Have you ever met someone who puts off starting or finishing something they dread? The task may not be difficult or complicated, but it’s dreadful. For instance, I’m skilled at putting paperwork into piles and hiding them in a drawer or cabinet. I know I could sort through every page and quickly file it away, throw it away or act on it. Not a complicated job. But it’s tedious. And except for editing a book or a blog, I hate tedious work.
Does this make me, and others like me, a sluggard? Webster defines a sluggard as “A habitually lazy person. ” Nobody who knows me would call me lazy. But then they haven’t seen where I hide paperwork. Yes, in that area, and a few others, I am lazy. And I’m a procrastinator–“someone who delays or postpones something.” Curious about this I once did a search to learn how many times the word “procrastinator” is used in the Bible. I felt relief when I learned it doesn’t appear at all. And then I looked up the word, “sluggard.” In Proverbs it shows up 14 times.
With that information, I examined each of the 14 verses and identified the following five traits of a sluggard/procrastinator:
- He/she doesn’t like to start things or take action.
- He/she doesn’t like to finish things.
- He/she doesn’t like to face things.
- He/she rationalizes, creating excuses to justify laziness.
- He’s/she’s dishonest about the core of the problem, blaming it on other people or circumstances instead of facing the truth. He/she is the problem.
I don’t like to think I’m lazy. I mean, the list above doesn’t describe the person I want to be. Yet, I battle laziness when I consider performing a tedious or unpleasant task. Too often there is no battle. On those days Laziness and I kick back and relax—like old pals. There are even weeks when we hang out for days at a time, going on adventures like watching TV, devouring a novel, or just sitting in my office reading the news.
I’ve found most people squirm with when talking about procrastination. I suspect it’s because we all procrastinate. We know there are things we have to do that we consistently take care of on time. But they’re usually things we enjoy. It’s the other list of chores we delay, things we hate that have to be done. Or, they could be things that require discipline—like working out, losing weight, breaking a bad habit and replacing it with a good one, or dealing with paperwork.
I can’t imagine Jesus hanging out with Laziness. They weren’t friends, or even acquaintances. I know he associated with tax-gatherers and sinners. But there’s no way he allowed Procrastination, that master thief, to rip off his time and incentive, stealing strategic opportunities God had prepared in advance for his doing.
While I’m sure Jesus relaxed and recharged his emotional batteries, I’m also convinced he never put off until the next day what needed to be done today. Nor did he delay dealing with difficult tasks and people because he had other, less important but more enjoyable things to do.
That’s why the night before his death he could say to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
Wouldn’t you like to utter that prayer on your deathbed? I suppose for me it begins with a plan that addresses the hidden paperwork. Okay, here’s my plan and commitment: Every time I enter my office, before I begin work I enjoy, I’ll deal with one piece of paper. In that way, the piles should be gone in a few weeks. Makes sense since big jobs get easier when they’re broken into small jobs.