‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.’ – Romans 12.11-13From Martin Hayward:
Although the Bible doesn’t feature a list of “the seven deadly sins”, the early church used to talk about them a lot: Pride, Anger, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony and Sloth.
Now you wouldn’t think that being in lockdown would give us much opportunity for sin, would you? But listening to the news there does seem to be truth in the old saying that “The Devil finds work for idle hands to do”. For instance, there is growing concern about the number of families in danger of domestic abuse as anger spills over into violence; lust is helping pornography channels to become one of the few commercial areas to enjoy an unprecedented financial boom at this time and people everywhere are complaining about expanding waistlines as gluttony means that they raid their ‘fridges to snack away the boredom.
My own biggest temptation is that of sloth – and it is, perhaps, the most difficult to define of the sins. Some modern versions of the Bible use the word “laziness”. Although, as one commentator put it, “I like the word “indolence” – it makes my laziness sound classy!”
What I need in order to shake me out of my ennui is a positive outward focus – something useful to do. And that, of course, is where Paul’s advice above is so pertinent for us today: our focus must be Jesus in all circumstances and our work is to serve him appropriately every day in every circumstance.
And what an impressive demonstration of his own advice Paul gave during his more than two years in lockdown under house arrest in Rome. He wrote letters to keep in touch with converts and new churches outside of prison and by “welcoming all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28; 30,31) And there can be no doubt that he continued to pray and sing hymns to God just as he had on that earlier occasion when Silas and he had been thrown in jail after a severe beating following trumped up charges.
So where does that leave me, what can I to do that is both outwardly focussed and useful? Simply this: follow Paul’s advice and example – keep in touch, keep mentioning Jesus’ name, keep praying for others and keep reading the Bible. Encourage others and be excited about serving Jesus in whatever way I can. Remain happy because of the hope I have. And be patient.
This is no time to be lazy!