The sin of laziness plagues our students, especially boys. Over the years I’ve had many opportunities to observe this particular sin up close. When I talk to parents about this struggle in their child, the conversation generally plays out like this: I tell them that Johnny is very lazy and not putting forth much effort in his school work. They nod their heads and admit that they have noticed that Johnny is not very motivated about school (or chores at home), but they hesitate to label this lack of motivation laziness. To make their point they explain how Johnny puts forth a great deal of effort, energy, and time on some activity that he enjoys. “He works hard when he wants to,” the parents say. They are blind to their child’s laziness because laziness does not always look like we expect it to.
We tend to imagine that laziness is taking a nap when everyone else is working or it’s playing video games and watching TV when you should be doing your homework. Certainly sometimes it looks just like that. But laziness, like all sin, is a deceiver, and the first person it deceives is the sinner.
Laziness loves to masquerade as work. It’s easy to deceive ourselves and others when we seem so busy and hard working. But, laziness is not inactivity; it’s doing something other than your duty. Laziness is polishing your shoes when you should be writing your research paper. It’s shooting 100 free throws to get ready for the big game instead of washing the dishes. It’s even offering to help others instead of memorizing those Latin forms. Laziness disguised as helpfulness is particularly deceptive.
Laziness is so deceptive that it can even drive you to do something you really don’t like instead of doing your duty. When I have a tough writing deadline coming up or a stack of long research papers to grade, I have a strong desire to clean my bathroom instead. I hate cleaning my bathroom. There is no household task that I detest more. Yet, my laziness is so great that I would rather scrub a toilet than do my unpleasant duty. Additionally I am deceived by my own sin because at the end of the day, with a sparkling bathroom, I feel productive when I’ve really been lazy.
The question we must ask ourselves and our children is not, are you working and being productive? But, are you doing the duty that you are called to right now? If your duty is to mow the lawn, then you can’t shirk that responsibility to read your literature assignment. And if your duty is to finish some Algebra problems, you can’t offer to help Mom cook dinner instead.
Like every aspect of Christian living, it takes wisdom to discern laziness and what’s going on in the heart is the key.