There was a time in my life when I was so busy and involved that I slept (if I was lucky) about 4 hours a night. I scheduled out my small meals and often ate while doing something else. Time with friends usually had to be productive, or else I’d leave as soon as the event ended (if not sooner.)
Although there were several reasons for my overdoing it all the time, one stands out: I was afraid of being lazy.
Scripture supported that idea:
“The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” –Proverbs 21:25
Just one problem: even God rested. Even God commands that we rest. When we take on too much (even if we mean well) we end doing a ton, but not doing any of it very well.
This, too, displeases the Lord –“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10.)
So what’s the difference between rest and laziness?
1. Rest is Ultimately Productive
"Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” Exodus 34:21
That’s a command concerning the Sabbath day. The principle also applies more broadly. God’s instruction about labor –even labor for Him during a busy and fruitful season- includes the need for time to rest.
Productivity and rest are proven to go hand-in-hand instead of to work against each other. Taking the time to rest appropriately allows you to be more productive and effective for His work.
The Lord’s command to “never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” also does not contradict His commands about using time wisely or about taking time to rest (Romans 12:11.)
2. Rest is God-Focused
As Charles Spurgeon has said “God gave us sleep to remind us we are not him.” When you give up on sleep, relaxation, and other times of rest, it may seem like you’re being selfless.
But, you’re not. You’re trying to take on more than the Lord has given you (because He does not tempt us nor tell us to harm ourselves!) To try to take over for God and do too much, we get prideful, controlling, and focused on accomplishments in this world.
Believe it or not, in that process, we also became lazy. We become lazy to trust, lazy about time spent with God or with those we love, and lazy about keeping ourselves diligently focused on His will.
Our ambitions then drive us into the sluggard’s dilemma: “A sluggard's appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” Proverbs 13:4
Choose to be God’s focused: “for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10.) Get it? Godly work involves Godly rest.
3. Rest is Based on Wisdom
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Imagine if a runner is lazy. Never arriving at the finish line, the runner might give up because they “don’t feel up to it today.”
The upright –who are not lazy according to God- are those who run with self-control. “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (Proverbs 15:19.)
Their path is clear: keep God’s commands to rest, to be still, to take the time to do things well. Do what is asked of you responsibly instead of trying to prove yourself by running extra races that ultimately lead to things other than eternal life pleasing Christ.
Rest was designed by God, it is a necessity. Laziness is a corruption of God’s intentions for rest. It’s selfish, it’s based on folly and feelings, and laziness does nothing to contribute to your work for the Lord. Rest does.
Know the difference, live it, and pay attention to the Lord’s leading, for:
“The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."-Exodus 33:14
That’s not a gift to forsake.