultimately unproductive.  You’ll find that exhaustion leaves no energy for the most important things—your relationships with others and the Lord.

To be sure, God calls us to work—for our families, for his Kingdom, for the community. We work to pay the bills, to give, to save, and to invest. It’s part of how God has made us, but work isn’t all there is. We need to rest sometimes, too.

You know, rest is God’s idea just as much as work is. On the seventh day of Creation, God rested—not because he was tired, but because his work was completed. God blessed that rest and called it holy. Later on, keeping the Sabbath holy was enshrined as one of the Ten Commandments. Obviously, God places a lot of importance on rest—because we need it!  We need the time and the space to be with the Lord, to reconnect with friends and family, to relax, enjoy God’s creation, exercise, take a few deep breaths...and to sleep!

Technology makes it easy to work from anywhere, at any time, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Margin in work means getting enough rest so that you can do your job “as unto the Lord” … with purpose and energy. Staying late at the office or skipping vacation days might make you look like a go-getter, but stress and broken relationships are a high price to pay for professional progress.

Of course, there’s a difference getting proper rest and being lazy. Laziness is choosing not to do what you’re supposed to, or only doing the minimum to get by. It violates God’s purpose, which is good works.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells the church to “…warn those who are idle and disruptive”. The suggestion here is that being inactive can lead to mischief.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” We can see this in effect all over our culture.

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul emphasizes other dangers of idleness, including a tendency to gossip and to lead others into sin. In other words, idleness, unproductiveness, and laziness open the door to harmful habits.

Laziness is also the opposite of industry. In Proverbs 31, the “woman of noble character” works hard to care for her family, run her business, train her workers, and provide for the poor in her community.

Verse 27 confirms that she “does not eat the bread of idleness.” Hard work produces success, while idleness results in loss and trouble.

Laziness can also mean spending too much time on things that don’t matter, like scrolling endlessly through Instagram or mindlessly shopping online instead of taking care of your household's needs.

At its core, being lazy is a failure to take care of responsibilities. A stern example of this comes again from Paul in 1 Timothy 5:8… “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

If laziness is a temptation for you, turn to Jesus in prayer. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Whether your problem comes from working too hard, or hardly working, perhaps it’s time to restore the margin in your work and finances. Do your work “as unto the Lord,” as God’s word advises in Colossians 3:23. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, be comforted by the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

You can also listen to the related podcast on this topic.

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