From Lazy to Self-Disciplined – Part 1

Once again in this month’s Mom’s Corner, I would like to use some questions that came in via e-mail as a springboard. Here is what this mom is struggling with:

I was wondering if you had any advice (or possibly you could address this in a Mom’s Corner) on how someone can improve her work ethic. I am terribly embarrassed to admit this, but I really feel like at times I can be lazy. I know there are things that need to be done, but I just don’t feel like doing them! I realize that this is a sinful attitude, and I want to change. Do other moms struggle with this? Would you have any tips on how I can improve or Bible verses that could encourage me in this area? Self-discipline is a character quality I would very much like to see flourish in my life, and I would like to pass it on to my children!

One thing I can tell you is that you are most certainly not alone and that many, if not most, moms struggle with laziness to some degree or another. I expect it is part of the sin nature of flesh that we have all inherited from Adam. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

Let’s begin by discerning if self-discipline is important and something for which we would want to strive. We don’t find the word self-disciplined in the Bible so we have to determine its value based on other criteria. Would the Lord have us to be self-disciplined, or would it be legalistic to feel like we need to be busy and productive with our time? We often hear the word legalism used against those who desire to follow the Lord Jesus in a spiritual walk of obedience. Let’s look at this verse. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Our liberty is freedom from the bondage of sin, and we are not to use it to serve ourselves but rather to serve others. If we are going to be servants in our homes, to those we love, and to those we come in contact with, it will take time and discipline.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Here we have “temperance” as a fruit of the Spirit. Strong’s Concordance defines temperance as “self-control—the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions.” When we master our desires and passions, then we will be focusing our energy on the tasks the Lord Jesus has called us to do.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In order to set aside laziness, which involves self-indulgence, we have to deny ourselves. We will choose against what we might in our flesh choose to do with our time and rather decide to obediently accomplish what the Lord has set in front of us.

“. . . for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). The Lord wants us to have joy in the fruit of our hands rather than dread or avoid it. The work He sets before us is a blessing not a curse.

Scripture shows us that working, the opposite of being lazy, is positive. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” (Exodus 20:9). For six days of the week, the Lord expects us to be diligently working, and on the seventh day, we get to worship and rest.

“The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin” (Proverbs 10:16). Our work, the fruit of self-discipline, leads to life. It allows us to complete what the Lord wants us to do, and it brings a sense of joy, peace, and contentment along with it. Sometimes we think that doing what we want to do leads to life but there is truth in this verse that it more often leads to sin.

Here is an interesting verse: “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury” (Proverbs 14:23). Do you know what penury means? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it is extreme poverty. In our situation of desiring self-discipline to help us accomplish our tasks of mothering and homemaking, we aren’t talking about profit and poverty. However, we can easily discern from this verse that working is beneficial while “talk of the lips,” which could be equated with laziness, is harmful.

Our labor would be the choice to set ourselves to the tasks that allow us to love and care for our husbands, our children, and our homes. I think the “talk of the lips” would equate to time wasters such as sitting doing nothing, reading novels, Internet browsing and blog hopping, frivolous shopping, or large amounts of time on the phone. There is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, but when we do them rather than the tasks the Lord Jesus has called us to do, then we have a problem and are entering into the realm of laziness rather than self-discipline.

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Proverbs 13:4). I think sluggard would be a good word to apply to us when we allow laziness to creep into our lives and rule them. In this verse, we see that the sluggard wants the good things that come from working and self-discipline, just like we moms want the fruit that would come in our lives and home from these positive characteristics. However, it is not the sluggard who reaches that goal, but rather it is the diligent—the mom who is self-disciplined.

This section of Scripture provides us with a great analogy for self-discipline. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11).

The ant works hard even though there is no one watching him, holding him accountable, or telling him what to do and when to do it. For the sluggard, the ant is set out as an example from which he should learn and one he should follow. If he will learn from the ant, he will become wise. In studying the phrase “a little folding of the hands to sleep” in the Hebrew that section doesn’t mean physical sleep but rather just resting. Resting could certainly be one root of our laziness, if it becomes the habit of our lives, because usually we are avoiding work that we need to do and are choosing to do something that we consider more restful, whether it is less physically taxing or less emotional taxing. Again, please don’t misunderstand me. It is okay to rest by doing things like sitting and talking to your family, rocking on the back deck while you look at the garden, closing your eyes for an afternoon nap if you are tired. However, when our lifestyle and focus becomes that of resting and avoiding what needs to be done, that is when we have a problem.

As we begin this series that is examining a move from laziness to self-discipline, the biblical view of those two characteristics is essential. We don’t have to look far to see that the Bible directs us away from laziness that indulges the flesh and toward self-discipline that denies the flesh. Perhaps as you are in the Word this month, you will discover more Scripture that reinforces self-discipline. Next month we will move into the practical aspects of developing self-discipline.