Romans 12:11: Sloth


  • The ant
  • The garden
  • The cartoons


One of the seven deadly sins is sloth/laziness, or as the Latin has it, acedia. Why is it called a cardinal or deadly sin? We see that in the parable of the talents the wicked servant buries his talent in the ground and does not serve the Lord because he is lazy, and results in him being cast into the outer darkness, Matt. 25:26, ‘You wicked and slothful servant!’ It is this word slothful that is found in the verse we are considering this morning in Romans 12:11, ‘Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.’ Paul is in the midst of a list of our Christian duties, v10 had two one another commandments which related to how we ought to treat one another like family, v12 has three exhortations all aimed at how we serve God generally. Our focus this morning is something we all need to consider, the first part of v11, ‘do not be slothful in zeal.’

None of us gets this right, we play at our work and work at our play. We have the proper view of rest and work on its head. We do not rest to work, we work to rest. We do not treasure our various activities for God, the six days of our labour as our primary goal, we live for the weekend. The word slothful means lazy, and the word zeal can mean one of two things, usually it includes both, and that is diligence and eagerness. So we could translate it, ‘don’t be lazy in diligence.’ Paul is most likely speaking generally about our activity. It is not specified as to whether Paul is talking about our vocations, our wok in the church, looking after our gardens or family devotions. It is likely that Paul is calling for a general diligence and eagerness in all that we do. Many of us are diligent at our hobbies and interests, but Paul is calling for a blanket diligence. A good summation of his point would be in the 6th resolution of Jonathan Edwards. As a young man he made 70 resolutions that he would read over every week to remind himself of his duties, here is number 6, ‘Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.’ My goal in this message is to counteract that natural inner sloth that we might be consecrated as living sacrifices to God, diligent in all we do, and eager in all we do. Spurgeon said, ‘idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.’ So then let’s get to business. We will be looking at three word pictures from proverbs, the ant, the garden and the cartoons.