Have you heard of sloth? Perhaps you recognize the term as one of the “seven deadly sins” (which is not exactly a Lutheran list). Most of us probably think of sloth as a synonym for laziness. “The early bird gets the worm,” we say as we try to “encourage” a slothful person.
But slothfulness has a darker side, a spiritual dimension. Spiritual sloth kills the soul; it hardens the heart against the proclamation of the Gospel. A spiritually slothful person might have all the outward signs of energy and life, yet be struggling with deep questions of faith and God’s existence.
The March issue of The Lutheran Witness digs into acedia, the Greek word for sloth, as this spiritual malady has often been called. The Rev. Jason Braaten diagnoses the spiritual sloth many Christians in America face but does not point to a silver bullet or easy life hack to solve the problem. The Rev. Dr. Stephen Pietsch offers some practical suggestions for fighting acedia in your own life.
Stacey Egger profiles a life lived in service to God and neighbor in a feature about the Rev. Dr. William Matzat and his work at Dovetail Creations. Anyone who enjoys making a little “man glitter” (sawdust) will enjoy this article. And on the subject of zeal for service of God and neighbor, the Rev. Roy S. Askins writes “And Still Takes Care of Them.”
To help as you work through your own struggle with sloth and recapture the zeal of service to God and your neighbor, pick up your copy of the March issue of The Lutheran Witness. Enjoy web-exclusive stories and a selection of articles from the print magazine at witness.lcms.org.
Posted March 7, 2022
While I appreciate and agree that not living Our Lives to our fullest and working with all of our energy as unto the Lord is definitely something that scripture speaks about, I do believe we need to be very, very careful when addressing the issue of sloth. Since my teen years I would fall asleep in class, on the train standing up, on the bus. I had very little energy or the will to do things. I had a great desire to be a missionary but could barely seem to find the ability to get through classes in college.
The problems persisted after college with lost jobs. I would fall asleep at work. Only Jesus Christ and my relationship with Him sustained me through those times and I’m very thankful for my Lutheran upbringing.
I suffered a lot of guilt over sloth, often crying to the Lord, feeling horrible. I can remember one night standing outside witnessing to Satanists outside of a Satanist group’s building and telling them about Christ and his love for them, while feeling that I could never achieve The Grace Of Heaven, which obviously is completely wrong thinking, but I had great compassion for the homeless and for people around me that were suffering.
I was near homeless a number of times but the Lord always took care of me and provided for me. I have never questioned his love for me, and though my trust in salvation by grace alone would sometimes flicker. When I was 30, He brought me to my beloved husband, the son of Lutheran missionaries, who has cared for me for the past 21 years of our marriage. Never once did my husband tell me to get off of my bottom and get to work, but true to his Lutheran Heritage and faith in Christ, he showed Grace upon Grace when he would have to work 3 jobs and come home to me sleeping. He would do the dishes cheerfully and cook and tell me what an honor it was and how much he loved me. This went on for many years. After our second child was born I was diagnosed with severe depression and a number of other psychiatric complications. Then finally in 2017 I was diagnosed with an incredibly rare autoimmune syndrome, tuloso Hunt syndrome. Basically the nerves in my brain would swell causing huge amounts of pain throughout my body and other complications. I also have huge over sensitivities to sound that cause physical pain in my body.
Through this time the Lord has blessed me and my beloved giving us three beautiful girls, the oldest who just got into Notre Dame recently all bills paid. The younger two also are a blessing and shine Jesus wherever they go.
My husband constantly speaks positively to me telling me what a wonderful wife I am, as my children tell me what a wonderful mom I am. But I still fight the fear that I am guilty horribly of sloth. There was a season when I would even try to hurt myself, thinking if I beat myself, perhaps I would do better and be able to achieve the lifestyle demanded by people within the church.
So sloth is definitely an issue and we need to run from it and avoid it, but the church also needs to allow people to speak and say “I can’t do this.” Is very easy to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” when you have a healthy brain and body, and I know God can heal because I have seen his healing power many times in my life, but for whatever reason these troubles for tiredness remained for many years of my life.
For about a year I was very healthy, for some reason I am struggling again the past few weeks and I have learned to rest in God’s grace and in those times of depression and tiredness where I can only get a few hours of work done in the day I spend my time praying and interceding for my loved ones, for the persecuted church and those around me. So please in our teachings of sloth, be very careful not to go beyond what the scripture says. Often we, like the Pharisees put on burdens on people that Christ and his word does not place on them. A pastor who is led by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ will have discernment and understanding prayerfully to know whether the person has a physical sickness, you wouldn’t condemn a person with two broken legs for not walking around the house and cleaning, likewise people have broken brains and broken bodies sometimes with things that are invisible to our physical eyes yet seen by our loving Lord.
Sorry this is so long but I suffered much for many years from great guilt feeling that I was being slothful, and perhaps it’s still an area I need to overcome, but I love my Lord as much as I can with all my heart and I pray this generation will wake up to the suffering around them and that we will take up our crosses and follow Christ.
Much of what might be called sloth today is simply people’s brain patterns not being trained in the right way because of video games and TV, poor eating habits and lack of proper exercise. It can also be depression, a sickness caused by chemicals in the brain not working properly. The addiction to electronics is as powerful an addiction as any drug or alcoholism and it is very difficult to break free from the addiction of not moving and getting fresh air and exercise. The church can encourage people to start small, step outside the door every day, then walk around the house. Change their electronic time into time singing praise to God, there are many small things that can be done to begin to break the power over our brains that poor eating habits and living habits given to us by this culture have caused us. In the cities it is especially hard. But ultimately it is God who gives us the power to overcome. He is the hero. We are not the hero. And He alone knows the intricacies of our chemicals, our brains, our bodies. So we need not judge others, but seek to see how we can love them and encourage and help them into living their fullest for Christ. But wherever we are at, whatever point we are at, God is there loving us and giving us the grace and Power to come out, even if takes a few decades. And for some of us, like Paul’s Thorn In the Flesh, we struggle with broken bodies and broken brains, and the Lord still can shine his glory through us and our children allowing us the grace to worship and to speak so clearly to a dying and hurting world that our loving God and Christ loves even the least of these, such as we. God’s peace.
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