You Might also like
Laziness Ruins Happiness: What Makes Diligence a VirtueBy Jon Bloom — 1 year ago
Most people do not want to be thought of as lazy — as a person averse to hard work. We all know laziness is a vice — a corrupting and addicting use of a good gift: rest. Leisure in proper doses is a wonderful, refreshing gift of God. But habitual indulgence in leisure to the neglect of God-given responsibilities brings destruction, both to ourselves and to others.
But it’s destructive for a deeper reason than the obvious detrimental impact of work done negligently, or not done at all. At the deeper levels, laziness robs us of happiness by decreasing our capacity to enjoy the deepest delights. And on top of this, it leaves us failing to love as we ought.
“Laziness robs us of happiness by decreasing our capacity to enjoy the deepest delights.”
Since all of us are tempted in different ways to the sin of laziness, it’s helpful to keep in mind all that’s at stake — and why, over and over throughout the Bible, God commands us to pursue the virtue of diligence.
Virtues and Vices
For Christians, a virtue is moral excellence that, if cultivated into a habit, becomes a morally excellent character trait. We become more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and experience an increased capacity to delight in what God has made good, true, and beautiful. We see scriptural examples in 2 Peter 1:5–8:
Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue [aretē in Greek, referring to all the virtues] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Conversely, a vice is moral corruption that, if cultivated into a habit, becomes a morally corrupt character trait. We become more conformed to the pattern of this fallen world (Romans 12:2) and experience a decreased capacity to delight in what God has made good, true, and beautiful. We see scriptural examples in Galatians 5:19–21:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do [prassontes in Greek, meaning “make a practice of doing”] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Why Diligence Is a ‘Heavenly Virtue’
In the fifth or sixth century, many in the church included diligence on the list of the seven heavenly virtues to counter sloth (the old English word for laziness), which it had on its list of seven deadly sins. But saints throughout redemptive history have always considered diligence a necessary virtue. Both the Old and New Testaments consistently command saints to be diligent, and warn against the dangers of being slothful.
Here’s a sampling:
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. (Deuteronomy 4:9)
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4)
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. (Psalm 119:4)
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11)
If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. (2 Thessalonians 3:10–11)
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10)
As these passages show, diligence is a “heavenly virtue” because it is a means of cultivating godliness — increased capacities to deeply delight in God and his gifts. Cultivating the “deadly sin” (or vice) of sloth, on the other hand, is a means of cultivating ungodliness — decreased capacities to deeply delight in God and his gifts.
Wearing Our Love on Our Sleeve
But when we speak of pursuing diligence as a way of cultivating godliness, there’s an additional dimension besides developing a strong work ethic for the sake of experiencing greater joys. Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and since love fulfills his law (Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14), growing in godliness means we grow in some aspect of what it means to love. What makes the virtue of diligence distinctly Christian is that it is one of the ways we love God supremely and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39).
“How we behave reflects what we believe; what we do reflects what we desire; our labors reflect our loves.”
God designed us such that our actions bring into view the real affections of our inner being. To put it very simply (and admittedly simplistically): how we behave, over time, reflects what we believe; what we do reflects what we desire; our labors reflect our loves.
Now, I realize I’m touching on a complex issue. Our motivating beliefs, desires, and loves are not simple, nor are the contexts in which we behave, do, and labor. Nor are the neurological disorders and diseases that sometimes throw wrenches into these already complex gears.
That said, it remains true that our consistent behaviors over time reveal what we really believe, desire, and love. This is what Jesus meant by saying we can distinguish between a healthy (virtuous) tree and a diseased (corrupt) tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:17–20).
And of course, the “fruit” is seen not only in what we do, but in how we do it. And here is where our diligence or laziness often reveals what or whom we truly love. Since we seek to take care of what we value greatly, it’s usually apparent when others put their heart into what they’re doing and when they don’t. Or as Paul said of some who were “lazy gluttons” in Crete, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works” (Titus 1:12, 16).
In what we do and how we do it, in our diligence or laziness, we come to wear our loves on our sleeves — whether we love God (John 14:15) and our neighbor (1 John 3:18), or selfishly love ourselves (2 Timothy 3:2).
Be All the More Diligent
So, there’s more at stake in our diligence or laziness than we might have previously thought.
Yes, diligence is important for the sake of doing high-quality work, which is beneficial in many ways. But hard work, by itself, does not equal the virtue of diligence. As Tony Reinke points out, “Workaholism is slothful because it uses labor in a self-centered way to focus on personal advancement or accumulated accolades” (Killjoys, 50).
When Scripture commands us to “be all the more diligent” (2 Peter 1:10), God is calling us to work hard toward the right ends (growing in godliness), in the right ways (what God commands), for the right reasons (love). The more this kind of diligence becomes characteristic of us, the more we become like Jesus: we increasingly delight in what gives him delight, and increasingly love as he loves — which is true virtue.
Should We Dramatize Jesus’s Life for Television?By John Piper — 12 months ago
Good Monday morning, everyone. We have a big week on the podcast. First up, our inbox is full of emails asking whether or not it’s a good idea to dramatize Christ’s life for television. A listener named Jim asks it this way: “Dear Pastor John, hello, and thank you for this podcast. I’m wondering of the dangers and benefits of watching biblical historical fiction, particularly of television shows and movies about the life of Christ, of him acting and saying dramatized things beyond what we read in Scripture.”
One anonymous man writes to say, “Dear Pastor John, thank you for the podcast. It has been used by God to help me and my family here in Kazakhstan. I would like to know your thoughts on television shows and movies about the life of Christ. Are they helpful or unhelpful? What are your concerns?”
Sam, a church leader, wants to know the place of visuals, particularly screen dramatizations about the life of Christ. One recent show is “beloved by many” in his church, and he says, “I feel that it has enlivened my own walk with God and helped me imagine what Jesus’s world could have been like. This has the effect of making the world of the Bible more accessible to me. But imagination can only take you so far. Can we enjoy shows like this personally, even include them in a teaching context, without violating the second commandment?”
Another listener, Lisa, is less optimistic. She says television dramatizations of Christ’s life “don’t sit well with me.” As she considers Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:18, she wonders if these dramas are “adding to or altering Scripture,” amounting to heresy. Pastor John, for these listeners, do you have any thoughts?
There is no way that I can avoid this question, because it touches on my life. For 25 years — and I still do it one way or the other — when I was a pastor at Bethlehem, every Christmas season, I created and read to the people in worship what we called “Advent poems,” one for each Sunday during advent. The poems took about ten minutes to read. They created a story built around a biblical character or biblical situation in which I invented persons, dialogue, and circumstances that were not in the Bible but were intended to clarify and confirm and intensify realities that are in the Bible, that the Bible itself teaches.
So, the question is not abstract for me. The question is, Was I doing something sinful? Was it wrong to create those poetic, imaginative expressions?
Safeguards Against Distortion
Let me mention the safeguards that I put in place to avoid the dangers of distorting Scripture or replacing Scripture or diminishing the authority of Scripture, and then I’ll give some positive reasons for why I think imaginative explanations and illustrations and representations of biblical truth are not only legitimate, but are even encouraged by the Bible.
Not Adding to Scripture
First, was I guilty of disobeying Proverbs 30:6 or Revelation 22:18, which says that we should not add to the words of God or to the prophecy of Scripture? No, I was not guilty of disobeying those Scriptures because those Scriptures forbid the presumption that one could add scripture to Scripture or prophecy to prophecy. Those texts are not condemning explanation and elucidation and illustration and representation of Scripture that make no claim in themselves to have any Scripture-level authority.
Those texts are condemning every attempt to use words or images or representations that claim to be on a par with Scripture. And in fact, I would say that the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of this error when it elevates the papal pronouncements ex cathedra to the level of infallible biblical authority. That’s my first safeguard.
Second, I made clear that the poems I was reading were not Scripture. I made it clear. They were not divinely inspired. They were not infallible. They were imaginative illustration, explanation, and representation of truth that I saw in the biblical text.
I made this distinction not only when reading poetry but when preaching. My preaching is not Scripture; it is based on Scripture. It uses language that is not in Scripture — all preaching does, all teaching does. It derives any authority that it has from the degree that it faithfully represents the reality put forth in the Bible. So it is with imaginative poetry — or drama, for that matter.
Consistent with Scripture
Third, I promised never to create any dialogue or any character or any circumstance that could not have happened in view of what the Bible actually teaches. In other words, even though I created things that were not in the Bible, nothing I created contradicted what was in the Bible. Everything had to be possible and plausible in view of what was in the Bible. Nothing was allowed to call Scripture into question.
Focused on Scripture
Fourth, I made every effort to draw attention and affection to the same reality in my poems that I saw in the Scripture itself. And fifth, I never replaced expository preaching with imaginative poetry.
In other words, I tried to make plain that God had ordained the expository preaching of his infallible word as central to congregational life and as the main corporate means by which God protects his word from distortion. Through every other form of representation, preaching stood. Preaching remained dominant and essential. And in my case, the sermon was never, not once in 33 years, intermingled with any kind of visual media. I think that’s a bad practice in preaching and is usually owing to a loss of confidence in the preached word to do its amazing work.
Now, those are the safeguards that I put in place to keep from diminishing Scripture or distorting Scripture or replacing Scripture, but I think even more important is the fact that imaginative representations of biblical reality are warranted by Scripture itself.
“Imaginative representations of biblical reality are warranted by Scripture itself.”
Of course, in biblical times, nobody had ever heard of movies or videos, and so nothing directly is said in the Bible about them. But short of that, pointers to imaginative representations and drama are everywhere in the Bible.
First, the Bible itself uses imaginative language that creates pictures in our minds that are not the same as the reality being discussed, but that shed light on the reality by not being the reality itself. We call these metaphors or similes or word pictures or parables. For example, just listen to Jude 12–13 describing the false teachers and the troublemakers in the church:
These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
That’s amazing! He’s talking about human beings, bad people who are ruining the church. What does he do? He creates pictures in our brains with words like “hidden reefs,” “selfish shepherds,” “waterless clouds,” “fruitless trees,” “wild waves,” “wandering stars.” In other words, he tries to make plain one objective reality by comparing it to a very different reality.
Jesus did this with parables, didn’t he? “The kingdom of heaven is like . . .” — like a mustard seed, like leaven, like a treasure, like a merchant, like a net, like a master of a house, and on and on. Or consider the prophets like Zechariah. He sees a reality; he wants us to know the reality. How should he help us see and savor this reality? He says, “I see a measuring line” (Zechariah 2:1–5). “I see a lampstand” (Zechariah 4:1–3). “I see a flying scroll” (Zechariah 5:1–4). “I see a woman in a basket” (Zechariah 5:5–11).
“The job of the preacher or the poet or the teacher or the parent is to help others see and savor reality.”
The Bible does this kind of thing hundreds and hundreds of times. It’s the very nature of language to be different from the reality it points to. The word love is not the same as the reality of love. The word God is not the same as the reality of God. The word salvation is not the same as the reality of salvation. And once you realize that all language is pointing to reality, that the job of the preacher or the poet or the teacher or the parent is to help others see and savor reality, then you realize all the amazing and various potentials that language has.
Then there’s not just imaginative language, but there is imaginative action in the Bible — acted-out dramas of biblical reality. Jeremiah was told to make yoke bars and walk around with this heavy yoke on his shoulders to dramatize the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar on the people (Jeremiah 27:1–22). And Ezekiel was told by God to lie on his left side for 390 days to illustrate Israel’s years of punishment (Ezekiel 4:4–8). And then there’s poor Isaiah. God said, “My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush” (Isaiah 20:3).
So, my conclusion is that if we pause and ponder why the Bible itself employs so many imaginative means of explaining and illustrating and representing reality, we will see that the Bible itself:
offers us examples of truth-clarifying, truth-intensifying drama, poetry, language
encourages us to use language this way
protects us against distorting or replacing or diminishing Scripture
Men of Faith Are Men Who FightBy Marshall Segal — 1 year ago
Men professing faith in Christ have been walking away from him since the church began.
“Some have made shipwreck of their faith,” the apostle Paul reports in his first letter to Timothy. In fact, the language of leaving is all over 1–2 Timothy: men were wandering away from the faith, departing from the faith, swerving from the faith, being disqualified from the faith (1 Timothy 1:19; 4:1; 5:12; 6:10, 20–21; 2 Timothy 3:8). There seemed to be something of a small exodus already happening in the first century, perhaps not unlike the wave of deconversions we’re seeing online today.
We shouldn’t be surprised; Jesus told us it would be so: “As for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14). Those same thorns are still sharp and threatening to faith in our day. In fact, with the ways we use technology, we’re now breeding thorns in our pockets, drawing them even closer than before.
This context gives the charge in 1 Timothy 6:11–12 all the more meaning and power, both for Timothy’s day and for ours:
As for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
“Men professing faith in Christ have been walking away from him since the church began.”
Who are the men who will fight the good fight of faith? Who will stay and battle while others fall away? In the words of 1 Timothy 4:12, which young men will step up and set an example for the believers in faith?
Fight of Faith
That faith is a fight means believing will not be easy. It won’t always feel natural, organic, or effortless. We could never earn the love of Christ, but following him will often be harder than we expect or want.
“If anyone would come after me,” Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “let him deny himself and take up his cross” — and not the light and charming crosses some wear around their necks, but the pain and heartache of following a crucified King in the world that killed him. If we declare our love for Jesus, God tells us, suffering will expose and refine us (1 Peter 4:12), people will despise, slander, and disown us (John 15:18), Satan and his demons will assault us (John 10:10), and our own sin will seek to ruin us from within (1 Peter 2:11). If we refuse to fight, we won’t last. The ships of our souls will inevitably drift, and then crash, take on water, and sink.
The verses before 1 Timothy 6:12 give us examples of specific threats we will face in the fight of faith, and each still threatens men today.
Enemy of Pride
When Paul describes the men who had walked away from Jesus, specifically those who had been teaching faithfully but had now embraced false teaching, he points first to their pride. These men, he says, were “puffed up with conceit” (1 Timothy 6:4). Instead of being laid low by the grace and mercy of God, they used the gospel to feel better about themselves. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they seized on the love of God to try to make themselves God. Many of us do not last in faith because we simply cannot submit to any god but ourselves, because we do not see pride — our instinct to put ourselves above others, even God — as an enemy of our souls.
Enemy of Distraction
Pride was not the only enemy these men faced, however. Paul says they also had “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people” (1 Timothy 6:4–5). It’s almost hard to believe the apostle wasn’t writing about the twenty-first century. Were these distractions really problems thousands of years before Twitter, before the Internet, before even the printing press? Apparently so. And yet the temptation explains so much of our dysfunction today.
In our sin, we often nurture an unhealthy craving for controversy. Faithfulness doesn’t sell ads; friction does. As you scroll through your feeds or watch the evening news or even monitor your casual conversation, ask how much of what you’re allowing into your soul falls into 1 Timothy 6:4–5. How much of our attention has been intentionally, even relentlessly, steered into passing controversies and vain debates? How much have we been fed suspicion, envy, and slander as “news,” not realizing how poisonous this kind of diet is to our faith?
Enemy of More
Greed is a threat we know exists, and often see in others, but rarely see in ourselves — especially in a greed-driven society like ours in America. The insatiable craving for more, however, can leave us spiritually dull and penniless.
Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9–10)
When you read “those who desire to be rich,” don’t think elaborate mansions in tropical places with pools beside the ocean; think “those who crave more than they need.” In other words, this isn’t a rare temptation, but a pervasive one, especially in wealthier nations. The temptation may be subtle, but the consequences are not. These cravings, the apostle warns, “plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Their life is choked out not by pain or sorrow or fear, but by the pleasures of life (Luke 8:14) — things to buy, shows to watch, meals to eat, places to visit.
“The more we see how much threatens our walk with Jesus, the less surprising it is that so many walk away.”
Do we still wonder why Paul would call faith a fight? The more we see how much threatens our walk with Jesus, the less surprising it is that so many walk away. What’s more surprising is that some men learn to fight well and then keep fighting while others bow out of the war.
How to Win the War
If we see our enemies for what they are, how do we wage war against them? In 1 Timothy 6:11–12, Paul gives us four clear charges for the battlefield: Flee. Pursue. Fight. Seize.
First, we flee. Some have been puffed up by pride, others have been distracted by controversy, and still others have fallen in love with this world — “but as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Timothy 6:11). Spiritual warfare is not fight or flight; it is fight and flight. We prepare to battle temptation, but we also do our best to avoid temptation altogether. As far as it depends on us, we “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). If necessary, we cut off our hand or gouge out our eye (Matthew 5:29–30), meaning we go to extraordinary lengths to flee the sin we know would ruin us.
Spiritual warfare, however, is not only fight and flight, but also pursuit. “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). We could linger over each of the six qualities Paul exhorts us to pursue here, but for now let’s focus briefly on faith. Are you pursuing faith in Jesus — not just keeping faith, but pursuing faith? Are you making time each day to be alone with God through his word? Are you weaving prayer into the unique rhythms of your life? Are you committed to a local church, and intentionally looking for ways to grow and serve there? Are you asking God to show you other creative ways you might deepen your spiritual strength and joy?
Third, we fight. “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). We avoid temptation as much as we can, but we cannot avoid temptation completely. Whatever wise boundaries and tools we put in place, we still carry our remaining sin, which means we bring the war with us wherever we go. And too many of us go to war unarmed. Without the armor of God — the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit — we will be helpless against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:11–12). But having taken our enemies seriously and strapping on our weapons daily, “we wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18).
Lastly, men of God learn to seize the new life God has given them. “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). This is the opposite of the spiritual passivity and complacency so common among young men — men who want out of hell, but have little interest in God. Those men, however, who see reality and eternity more clearly, know that the greater treasure is in heaven, so they live to have him (Matthew 13:43–44). Their driving desire is to see more of Christ, and to become more like Christ. They may look like fools now, but they will soon be kings. They wake up on another normal Wednesday, and seize the grace that God has laid before them.
Some men will lay down their weapons before the war is over, even some you know and love. But make no mistake: this is a war worth fighting to the end. As you watch others flag and fail and leave the church, let their withdrawal renew your vigilance and fuel your advance. Learn to fight the good fight of faith.