Signs of Sloth

I have learned to watch for six tell-tale signs that help me diagnose its presence:

1. My desk top and office get messier.

2. I run late.

3. I stop doing things my wife appreciates, say keeping the grass under three feet high. I’ve agreed to do it but find myself not doing it.

The problem is not energy. For example, after several marathon days—up before dawn, running non-stop until late—I may come home to a free evening but only have enough energy to drag myself down the hall and collapse in the chair. I’d like to help around the house, but I’ve given everything for the ministry.

Then the phone rings. I summon my last reserves to pick up the receiver. It’s a good friend: several guys have gotten hold of a gym, and a basketball game starts in forty-five minutes.

What happens next is a miracle. Energy, strength, and vitality swarm back into my body like the swallows returning to Capistrano.

4. I find telephone messages I haven’t returned since the Carter administration.

5. I experience an odd combination of hurry and wastefulness. I rush in the morning, telling my wife I have no time for breakfast, no time to see the kids off to school; too much to do. Later in the morning, I read the sports section or make an unnecessary phone call.

6. I have a sense of dis-ease at the end of the day: I just don’t feel right about what I’ve done or been that day. When God created the world, he spent time at the end of each day reflecting on what he had done and finding a sense of rightness to it. “It was good,” he said. Restedness flows out of a sense that what needed to be done is what got done. God never hit the weekend and said, “Thank me, it’s Friday.”

Exley, R., Galli, M., & Ortberg, J. (1994). Dangers, toils & snares: Resisting the hidden temptations of ministry. Mastering Ministry’s Pressure Points (pp 54–55). Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books.


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