I spent a lot of time writing a post on Proverbs 26:1-12, but it just wasn’t working for me. Instead, I’m quickly focusing on an issue dear to my heart: sluggardliness!
The four “sayings” of 26:13-16 all focus on the sluggard. As one who tends to sluggardliness there is a healing sting to these passages. Lucas, following Van Leeuwen, helpfully notes that, “basic to this cluster is the continuity of place” (170).
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion [cub] in the road!
A lion [adult] is in the open square!”
Here, the sluggard makes up an excuse – increasing in severity! – to not get any work done. Why be fruitful when it will get you dead?!? Best not to leave the house. There is likely some small hurdle before him and yet he perceives a mountain. Hubbard wryly notes that “the one thing at which the lazy were not sluggish was the art of coining alibis for their laziness” (430). Fear can be a powerful motivator.
14 As the door turns on its hinges,
So does the sluggard on his bed.
The sluggard will not settle with remaining at home due to his excuses. He will not leave his bed. “Verse 14 is a vivid and humorous picture of movement without progress” (Lucas, 170).
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
He might leave the bed eventually, but not the table, since he will not even finish his meal. He does not even have the energy to at least rotate in place any more; the sluggard lacks the energy and motivation to gain energy or move at all.
“The sluggard (‘lazy man’) can stir from bed periodically when hunger pangs prod him. But even then his ennui wins out: The combined weight of the bread he dipped and the sauce ‘in the bowl’ (2 Kin. 21:13) ‘wearies him’ so that ‘his hand’ cannot manage the return trip ‘to his mouth’” (Hubbard, 431).
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
The central issue is arrogance and pride. This might come as a surprise. But the fact is that the sluggard is blind. Blind to the good of work and fruitfulness. Blind to the need to care for neighbours. His blindness keeps him from seeing any possible motivations for getting out of his house.
“The deepest problem with the sluggard is identified in v. 16. He believes his own excuses and is not open to criticism or advice from others” (Lucas, 170).
“He is not only lazy but unteachable because he deems himself wise. A vast cadre … of discerning, sensible… persons can explain his problems to him and make no dent in his faulty thinking” (Hubbard, 432).
Lord, forgive me for my laziness.
Please help me with my gluttony, too….