Spiritual Laziness

September 11, 2019
Spiritual Laziness

I recently heard Alexander Strauch, a well-published and reputable author who served as an elder in one congregation for over 50 years, talk about spiritual laziness in a way that hit me between the eyes. Here is a rough paraphrase of what he said in an interview:

From the time of the Fall, man has been spiritually lazy. He can use all his energy to do many, many things but sit down and read the Bible and ten minutes later, “Oh, my neck hurts;” or, “Oh, my eyes, they might be bleeding!” Time for prayer and, five minutes of prayer, “Whew, I’m tired; I’m exhausted.” I can sit and watch a two-and-a-half-hour movie, or I can watch two movies back-to-back for four hours, no problem. But, study the Bible? Fifteen minutes, that’s max. We are inherently spiritually lazy, and the things of God come to us in a difficult way.[1]

The last phrase is certainly true. The things of God come to us in a difficult way. Work is required for the Christian life. Spiritual growth, which the Lord wants for all of us, requires that we put forth effort. We have to pray and study.

The Fall (and our own continuing sins to boot) has taken a toll on all of us. While we mean well, we tend to struggle on matters of spirituality. As our Lord Jesus put it, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). What I find very interesting is that the remedy for this problem was given in the same verse by our Lord in the phrase just before the famous statement. He said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” The remedy for overcoming the weakness of the flesh is to be that much more watchful and prayerful. Commentator Leon Morris has helpfully written, “A willing spirit is not enough; it must be supplemented by prevailing prayer.”[2] Well-meaning words are inadequate. Good intentions are deficient. We should add, too, that Jesus is not just giving us an excuse that we can use whenever we fail. Scholar Craig Blomberg reminds us, “Jesus’ proverb is often casually reapplied almost as an excuse for human shortcomings but, in context, is an incentive for disciples to resist temptation.”[3] I’ve heard Christians jokingly reference this verse about their own moral lapses. However, Jesus’ goal is for His followers to overcome temptation, not to have a good excuse when we fall to it!

Thus, here’s the main point: If you want to overcome the weakness of your flesh, then you are going to have to be spiritually alert and constantly prayerful. You can succeed in your spiritual life, and that is our Lord’s desire. You can grow more spiritually mature, and that is God’s purpose for you. Do you want this for yourself, or are you just at ease in your spiritual sloth? I say: Let us not sleep! It is high time to awake out of slumber! Couple spiritual disciplines with your good intentions, and God will give you strength.


[1] H. B. Charles Jr., #087: Alex Strauch Interview, The On Preaching Podcast, podcast audio, August 16, 2019, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/on-preaching-with-h-b-charles-jr/id888503224?i=100044707608.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, Pillar New Testament Commentary Series, 1992.

[3] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, New American Commentary, 1992.