Growing up, some of us were taught about the “lazy man’s burden.”
For those who have never heard the phrase, the idea is quite simple: the lazy man, trying to avoid work, ends up making more work for himself. The classic example is the man who does not want to make multiple trips, and so staggers under an overbearing load, trying to carry everything all at once.
Quite often, a little extra thought, and forethought, can make a job easier and quicker. While some things might seem like extra work, they are, in fact, the logical means of being efficient. Or, to put it another way, a lot of people end up doing a lot more work because they didn’t take the time to properly prepare for the job.
The Bible, in the writings of Solomon, speaks to this truth. “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10; ESV)
If you take the time to sharpen your ax, you end up doing less work. If you are lazy and don’t take care of your tools, you end up doing more work.
Closely related to this is the idea of gaining knowledge ahead of an endeavor so as to make a particular task quicker and easier. Again, from the same section of Scripture, Solomon writes, “The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.” (Ecclesiastes 10:15; ESV)
As many wives have told their husbands over the years, “you should have asked for directions.” Wandering around, lost, because you didn’t take the time to actually learn the route to where you are going only makes the trip more arduous.
These are ideas that are true of physical tasks, and physical journeys, but they are equally applicable to our spiritual labors, and our spiritual journey.
One might think of Saul of Tarsus, who was asked by our risen Lord, “Is it hard for you to kick against the goads?” (Acts 26:14) Jesus recognized that Saul had made choices which made his life harder. Saul had failed to ascertain the proper path that God wanted him to be on, and so ended up going the wrong way.
The Scriptures teach us, “there is a way that seem right to a man, but the end of that way is death.” (Proverbs 14:12) We are going to journey far in the wrong direction, making the wrong choices, if we don’t take the time to stop and ask God for directions in life.
We read elsewhere in the Bible of another man, Ezra. Of him, God says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10; NKJV) In the words of Solomon, Ezra had taken the time to sharpen his iron. He had spent time studying God’s word, he had made a choice to do God’s word, and he was ready to teach others what God had said. Instead of wasting many years going the wrong way, only to find himself lost, Ezra was on the path God wanted him to be on.
In the first Psalm we read, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of the sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2). If you want to be going the right direction, God has given us that which we can study in order to properly prepare ourselves.
In a similar way, in Ecclesiastes we also read this pertinent advice: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1; ESV) If one starts early, preparing to do what God wants them to do, avoided will be all the various burdens that come from a life spent in rebelling against God.
The lazy man suffers physically because he does not prepare himself properly for the jobs of life, or because he tries to take shortcuts. In a similar manner, when we are spiritually lazy, taking the path of least resistance, we are going to very frequently find we suffer from a similar burden.
But there is a solution. Jesus calls to us, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30; ESV)
Yes, there is work God wants us to be doing (cf. Ephesians 2:10), but the more we try to avoid that work, the harder the burdens we will be bearing. Let’s do our best to void the burden of the spiritually lazy, preparing ourselves to be pleasing to God.
If you would like to learn more about preparing yourself spiritually, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.