“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Defining Idleness and Laziness
Evaluating your stewardship of time is always valuable. Probably one of the most poignant and effective lenses for assessing time management involve idleness and laziness if for no other reason than because the Bible addresses these topics frequently.
Idleness and laziness present serious mindsets that devalue time. Understanding the meanings behind laziness and idleness can help root out any areas in which we are poor stewards of our time through lazy and idle habits. Laziness and idleness connect in many ways, and the Bible even uses idleness and laziness interchangeably at times.
Take 1 Thessalonians 5:14, for example, where we are told to warn the lazy. The NLT uses lazy, the NIV idle, and the NASB unruly. Other words used include irresponsible (Holman), undisciplined (NET), wrongdoers (Aramaic), those not living right (God’s Word), and disorderly (ASV).
The Pulpit Commentary explain laziness/idleness by referring to them as “unruly” or “disorderly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. It explains that this scripture is a military reference expressing the character of soldiers refusing to keep rank. Instead, they neglected their common duties and basically abstained from working. These individuals broke ranks but still expected to be treated as if they were doing their duty.
Gill’s Exposition says these individuals busy themselves with other people’s matters and are contentious, quarrelsome, turbulent, headstrong, and unruly. It goes on to say they also cause animosity and division.
Contrasting Laziness and Idleness
When considering the differences, idleness seems more deceptive because there can be the appearance of busyness with no real progress. Laziness, on the other hands, seems obvious and easier to identify because being slothful or a sluggard stands out.
Laziness also indicates a greater degree of idleness and is always held in contempt; no one ever thinks laziness is good. Even when I say, “I’m just being lazy,” and it’s not a habit for me, I feel a sense of almost shame.
Laziness also seems worse because it happens by choice, while idleness can sometimes be due to circumstances. For example, a person can lose his job and be idle, and we can have an idle five minutes between one activity ending and another beginning with not enough time to start something new. Idle periods sometimes happen in our lives and not because of our own choices. Laziness always happens by choice.
The differences between idleness and laziness are subtle and perhaps unimportant. Idle periods can happen apart from our efforts, but we ultimately choose an idle and lazy mindset.