A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
Solomon describes the lazy person as an expert in making excuses. The book of Proverbs is not just about wisdom, it’s also about foolishness. The sluggard manifests his folly as he fills his mind with excuses and alibis. He creatively invents imaginary lions, he escapes from fulfilling his duties. He views work as a curse instead of a blessing. He removes himself from man’s holy calling for cultural development. There are primarily two things that predominantly dominate the sluggard’s heart- fear and stubbornness.
Excuses, laziness, and fear
He has a little understanding of responsibility, Biblical work ethics and covenant-keeping, yet he is proud of it. He boasts of ignorance. He hates anything that requires care and labor. He has “fallen short to imitate his Maker” [Romans 3:23].
Sloth is one of the 7 sins God abhors. It is beyond laziness. The Greek word speaks of a spirit that is indifferent from the pursuit of God and obedience of his mandate. It’s a dispassionate approach to life. Sloth is a life of escaping the mandate of flourishing the earth. It is a covenant-breaking mentality.
Work ethic and worldview
One characteristic of a society with fallen mindset is contempt against work. I saw a town here in the Philippines where many people love to gamble, play Lottery, idly chat in house lobbies and do their duties haphazardly. Work is looked down as a curse. There are cultural mindsets and religious beliefs that tend to look down and devalue work- forming a mindset that all success is equated to abuse and devaluing of the poor and forming a cultural norm arguing that only some work are to be honored and others are devalued. I can’t blame.
A sluggard nation views the world as a place of threat rather than a place of opportunity. This nation is overpowered and abused by fear-mongering, liberty-stealing and human-manipulating schemes.
This same sluggard was what Jesus spoke of in Matt. 25:14-30. He whom the Master gave one talent. He was afraid and hid it. He had brought to the imagination of having a cruel master. He was driven by faithlessness. He was risk-averse. He would rather dwell in his comfort zone than step out in faith, do business, make some profit and multiply that one talent which was given to him. The Master was furious against the one-talent man. He was lazy and fearful. He was thrown to utter darkness. Revelation 21 speaks that the “fearful and the unbelieving” will have a final destination.
I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
The work ethic worldview that we have inherited
The brand of the worldview that was imported to this country emerged from medieval Europe. It was a belief system heavily espoused to mercantilism and oligarchy. It was a system not yet influenced by the Protestant movement. That seed formed a nation- the Philippines. Yes, we are a mixed race. We have mostly Chinese, Spanish and Malay running through our bloodline. That’s why the Philippines has become a multi-cultural nation.
One thing that overcomes fear- it is faith. Faith brings courage, and courage causes one to be fearless and brave. The book of Joshua is full of this principle. I think America was called by its founding fathers as a Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave because of the supremacy of Biblical culture in the land.
The prevalent work ethic mentality was the reason why many Filipinos in the past suffered from fallen worldviews and systems, subconsciously treating it as a form of curse. The matapobre mentality is common to Latin cultures. It’s a looking down to the Hampas Lupa (miserable poor) and the basureros (garbage collector). It bred the señorito/señorita syndrome, nurtured the easy money mentality (pyramiding scams) and lazy-riotous-happy-go-lucky lifestyle- these are just some of the outer signs in our society that manifest our cultural fallenness. This shows our need for redemption. Unless this mindset is renewed, the society will not move forward even how much millions of dollars of foreign aid are given to us by Western Nations.
In ancient Israel, it is unlikely that a lion will be found in the street. Lions are wild but they dwell away from civilization. If they appear, chances are the Roman Empire will capture them and make an income generating project out of them in the arenas. This is Solomon’s point- the probability of a sluggard’s excuses is far from possible. There is a far possibility for a lion in the street. It is like saying “I won’t go to work because there will be lions in EDSA (a Philippine highway).” The sluggard is conscious of risk, but the kind of dreamy and imaginary risk.
I may point a speck on other people’s eyes while having a plank on my own, yet we all have the tendency to be the sluggard. We create our own imaginary lions. We craft excuses so we could escape responsibility. I am not an exception.
I also have lions to battle with in my mind. I face them everyday. I try to craft an unpublished post to combat them. I tend to prepare unspoken answers, argue mentally in case these imaginary lions attack. Imaginary lions are paralyzing. They cause me to procrastinate. Sometimes too much perfectionism is my imaginary lion.
The following are some of the imaginary street lions that we may imagine pursuing us and causing us to run with no one chasing:
It could be a street lion of your past mistakes. You procrastinate that project because you failed in the past. You think that lion is still there waiting at the door. Your shameful past holds you up from giving your present effectivity. You can’t agree with Paul when he said “forgetting things that are behind and reaching forth unto those things that are before. Press on.” It’s hard to swallow.
It could be a street lion of broken relationships. You can’t move on. You can’t pursue your opportunities and responsibilities because you believe that the person who has hurt you is the reason that you should not get things done. Or you can’t make something awesome because you offended someone. You imagine her offended face once she knows what you are doing. You prefer to stay in the cage and just imagine the illusionary lion outside. You dwell in your past and become frozen by your imaginary nightmare. You failed to move forward.
It could be a street lion of your family. You count your family member’s offense as your own. You try to be like Jesus who absorbs the wrath in behalf of other sinners, which of course doesn’t make you qualified. You don’t move forward because someone in your family did something wrong, thinking we are to be perfect. So you sit idly thinking that imaginary street lion.
It could be a street lion of your personal weakness. You are like Moses . You give excuses from being used by God. You had been trained to set others free but you don’t believe . Although Moses had the training in the Egyptian palace, he told God he is not eloquent. Maybe Moses was just trying to be humble or maybe he was fearful or lazy. I see that in myself and also in other people. We pretend to be humble and we think we are humble if we hide our talent. Why? Maybe because we are afraid to be called as proud, conceited or showy. We fear criticism. We fear rejection. We could actually just be faithless under the pretense of humility. False humility- and this could be our imaginary lion. I met people who are very good in finding excuses to work and venture into things. Negativity surpasses all understanding. He mentally believes that the minor discomforts are heaven-sent so he could not continue.
Just me thinking creatively, you could be an imaginary lion in someone else’s life. You may steal other people’s dreams, rob others of opportunities or seek to destroy their progress. The Filipinos have their own way of labeling this as “crab mentality.” Putting others down when they are up, and stepping down on others when you are up. In case true, seek to reconcile. Forgive. As one speaker says, if you cannot forgive, you are not the victor, you are the victim.
The sluggard is a believer of imaginary roars instead of the Voice. He would rather place his trust on false and dead lions rather than on the True and Living Lion of Judah.