Celebrating the Sloth

Proverbs 26:14

“As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” (KJV)

“The English word ‘sloth’ (a derivative of the adjective ‘slow’) is recorded as meaning ‘laziness,’ ‘indolence”‘ from the twelfth century onward, and is considered one of the seven cardinal sins” (“Sloth,” Wikipedia).

In an unfair stereotype (preachers only work one hour a week) the uninitiated assumes the Sunday morning sermon is the sum-total of the pastor’s labors. Preachers are lazy. I heard it in my ministry, and I’m sure my father heard it in his.  One fellow, attempting humor, once said that to me. “You preachers only work one hour a week.” I dryly responded, “And even that is too long for you.” Any serious deliberation of the matter leads to the realization that even a 30-40 minute sermon requires hours of preparation. The Sunday night message requires no less.  Dare we mention committee meetings, hospital visitation, and personal prayer and Bible study.  No doubt there are indeed lazy preachers, but that’s because the clergy is comprised of people, all kinds of people, not simply because they are clergy. One does not equal the other.

Part of the stereotype is imagined as valid when a parishioner can’t locate the pastor. Surely, he is sitting there waiting on my phone call. After all, he doesn’t have a real job. (Actually, I usually had a part-time gig of some sort, just to make ends meet.) If a parishioner looks in the church office, the pastor should be there.  Of course, if he is in fact there, he should instead be out visiting the church members.  If he is out visiting members, he should be available in the office. What’s a pastor to do? It’s a true conundrum, a quandary, a catch-22.

Recently, I was challenged by a friend when I referred to my work habits as “lazy.” I have often found it easier to embrace that stereotype than try to rebut it. That is a remnant of my earliest days. My father was rarely in a hurry. He moved slowly, but with purpose.  His experience in higher education portrays a man more interested in learning than having a framed document on the wall.  He only enrolled in classes that interested him. After a decade, he had well over 120 credit hours, but no degree. That was often misunderstood. He wanted an education, not a diploma.

I don’t know if it’s genetic or if I just mimicked what I saw as a child, but that’s where I am most comfortable, moving slowly and with purpose.  I think my dad was somewhat self-conscious about being characterized as lazy because he tried to prevent any sign of it in me.  He would make comments to the ilk of, “Son, you only have three gears – slow down, back up, and stop.” Other times he would say, “Boy, you are the first one to the dinner table and the last one to leave.” I never quite figured out why that was a bad thing. Nutritionists sing the praises of eating slowly.  A period of three years passed between my first date and second date with my late wife, Kimberly.  I moved slowly as I waited for her to come around, but I ultimately won her (Sorry Brett, Tim, and John). I took six years to complete my undergraduate degree, but I went on to finish two masters and a doctorate. Yes, I move slowly, but I accomplish my goals.

The sloth gets a bum rap in Proverbs.  Not to argue with God, who created the sloth, but that lowly mammal is under-valued. The sloth is a wonderful study in slow, methodical processes. Undeterred by onlookers and nay-sayers, he goes about his business, making sure and steady progress.  Progress is the key in our spiritual lives as well.  There is no prescribed time-table when it comes to sanctification. (Thankfully, Aesop’s Fables was kinder to the tortoise. His steady but slow method was extolled over the quicker hare.)

Recently, the sloth has found more favorable reviews, thanks to movies like Ice Age. Sid the Sloth is a bumbling but lovable character who occasionally stumbles into success, in spite of himself.  In Zootopia, Flash works at the DMV; now there’s a stereotype for you. YouTube is rife with videos of the  lovable little furry fellows. I will take advantage of this climate and encourage you, dear reader.  Keep moving; don’t give up; don’t let others who are in a frenzy distract or discourage you.  All hail the mighty sloth.  Sid_Flash_Zootopia

 

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Published in: on November 28, 2017 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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