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Dear Martha,

I’m sure you have read the the proverbs that speak of “lions in the street”

The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!” (Proverbs 22:13) 

The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” (Proverbs 26:13) 

Now there are few things worth noticing here. First, God doesn’t accidentally repeat Himself, so the repetition implies its importance. Second, the Bible exposes an inner condition, next to the outwardly proclaimed excuses. Third, we learn a lot about people and their manufactured dramas.

Of course, that’s what it is, isn’t it? It’s a manufactured emergency, or drama. A lion patrolling the streets of a city is was unlikely, even in ancient Israel. But here we have a person whose real problem is ill-discipline, indolence, and aversion to hard work. But he makes out that the problem is some external emergency: the drama or crisis of his life that prevents him from going to work or fulfilling his duties.

Does he believe his claim? Perhaps he has come to. He has told himself how dramatic his life is, how overwhelming it is, how pushed and over-the-top it is, that he can now comfort himself that his avoidance of work and commitment is actually a sensible, conservative, and wise approach. He is apparently oblivious to whether other people are venturing out on the streets to do their work; his tunnel vision seemingly excludes others as a useful standard to compare his own behaviour to.

Martha, many Christians are spiritually stagnant because of the lion-in-the-streets approach. Their excuses are not explanations of why they could not leave their homes. Theirs are excuses for why they could not fulfil their commitments, be diligent in service for Christ, be loyal and faithfully available to their churches. Theirs are excuses as to why they seldom read their Bibles, do not become members of the church, never disciple other people, and have no rigour or discipline in their spirituality.

Similarly, their manufactured dramas are not a wild animal patrolling the streets, or even necessarily a threat to life and limb. Theirs are the dramas of an “unbelievable, crushing workload”, “too many commitments”, “a cold I didn’t want to share with others”, “very little sleep the last few nights”, “burnt out by all the running around”, “so many family demands”. Now, none of these scenarios are as implausible as a lion in the streets. In fact, they often are very real obstacles, when experienced by disciplined, diligent Christians. That’s not the point. The point is that the lazy man has the ability of a Shakespearian tragedian to dramatise the difficulty and stress of his life, to make it sound as if he lives on the end of Pharaoh’s lash, or must run ahead of a pack of sled-dog Huskies to make his living. She has the posture and tone of the fainting femme, wrist on forehead, breathlessly relating the innumerable trials that were heaped on her the last week.

Not only does she tell her weekly tale of woe loudly to everyone who will (have to) hear, but she tells it to herself. That way, she can take on less, be less productive, be less responsible, be less involved. If you can barely get your gasping lips to the surface of the tumultuous waters of the dramedy of your life, how can anyone expect you to swim some more, or help others??

There is a saying that if you want something done, ask a busy man to help you. I have found that to be true repeatedly. I have also found that the people who are always telling me how overcrowded their lives are, how they’re worked to the bone, and how strained they are, are always the least productive, and the least organised. They are over-sensitive to their bodies, and allergic to difficulty. They are forever looking for the shortcut. The people who are doing the most for Christ and His church almost never tell me how busy they are, or how crowded their schedules are. They never tell me how little family time they’ve had, or how there are too many events on the church calendar. I have to drag it out of them, and help them to see where rest and delegation are important.

At heart, Martha, the lazy person has an aversion to difficulty. She dislikes the effort of structure, routine, and plodding. She still retains the immature longing for instant gratification in her work, and dislikes the difficult, the mundane, the plodding, and the repetitive. She is a child in an adult’s body, which is why she still complains about life interrupting her repose. It’s four decades later, but she really still just wants to go out and play. And on a deeper level still, the lazy man is in rebellion to God’s order. He does not accept that he must work by the sweat of his brow; he feels he is exceptional.

The Christian life includes much discipline and rigour. Indeed, the mark of being Spirit-filled is not less order, but more. The Spirit moved on the chaos of primordial creation and shaped it. The Spirit is not the author of confusion; He leads to things done decently and in order. The truly spiritual Christian is increasingly controlled in his habits, time management, work efforts and schedule. He plans continually, and executes faithfully. That’s how he continually “makes” the time to fulfil responsibilities to family, work church, friends, and still be able to pursue fitness, personal education, and hobbies. He doesn’t get an extra hour in his day. He simply does not waste and fritter away his hours on the pursuit of softness and indolence.

Martha, I do not have to tell you that you tend in the direction of the tragedian. If you doubt me, ask those closest to you. But the problems are really not the pressures and problems around you that you so magnify in your own mind. Your obstacle to spiritual growth is inside you, not around you. If you stopped longing and dreaming of ease, you’d stop being bewildered by life’s refusal to give you that imagined tranquility. And if you embraced 2 Timothy 2:3 (“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”), it could transform your Christian life. I pray that you do.

Your friend and pastor,


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