Proverbs 26.16



 1.  Are you lazy?  You heard me.  It’s not a question that is oftentimes asked these days, but I asked if you were lazy.  Are you a lazy person?  Do you even know what it means to be lazy?  Some of you are doubtless too young to really know what being lazy is all about, though others of you are old enough to know. 

2.   For you who are younger, our culture has so changed, and my generation has so distorted virtue and vice, that what was once considered commendable behavior is now condemned behavior, and what was once condemned behavior is now considered commendable behavior. 

3.   For example:  It used to be that people valued such characteristics as diligence and industry, hard work and determination.  But nowadays the industrious and hard working person is as often as not condemned as a neurotic workaholic, while the “lazy” person takes great pride in being laid back, in being relaxed, in moving slowly and casually. 

4.   There I go, using that word “lazy” again.  Perhaps I should define the term.  The dictionary defines “lazy” as 1. averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent.  2. causing idleness or indolence: a hot lazy afternoon.  3. slow moving, sluggish.  The dictionary lists the word “slothful” as a synonym of “lazy” and the words “industrious” and “quick” as antonyms, or as words of opposite meaning.[1] 

5.   Perhaps you didn’t notice, but a second glance at the dictionary would reveal the absence of any value judgment connected with the word “lazy.”  There is no indication of laziness being good or being bad, being moral or immoral, being right or being wrong, in the dictionary.  But that’s what you get from a dictionary. 

6.   If you want to know about the rightness or wrongness of something, the morality or the immorality of something, you don’t look the word up in a dictionary.  What you do is go to God’s Word.  It’s in the Bible that we find out about the rightness or the wrongness of being “lazy.” 

7.   The only problem is that the word “lazy” is not found in the Bible.  But this does not mean the Word of God does not speak to the issue of laziness, even if the word isn’t found in our King James version of the Bible.  You see, the English word “lazy” was borrowed from German in the mid 1500s, so it was not a widely used word in England when the King James translators were doing their work.[2] 

8.   What we find instead in our Bible are two well established English words, “slothful” and “sluggard,” both referring to habitual inactivity and laziness.  And these two words are used to translate two Hebrew words in the Old Testament and two Greek words in the New Testament that would probably these days be translated by the word “lazy.” 

9.   Do you have your Bible with you today?  We’re going to quickly look at 20 verses to get an overview of what God’s Word has to say about someone who is “lazy,” reading every verse in the Bible in which the English words “slothful” and “sluggard” appear.  Are you ready? 

10. Judges 18.9:  “And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it [is] very good: and [are] ye still? be not slothful to go, [and] to enter to possess the land.”  Why did the children of Israel not fully possess the promised land?  Perhaps because they were sluggish and lazy? 

11. Proverbs 6.6:  “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”  What examples of diligence and hard work the ants are to us.  And the contrast here shows the lazy person to also be an unwise person. 

12. Proverbs 6.9:  “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?  when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?”  Sleep seems to occupy too important a role in a lazy person’s life.  Wouldn’t you agree?  You would if you’re not lazy. 

13. Proverbs 10.26:  “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so [is] the sluggard to them that send him.”  In other words, a lazy person is an irritant to the person who dispatches him on a mission, to the person who assigns to him a task, to anyone who sends him to accomplish something.  It will not be properly done by the lazy person! 

14. Proverbs 13.4:  “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and [hath] nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”  The lazy guy wants things, wants stuff, but doesn’t have anything.  Why?  Never gets around to it.  The diligent person, on the other hand, accomplishes, achieves, succeeds by hard work. 

15. Proverbs 15.19:  “The way of the slothful [man is] as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous [is] made plain.”  Notice, here, that the lazy man is contrasted with the righteous man.  Complexity characterizes the lazy man’s life, while the path through life of the saved person is plain, and is much more simple and straightforward than the lazy person’s life. 

16. Proverbs 19.24:  “A slothful [man] hideth his hand in [his] bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.”  Look to the lengths this lazy man will go to to avoid work, to keep his hands warm and away from the chill and exposure of toil.  He’s so lazy, and this is an exaggeration you understand, a hyperbole, that he won’t lift his own hand to his mouth to feed himself. 

17. Proverbs 20.4:  “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; [therefore] shall he beg in harvest, and [have] nothing.”  Excuse me, but it’s when it’s cold that you have to plow, because when it’s warm the seed needs to be planted and the crop growing.  No wonder the lazy fellow will go begging at harvest time. 

18. Proverbs 21.25:  “The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.”  Though the lazy man’s hands refuse to labor and toil, he is eaten up by the desire for benefits and blessings that come only by hard work.  He wants what only hard work will provide, but without the willingness to work hard. 

19. Proverbs 22.13:  “The slothful [man] saith, [There is] a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.”  There’s always an excuse not to work for the lazy man.  What likelihood is there of a lion walking through the city streets?  Have you noticed how outrageous a lazy man’s excuses are?  They insult your intelligence. 

20. Proverbs 24.30-34:  “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.  Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.  Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:  So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.”  There’s the sleep pattern again.  Sleeping instead of diligently maintaining his vineyard.  Refusing to do anything that isn’t an emergency.  And just as surely poor from it as if he’d been robbed. 

21. Proverbs 26.13:  “The slothful [man] saith, [There is] a lion in the way; a lion [is] in the streets.”  Again, with the insulting excuses for nonperformance. 

22. Proverbs 26.14:  “[As] the door turneth upon his hinges, so [doth] the slothful upon his bed.”  How utterly predictable the lazy person is.  As the door moves back and forth on its hinges in a never ending routine, so the lazy man rolls back and forth on his bed. 

23. Proverbs 26.15:  “The slothful hideth his hand in [his] bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.”  Solomon doesn’t want his son to be lazy, so he repeats several of these warnings against laziness.  I have seen many boys in single parent homes who grow up lazy, though their mothers worked very hard and were anything but lazy.  Boys need to be ridden hard to overcome their tendency to be lazy.  Amen, Dr. French? That’s what he did, and he has three grown sons who are not afraid of hard work. 

24. Proverbs 26.16:  “The sluggard [is] wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”  See the arrogance here?  The lazy guy actually seems to himself to be better than those who work hard.  “I could have done that, but I was busy,” he thinks to himself.  Sure you were busy.  Busy resting. 

25. To this point we have looked at verses that translate a Hebrew word for sluggish and lazy into our Bible words sluggard and slothful.  But the next three verses translate an entirely different Hebrew word into the English word slothful.  It’s a word that means deceitful, a word that has to do with treachery. 

26. A mistranslation?  Not at all.  You see, there is always an element of deceitfulness and treachery associated with laziness.  The lazy person has to cut corners, has to cheat and lie and deceive.  If he didn’t do those things he wouldn’t be lazy, would he?  The translators clearly understood the connection between laziness and treachery, between laziness and deceitfulness.  Recognize that a lazy person is a liar.  He has to lie to cover the shortcomings and deficiencies of his laziness. 

27. Proverbs 12.24:  “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.”  See the contrast here between diligence and deceitfulness?  Deceitfulness really is a fellow traveler with laziness. 

28. Proverbs 12.27:  “The slothful [man] roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man [is] precious.”  Again the contrast between laziness and diligence.  And how do you roast that which you did not take in hunting?  You have to lie to the person who did shoot the game, convincing him with your lies that you shot the animal and not him, because you are too lazy to track and shoot your own game to roast and eat. 

29. Proverbs 18.9:  “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”  Of course the lazy person is a great waster.  He won’t do the job assigned to him efficiently, carefully, skillfully.  He’s too lazy.  He cuts corners.  He won’t exercise the diligence necessary to do the job correctly, because he is lazy.  And he wastes time.  You have to look for the lazy worker to tell him what to do, don’t you, Don Imm? 

30. Now we move to the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, to look at the three verses that use two different words that refer to laziness. 

31. Matthew 25.26-27:  “His lord answered and said unto him, [Thou] wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.  Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”  In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ said in this parable about a master rebuking his lazy servant, “If you were too lazy to work to increase my wealth, you could at least have earned interest by loaning my money and thereby gaining value without lifting a finger.”  So you see, there is something more wrong with a lazy person than just his unwillingness to exert himself.  He gains nothing even when gain could be had for doing nothing. 

32. Romans 12.11:  “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.”  The Christian life is opposite in every way to the lifestyle of a lazy man.  The word “business” refers to that which should be done speedily, eagerly, earnestly.  And the word “fervent” means to be hot, to be energetic.  In other words, the Christian is not to be some sort of laid back, casual and cool guy, when it comes to serving God, when it comes to taking care of necessary business. 

33. Hebrews 6.12:  “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  Do you see this?  Those who through faith and patience inherit the promises are not lazy!  And the writer to the Hebrews is telling those readers, some of whom are lost, some of whom are unsure about their soul’s salvation, that they need to get after things, to follow the spiritual example of Abraham.  There is no conflict between the truth that salvation is by grace through faith, and not of works, and your personal responsibility to exercise diligence and persistence in the pursuit of eternal life. 

34. After brother Isenberger comes to lead us when we stand to sing, I will bring today’s sermon, expressing both observations and concerns about the likelihood of lazy people getting converted.  Shall we stand as brother Isenberger now comes? 


1.   How many of you know someone who is genuinely lazy?  How many of you know someone who is so allergic to real work, so opposed to doing anything that he can get out of doing, that he will volunteer for nothing, will tackle nothing, and will sit on his lazy rear end and just watch while someone tackles a job or a task that he should be doing? 

2.   And have you observed that lazy people hang around, you guessed it, lazy people?  Pick some lazy guy, perhaps a lazy guy in our Church.  Now make a mental note and list that lazy guy’s friends.  If you will limit the list to four or five guys, I promise you, everyone that lazy guy hangs around with will be a lazy guy. 

3.   How do I know this to be true?  You have to understand, lazy guys get tired just being around anyone who isn’t as lazy as they are.  So a lazy guy who won’t show up for evangelism on Saturday night will hang around with a lazy who won’t get up in time to attend Sunday School.  And those two, in turn, will hang around some useless slob who won’t go to Church at all.  And none of those lazy guys, with their varying degrees of laziness, will set the world on fire at work.  But they really enjoy each other’s company. 

4.   It is no accident that in God’s Word, particularly in the wisdom of Solomon, there are recurring contrasts that show laziness and righteousness, and that show laziness and diligence, to be opposites. 

5.   This is because laziness reflects an approach to life that completely repudiates God’s will and desire for His creatures.  And this, of course, is typically why you won’t see lazy many people at Saturday evangelism. 

6.   Turn to Genesis 2.15, where we see God’s original intent with the man He had created:  “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” 

7.   So you see, God did not create Adam to be lazy.  And Adam, as a sinless man, was not lazy.  His responsibility was, in addition to dressing and keeping the garden of Eden, to name every species of animal that God had created.  Both of those were substantial tasks, indeed.

8.   But after the Fall, when mankind became an inherently sinful race, and after technological and societal innovations made it possible for men to live off of the labors of other men, then came leisure time.  And with increased leisure time came increased laziness, as men chose to use their newfound free time, not to serve God, not to advance God’s kingdom or spread the Gospel, but to goof off, to play, to recreate. 

9.   My friends, laziness has advanced so far in France that their law requires five weeks of paid vacation every year to all employees, as well as 11 national holidays every year!  Forty six paid vacation days a year for everyone who holds a job!  And on top of this, the labor unions frequently go on strike during the summer so they can extend their time off work.[3]  And what underlies all of this?  Laziness. 

10. In our country the laziness is expressed in a somewhat different way.  The desire to make millions so you can retire by the time you are 30 results from a combination of greed and laziness working together.  I am convinced that much of labor unionism is affected by laziness.  And as I mentioned before, the American antagonism against diligence which opposes the so-called workaholic is actually an example of laziness. 

11. I suppose the passage that would come closest to being a single text for this morning is Proverbs 26.16.  Please turn to that verse and stand as we read before this morning’s sermon:  “The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.” 

12. Please close your Bible and set it aside for a couple of minutes.  We have read so many verses this morning, and I so very much need your undivided attention, that I ask you not to fidget around, or go to the bathroom during the sermon, or distract in any way the person sitting next to you. 

13. Four observations and concerns about you among us this morning who are lazy, the slothful and the sluggard to use Bible terminology. 


May I state that on this point I am giving to you my opinion?  

1B.    I think most of the lazy people you will encounter in your adult life are bright people, above average in their intelligence, and on the whole capable. 

2B.    Not that there are not good supplies of stupid people who are also lazy, but that the slower who are lazy tend to commit crimes, thereby removing themselves from the general population that you would likely encounter in your day to day routine. 

3B.    Most of the slower people of the world have always known that they have to work harder and apply themselves with more diligence just to stay even with those who are brighter.  So, if they have any moral fiber to them at all, if they have at all been raised decently, the person who is intellectually slower has usually learned from childhood that he isn’t smart enough to get away with lying or with thinking up schemes to get out of work. 

4B.    But if those who are slow and dishonest will quickly turn to really dumb things like gang banging, armed robbery, purse snatching, dope dealing, and other such kinds of things that a person would have to normally be really stupid to engage in. 

5B.    So, when I see a lazy guy I am typically dealing with a guy who is bright, who has been able to scheme and connive to escape responsibility and to avoid work, who has found school work too easy to be much challenged by it. 

6B.    And this is usually a person who is bright enough to be able to deceive himself into justifying his laziness, or intellectually complex enough to convince himself that he isn’t lazy when in fact he is. 

7B.    Now, I am just stating my opinion about lazy people at this point, and I may be off base a bit.  But I think most of you would agree with me on most of what I’ve said about lazy people.  Fairly bright, but foolish.  That’s my opinion.  Now, we move on to verifiable facts. 


1B.    Obviously, the chief activity of the lazy person is inactivity.  His main pleasure is doing nothing, sleeping, resting, lounging around, being casual, recreating, dawdling, frittering time away. 

2B.    But don’t assume that a lazy guy never does anything, because lazy people do do things.  But when they do what they do there are usually observable characteristics associated with their activities. 

3B.    Let me quickly review just a few of the characteristics of a lazy person’s feeble attempts at work: 

Proverbs 6.6:  “Go to the ant, thou sluggard.”  Ants are organized.  Lazy people are oftentimes disorganized. 

Proverbs 10.26:  “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so [is] the sluggard to them that send him.”  The lazy person is incompetent and unfaithful, but not because he’s not bright.  Because he is lazy. 

Proverbs 12.27:  “The slothful [man] roasteth not that which he took in hunting.”  Might the lazy man be the one who likes taking credit that belongs to someone else, because he won’t work hard enough to earn his own compliments? 

Proverbs 13.4:  “The soul of the sluggard desireth.”  The lazy person is ambitious, without wanting to prepare or put in the time to earn what he wants.  He may want the big bucks without wanting to get a good education. 

Proverbs 18.9:  “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”  Though it may be a lazy man who looks hardest for an easier way to get a job done, once he is actually doing work he is inefficient and wasteful. 

Proverbs 20.4:  “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold.”  Excuses for failure. 

4B.    These are certainly not all of the characteristics associated with laziness, but some patterns do emerge.  There is another characteristic of a lazy man’s work pattern that I would like to bring to your attention.  The lazy person oftentimes works at a furious pace, not because he is diligent, but because he is lazy.  Why so?  To make up for procrastinating.  The lazy person, you see, will put off necessary work until the last possible moment, making last minute furious work necessary. 

3A.   Third, THE ATTITUDE OF THE LAZY        

A lazy person is not a humble person, but one who is proud.  The lazy person’s pride can be seen in two ways: 

1B.    First, there is our text, Proverbs 26.16:  “The sluggard [is] wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”  Is it not arrogant for a lazy guy to think in his mind that he is wiser than seven wise men, than seven men who can render a reason, than seven men not only with understanding but also the ability to explain what they understand?  What pride!  What arrogance!  The lazy will not exercise himself to gain wisdom, because he is convinced he has quite enough already.  What an inflated opinion of himself the lazy person possesses. 

2B.    A lazy man’s pride can be seen less directly in another way.  He judges contrary to God’s judgments in two ways: 

1C.   First, the lazy man is optimistic.  He is convinced everything will turn out all right, though God states that it will not turn out all right.  He is convinced his eternity is secure, though God warns that judgment is coming.  So, the lazy man, disagreeing with God, ignoring God’s wisdom, chooses optimism over realism. 

2C.   Related to the lazy man’s erroneous optimism is the lazy man’s estimation of the worth of work. God’s Word shows that work is good, and that God’s plan is for people to work.  No one is to eat who will not work, Second Thessalonians 3.10.  And the whole purpose of getting converted is to work for God, Ephesians 2.10.  But the lazy man thinks he is smarter, is convinced that he is more astute.  So, he doesn’t need to work, for himself or for God. 


1B.    A lazy man doesn’t argue from right beliefs to behavior, but from behavior backwards to his beliefs.  In other words, a lazy man will not examine God’s Word to determine what he should do and how he should act.  He has already decided how he wants to behave and what his actions will be, so he creates in his mind a system of beliefs that will justify his unwillingness to work. 

2B.    Consider this in light of what Jesus taught in Luke 13.24, where He declares, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”  Is it possible for a lazy man to obey this verse, all the while being slothful and sluggardly?  No.  To strive requires great effort and exertion, something repugnant to the lazy person.  But without striving it is virtually guaranteed that the lazy sinner will not be converted. 

3B.    I do not believe that decisionism and the belief that you can walk up to a guy’s house and win to Christ in fifteen minutes a man who has never before heard the truth of God’s Word, is the result of laziness.  But I am convinced that laziness contributes to people holding on to that false approach to conversion. 

4B.    People who claim to be Christians but who are lazy are unwilling to deal with the obvious when they ignore Paul’s words of First Thessalonians 1.3 and 8, wherein he labels the effort to get people converted as a “work of faith.”  Work is work, people.  It’s hard.  It takes great effort.  Yet people want to be able to spend fifteen minutes of effort to bring a precious soul to Christ, in part, because their laziness resists the truth of God’s Word on this matter of evangelism being hard work. 

5B.    But my greatest fear with regard to you here this morning who are lazy is not connected to anyone’s unwillingness to work hard enough to get you saved.  Some of us at Calvary Road Baptist Church are willing to work however much we need to to see you come to Christ. 

6B.    My greatest fear is related to your laziness.  You are too lazy to strive to enter in at the strait gate.  You are too lazy to read what I have assigned to you to read.  You are too lazy to attend every Church service.  You are too lazy to spend any time at all reading God’s Word and praying to God, crying out to Him for mercy and saving grace.  You are too lazy to recognize your own wickedness and sinfulness in God’s sight.  This laziness of yours, I am convinced, will be your undoing. 

7B.    Please pick up your Bible, now, and turn to Hebrews 5.11, where we will see how laziness affects your willingness, your ability, your attentiveness, to the Word of God as it is preached:  “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.”  Here we have our word for lazy, our word for slothful, translated “dull.”  Your laziness makes it so very hard to effectively communicate God’s truth to you.  You’re too lazy to pay attention to Bible preaching. And I think that will be your eventual damnation, that you are too lazy to pay attention when I preach the Gospel that you need to hear and obey to be saved. 


1.   I am no doctor, but I wonder why only American and western European kids have ADD and ADHD, and all these other maladies affecting their ability to pay attention. 

2.   Why don’t Japanese kids have ADD and ADHD?  Why don’t Chinese kids have these problems?  Why don’t Korean kids have these problems?  Why don’t Vietnamese kids and Cambodian kids have these problems?  It’s only when such ethnic groups become Americanized that such problems in children become common. 

3.   Am I saying that it’s laziness in the kids that causes these problems?  Perhaps.  But it’s more likely to be laziness in the parents.  Too lazy to work hard enough to raise the kids properly, to discipline them correctly, to love them affectionately, to coerce them to pay attention at an early enough age. 

4.   You can’t let kids run wild after school, watch television all they want, eat whatever they want, go to bed whenever they want, and expect them to be anything other than lazy and inattentive. 

5.   Perhaps that’s what explains why some of you don’t seem to grasp what I am preaching.  You are “dull of hearing,” which is to say that you are lazy of hearing. 

6.   Your laziness keeps you from hearing the preaching properly.  Your laziness keeps you from striving to enter in at the strait gate.  And your laziness will clear you a path to Hell when you die. 

7.   It’s so sad to watch this in your life.  Jesus suffered and bled and died to purchase for you the forgiveness of your sins.  He was buried and rose victorious on the third day according to Scripture.  And His doing and dying was for the purpose of saving you from your sins. 

8.   But your laziness, your unwillingness to expend the effort to listen carefully, your unwillingness to strive as Jesus directed, interferes with the Holy Spirit’s ministry of bringing you to a place where you will simply and by faith come to Christ for salvation full and free. 

9.   God’s Word promises that if you come to Christ you can enter into His rest.  But the lazy person wants rest now, not then.  And the result will be the damnation of your eternal and undying soul. 

10. So, it’s not laid back.  And it’s not just hanging.  It’s called being lazy, and it will doom you to Hellfire.  My advice?  Discard your lazy friends and come to every Church service, come to Saturday night evangelism, and follow my instructions taken from God’s Word to the letter.  Struggle to overcome this besetting sin of laziness and perhaps you will someday get converted.

[1]Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), p. 1092.


[3]French National Holidays, Festivals, Religious Celebrations (http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/DF_holidays.shtml)

 Home   Who Is God?   God's Word   Sermons   Tracts   Q & A   Feedback  

Order this sermon on tape: or Mail/Phone