Is Idle an Idol?

“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: 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. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Idle: to run at low power and often disconnected usually so that power is not used for useful work; to spend time in idleness; to move idly; not working, not active, or doing nothing; unoccupied; inactive; not useful.

Idleness is an insidious contagion that may begin innocently but grow to take on monstrous proportion. It is a detriment to spiritual energy, a barricade to spiritual growth, and a drain on the church. Idleness can be infectious personally and in community. It breeds wrong thinking: I want, I deserve, it’s their fault, woe is me. And it breeds lazy doing: rude imposition, unhealthy dependence on the service and effort of others, and poor example to those we influence, often to the dereliction of more needed duty. Giving idle time to chastise, complain, and gossip breeds criticism of others, dissension between parties, and dishonor to God’s glorious intentions. (Proverbs 6:10-11; Ecclesiastes 10:18; Ephesians 4:29; 5:4)

The opposite of an idle person is one who is steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of Christ. He engages people and life for fruitfulness, contributes to the church and society, and builds God’s kingdom. She is full of the Spirit’s fruit and an active blessing to those around her. Peaceful, orderly, and quiet is not idle; rather it is a life measured in emotion, productive in industry, generous in heart, and fixed in Christ. It may listen and wait, but is eager and ready to act, doing the will of God from the heart and to benefit His kingdom. (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:17,23-24; 1 Timothy 2:2)

Where have we given in to the idolatry of self-serving to the neglect of serving our Lord and others, and how has it spread to infect motive, will, and impulse? In what areas are we indulging idleness? Time spent without intention? Entertainment that leads astray? The tongue? How will we replace those tendencies with purposeful plans, fruitful industry, and mouths that speak uplifting truth and blessing?

Lord, teach me to number my days aright and employ every moment to the encouragement of others and promotion of Your will and glory. (Psalm 90:12)

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