We received an email from an anonymous man who writes, “Pastor John, I am a regenerate Christian who formerly lived the homosexual lifestyle. God used your theology of suffering and brokenness to overcome my sexual desires for ungodly things. But now a new struggle has come upon me — the struggle of laziness. Do you have any advice on how to fight this sin?”
It might sound strange, but the first thing I would do is open the hood and check the engine. What I mean by that is, Does he have a thyroid problem? Is he sleep-deprived? Is he eating right? Many things in the Christian life that we perceive as spiritual shortcomings are, in fact, physically related.
“Many things in the Christian life that we perceive as spiritual shortcomings are, in fact, physically related.”
I was so weary about ten years ago, and I couldn’t explain why. When I went to the doctor, he said, “Well, you know, I don’t think there is any problem, but let’s check your thyroid.” Twelve hours later he calls me and says, “You are profoundly hypothyroid. I don’t know how you are functioning.”
He stuck me on some medicine and things have been different. Now, if I had tried to spiritualize that, I would have missed it entirely. My thyroid was dead. No amount of reading my Bible was going to change that. So, that is the first thing I would do. But he is really not asking that. He is saying, “I think I have a sin issue. Can you help me with it?”
A Theology of Hard Work
My first approach would be to encourage him to start at the beginning of the Bible and get a good theology of work.
Work is not a curse; frustrating work is a curse. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). That was before the fall. So get a robust, good, and positive theology of work. Realize that God put us on the planet to be co-makers, co-creators, co-workers with him.
The Bible says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Or, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Or, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
All those verses are meant to feed into a robust theology of work, of looking upon doing during the day: getting up, being productive, making something happen, creating something, cleaning a room, washing the car, fixing the brakes, writing a computer program, tending to a sick person, or making a good meal. All of these things are blessed by God as something he wants his co-makers and co-workers to do.
Work by Grace
After I got a good, robust theology of work built in, I think I would point him to some warnings about being a slacker. For example, Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
“Get a good theology of work. Work is not a curse.”
Then, maybe the last thing I would say is that working hard means you are availing yourself of the grace of God in you. I would point to one of my favorite verses, 1 Corinthians 15:10. It says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them [in other words, grace produced work in me], though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
I would try to help him discover how to apply your will to a task in hard work in such a way that as you do it and after you do it, you are sensing and then knowing God is at work in me. As Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” (Philippians 2:12–13). This is what I think gives the work life its greatest meaning.
So that would be my approach. I would go one by one and try to discern the real need of the person. But those would be the biblical principles that I would dig into with him.