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Sluggards and Thieves

Throughout Proverbs, there are major and minor characters in the word pictures that are painted. Two of those characters seem to have a connecting theme: the Sluggard and the Thief. What seems to connect these two is how they approach money and material things. The Sluggard feels entitled to what is yours while the Thief wants what is yours and takes it.


When I think about work, a scene from the ‘60s John Wayne western comedy, “McLintock,” is what comes to mind. Admittedly, the movie is a bit ridiculous and misogynistic, so I can’t completely recommend it. However, there is a scene that I have a great deal of respect for. In the movie, Devlin Warren, played by John Wayne’s son Patrick Wayne, reluctantly thanks the wealthy rancher for giving him a job. The title character responds, “Gave? Boy, you got it all wrong. I don’t give jobs. I hire men.” Then McLintock’s right-hand man asks the younger Wayne, “You intend to give this man a full day’s work, don’t you boy?” The young man affirms his commitment to “deliver a fair day’s work.” The Duke responds, “Then for that, I’ll pay you a fair day’s wage. You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything. We both hold up our heads.” Each time the emphasis is on the word give. The point of the dialogue is quite clear: no free rides, but a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The Bible says, “A laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Solomon, the wise sage of Proverbs, tells of something he saw one day while taking a walk. He writes:

“I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 24:30-34)

Seeing the field overgrown and filled with thorns and nettles, Proverbs tells us that it’s the Sluggard’s field. The stone wall originally built to protect the vineyard is broken down. There is a lack of care and concern at this home. The Sluggard lives there. He has been blessed with land, a vineyard, and a wall but he has been a poor steward of what he’s inherited. He’s lazy and careless. A Sluggard is a slacker, a procrastinator, lazy, a free-loader, and slothful. Proverbs has a lot to say about the Sluggard.

“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (Proverbs 26:13-16)

Rather than get down to the business of work, the Sluggard is constantly giving excuses, asking for five more minutes, entitled, and thinks he is better than everyone else. “His life motto is, ‘Don’t rush me.’”

The Sluggard uses any and every method possible to avoid working. Proverbs says he’ll even use the excuse that going to work means he’ll die! There’s a lion outside! Let’s stay inside and be safe. Waltke calls it “irrational fear.” I think what he’s afraid of is getting dirty or, Heaven forbid, a blister or worse yet a sliver. Sluggards come up with the most elaborate excuses: “I can’t find a job…I’ve looked. Nobody is hiring…I don’t feel good…” Eventually, the Sluggard becomes what Jen and I call a basement dweller. They’ve extended adolescence to the point where they are an over-grown adult-child living in their parents’ basement. If you have a basement dweller, stop enabling them, kindly kick them out, and make them get a job – a full-time job. Maybe even two full-time jobs…then, hopefully, they’ll be tired from working all day instead of staying up all night wasting their life playing video games. In all honesty, there are lots of ways to waste time other than video games. Whatever you do, don’t enable the Sluggard. It’s unkind and unchristian. Their excuses might sound legit, but Proverbs basically says they are claiming that a lion is outside. It’s a lame excuse.

“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’” (Proverbs 22:13)

Over the course of 2020, laziness seems to have swept over our nation. Rather than work, people opted for a free ride. Many Christians abandoned the God-ordained responsibility of honoring the Lord in our WORK. Paul told the church, in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” We were created to work (Genesis 2:15)! Work is honoring to the Lord and reflects God’s character (John 5:17). When we are lazy and constantly giving excuses, we are a bad reflection of the God whom we claim to love and serve.

The Sluggard refuses to work. Actually, as Derek Kidner wisely puts it, “He does not commit himself to an [open and defiant] refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.” Rather than outright saying, “I’m too lazy to work,” the Sluggard just says, “Give me five more minutes.” In essence, the Sluggard “five-more-minutes” himself to death. The alarm goes off and he hits snooze. Like a door on its hinges, he just turns over. That’s the most effort he’s going to put in today. Eventually, he stops setting an alarm and just sleeps his life away. When Sluggard miraculously happens to be out of bed, they just put off everything until tomorrow, because they are too tired. “There’s no hurry,” they’ll say, “I’ll get to that project or start looking for a job tomorrow.” The Sluggard procrastinates to “next semester” or “later this year” or “this summer” or “after the holidays” or “in the fall” or “after vacation” or…the list goes on forever. Spurgeon wrote, “Tomorrow is only to be found in the calendar of fools; today is the time of the wise man.” Solomon tells the Sluggard to learn from the ants. They don’t have a boss cracking the whip and they still get their job done. I imagine the nightstand of the Sluggard filled with unwashed dishes, half eaten sandwiches, and ants. The Sluggard would only have to roll over and crack open one eyeball to get an education in work.

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11)

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” (Proverbs 10:5)

“Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” (Proverbs 19:15)

“He who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” (Proverbs 28:19)

In Proverbs, a field, a vineyard, food, and a bed are all things that the Sluggard has. Those were likely inherited, because vineyards don’t just pop out of the ground overnight. With all of the effort of the previous generation, the Sluggard squanders his opportunity. The Sluggard has been blessed but has fallen in love with sleep. In contrast to a fair wage for an honest day’s work, a Lazy Person or Sluggard, ironically feels entitled to everything. Without exerting any effort, they feel entitled to have what others have worked hard for and/or have been blessed with. The Sluggard’s sense of entitlement is so strong that they even seem to degrade to the point of being too exhausted to feed themselves. This isn’t someone who is in a difficult or challenging season. The Sluggard’s entire life has become a wasted opportunity. They’ve become masters at giving elaborate excuses all from the comfort of the couch. They are a couch potato. That might not be politically correct, I certainly wouldn’t want to offend potatoes.

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” (Proverbs 13:4)

“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” (Proverbs 12:24)

“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” (Proverbs 19:24)

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4)

“The desire of a sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” (Proverbs 21:25)

If you’ve worked a job or been assigned a project with a Sluggard, it can be really challenging. The Sluggard is always looking for the easy way out. He’s searching for the shortcut, even a cheat. Anyone who is diligent, studious, or productive is seen by the Sluggard as trying too hard. They need to relax, Sluggard will say. They need to take it easy and just do the bare minimum. A Sluggard, like Scoffer, thinks they are the smartest person around and wisest on the team. Not only are they better than anyone on the team, every job is below them. They are better than manual labor – overqualified. Slackers can be lovable until you have to work with them, employ them, and depend on them.

“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” (Proverbs 10:26)

“Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” (Proverbs 12:27)

“The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.” (Proverbs 15:19)

“Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9)

Solomon says he saw the field and vineyard of the Sluggard “and received instruction” (Proverbs 24:32). The lazy person’s field, vineyard, and life have become a “wasteland.” The irony is that the Sluggard lacks wisdom, but we can gain wisdom by observing their folly. There are lessons to learn from the slacker. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica addressing the issue of laziness in the church. The ESV translates it “idleness” and the KJV calls it “disorderly.” People who claimed Christ were being Sluggards. “A Christian Sluggard!” Spurgeon preached. He then asked, “Is there such a being?” Paul knew laziness would be a major detriment to the Gospel effort. Nobody respects a lazy man, so if and when a lazy person finds the gumption to get out of bed, nobody takes them seriously. “Let’s all admit it – there is a sluggard deep inside each of us.” These verses from Paul are both an encouragement and a biblical command given to rouse us from our slumber. Maybe that laziness has nothing to do with your job. Maybe it has to do with your walk with the Lord or your marriage or your health or your family. We find and make all kinds of excuses for why we are lazy in certain areas of our lives. Let this passage confront the slacker in your soul.

“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.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12)

A lazy person feels entitled to things, whereas a thief takes what isn’t theirs. A Sluggard may actually resort to being a thief just to avoid good and honest, hard work.


I vividly remember in middle school coming home one day to find out that our house had been robbed that morning. Apparently, while my Mom was away, thieves who had been casing houses on our street, kicked in the door from the garage into the house and stole our stuff. In my mind, I can still see the imprint of a Nike shoe on the door. It was a strange education and an almost surreal experience. I was puzzled that the TV, VCR, Nintendo, microwave, vacuum, and a toolbox would be their targets. Some made sense, but a vacuum? I learned that these items would be pawned for some quick cash. The strange and surreal part was that the Kirby vacuum they stole was in a closet in my room. As I lay in bed that night, I thought, “Some unwelcome person was in my room today.” It was kind of creepy. I also learned about insurance. They took a broken VCR…we got a new, working VCR. They took a Nintendo and we got a Super Nintendo in exchange. They took the vacuum and we got out of that chore for a little bit. In my life, that was a lesson in the reality that some people take what isn’t theirs.

Early on in Proverbs, we are introduced to the father instructing his son, specifically warning him that sinners will invite him to be part of their gang. They’ll invite him to their Folly. Solomon says:

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse’ - my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” (Proverbs 1:10-19)

Robin Hood is a fun character, but he’s still a thief. Robbing from the rich is still stealing and stealing is wrong. In English, the commandment is only four words and that’s all that is needed – “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). That law is written on the hearts of every person, so to violate our conscience we have to justify our sin to ourselves. A thief recognizes that what he has taken or is planning to take doesn’t belong to them, so they have to “dispose” of the person whose stuff it really is. That disposal often comes in the form of justifications, such as, “They have so much money, they’ll never even notice” or “Insurance will cover it” or “They stole from people, I’m just attempting to even the score” or “I’m not really stealing, I’m borrowing” or “They owe me this.” People have used these justifications to rob banks, houses, friends, neighbors, churches, parents, and their workplaces. We have lots of terms for stealing: larceny, shoplifting, embezzlement, misappropriation, fraud, tax evasion, and of course, the list could go on for a while. The point is that to steal, the thief must deal with the rightful owner. In Proverbs chapter 1, disposing or removing the barrier of the rightful owner elevates all the way to murder.

This stealing and dehumanizing of people has become the pattern of the thieves’ life. There isn’t one isolated victim. Solomon, speaking for the thief, says, “Let us swallow them alive” (Proverbs 1:12, emphasis added). The thief no longer sees people as valuable. The thief covets the stuff someone has and plots to eliminate the person so they can fill their houses with stolen goods. The thieves’ invitation to “throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse” is a warning. If they stole with you, they’ll steal from you. Friendship among thieves will always go badly. The Apostle Paul writes, “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 6:10). Falling in love with worldly treasures has caused people to make the most ludicrous and reckless decisions. Family and friendships that seemed unbreakable can’t survive greed.

Both Paul and Proverbs teach that a trap indeed has been set, but it’s not what the thief intended. The thief has set a trap for himself. Eugene Peterson paraphrases this passage as saying, “Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.” Greed is a deadly trap. The Greedy become violent thieves.

“People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.” (Proverbs 6:30-31)

“Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 10:2)

“Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.” (Proverbs 23:6-8)

“The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.” (Proverbs 29:24)

“Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Money and possessions – you own them or they own you. Proverbs says, “Unjust gain…takes away the life of its possessors” (Proverbs 1:19). Money and things can quickly become our idols, which become our gods, lords, masters, and owners. Greedy, violent, thieves are slaves to the god of money. This is why Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24), but you can serve God with your money. How we view money and possessions is closely related to how we view people. In our culture, money is muscle and wealth is power. It becomes a license to treat others as lesser. “Sinners love wealth and use people; saints love people and use wealth to help others.” We have become a covetous culture. In our covetous hearts, greed has forced us to dehumanize people, entire races, countries, and people groups, simply because we want what they have. We want their land, natural resources, labor, and money. Christians must view every person as an image-bearer of God, regardless of their socio-economic standing. Christians must show no partiality (James 2:1-13). Pastors must preach against greed, because the Gospel demands it.


The Gospel confronts both the laziness and greed hidden in our hearts. The Good News is that the Lord and King of all Creation humbled Himself. Jesus, rich in glory, power, majesty, and the worship of an endless number of angels, became poor. Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Greed is ungodly. It’s pride in money and wealth. Jesus laid down His rights and died in the poorest way possible. The Bible tells us that He was hung between two thieves (Matthew 7:38). He who was rich became poor, oppressed, beaten, and crucified, so that we could be rescued, saved, and forgiven. How could we respond to such grace with greed? How could we respond to the saving work of Christ in such a lethargic way? Let us rise from our spiritual slumber. Christian, churchy nap time is over. It’s time to go to work (2 Corinthians 6:1). Jesus our Master yokes up with us (Matthew 11:29). This is your spiritual alarm clock going off. Don’t hit snooze.

Claire, Belle, Maverick, Ruby, Mavis,

Ok, so I know I said there isn’t anything I hate more than a liar…and that’s true, but next in my lineup is a lazy person. They drive me absolutely crazy, and I’ve come to realize that I value hard work probably more than I should. It’s definitely one of my core values. Your Dad and I are firstborns, a little headstrong, and full of ambition. We definitely work more than we should. But I like what Proverbs 14:23 (NIV) says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” I don’t have to tell you that your Dad is a dreamer, you’ve been listening to ALL of his crazy ideas for a lot of years. But one thing that I am thankful for about him is that he isn’t just a talker, he is a doer.

The Bible is warning us about the types of people that are just talkers. I’ve met this guy. He has all of the ideas in the world with all of the excuses in the world too. He can’t get anything done. Don’t be lazy and don’t just flap your jaw about all of the great ideas you have. Get to it. Make a plan and execute it. What are your excuses? I can tell you my biggest one. Sleep. I remember reading Proverbs 20:13 for the first time, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty, open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.”  I do love me some sleep, and I’ve passed that down to you guys, but Dad and I have also done our best to pass on being hard workers. We meet parents that are super hard workers but then don’t require that of their kids. What a disservice they are doing to themselves, their kids, our society, and the Lord.

You all are amazing workers, don’t let that stop when you leave my house. Continue that for your life. Remember when we gutted the whole first floor of our house? I can’t even blame that one on your Dad, that was my idea. We never thought it could be done. But as a team, we did it. Sometimes you just need a team. We’ve made a great team over the years. Remember that one time that we rented a jackhammer and Dad had you guys run it! Oh dear, I thought it was going to carry you away down the road! How about the time we took down a 60-foot willow tree and shattered a window or the time we carried the buffet server up a ladder and over into the loft. That one actually made me the most nervous! We’ve done some crazy jobs over the years, but Dad and I wanted you to know how capable you are.

Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” Be used by Him, work for Him. Don’t be lazy, especially being a follower of Christ. If you are lazy and believe in Jesus as your Savior, you give Him a bad name. Be the best,hard worker you can for Him.


Questions for Reflection

What was your first job?

Who is the hardest worker you know?

What’s the difference between a workaholic and a hard worker?

What’s the best excuse you’ve heard for getting out of work?

Are there tasks that you persistently procrastinate? Is it laziness?

Have you ever been robbed? Was the thief ever caught?

Have you ever stolen something? Why?

How does the Gospel confront our sin of laziness and greed? How does the Gospel give hope?

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