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The Slack Brother


( Prov 18:9 NIV) One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

The Baptist church ran a crusade, everyone thought it was a great idea. There were a few problems though. The Bibles to hand out didn't arrive because someone forgot to ring the bookstore. The prayer team was locked out of the vestry because someone forgot the key. The decision cards were photocopied so poorly and faintly that people threw them away. The sound man embarrassed everyone by forgetting to plug the evangelist's microphone in. And then there was the follow-up, well the attempt at follow-up. Well they meant to follow-up. They will do it next time because all the converts from outside the church - are still outside the church.

I bet that by the end of that description you had a small church pictured in your minds! Why not a large church? Well large churches tend not to make mistakes like that. I think that is part of the reason they are large. Slackness is costing us converts and hurting and embarrassing the church.

Lets look at the Proverb that I began this article with - at first sight this is a harsh proverb. Being slack is "just human" isn't it? How can the slack person be "brother to him who destroys". How are they related? Why does the Holy Spirit bracket them together? God sees the slack person as a type of destroyer. The person who leaves the farm gate open causes the loss of the animals unintentionally just like a cattle rustler would cause the same loss of stock intentionally. The person who forgets to wash their hands before an operation causes death (from infection) unintentionally just like a murderer might do intentionally. The results are the same - lost cattle, a corpse. Slack people bring about the same end results as destructive people. They cause situations to get much worse than "normal". In that way they are "brother to him who destroys".

Jesus and Slack Servants

Jesus was passionate about God's Kingdom. He wanted to see it extended more than anything else. In a way He was a perfectionist about it - pushing Himself day and night, taking huge risks and expecting the same from His disciples. It says in Philippians 2 that Jesus "took on the nature of a servant". So when we want to know what a true servant of God looks like we should look at Him. Holy Spirit anointed, energetic, prayerful, disciplined, holy, kind, accepting, hard-working, truthful, uncompromising. Anything but slack.

Jesus took His servanthood very seriously and He tells lots of stories about servants. He praises servants who do well in the service of their master. He rebukes severely those that are slack. If Jesus has a "consistent good guy" it is the diligent yet compassionate middle-manager such as a steward or a centurion. People who obeyed instructions, cared for others and got on with the job. His consistent "bad guys" are people who pretended to get on with the job, who were inwardly rebellious, who were selfish, greedy and cruel or who were downright mischievously lazy. These include the Pharisees with their harshness and hypocrisy, the Sadducees who pretended to serve God while they played politics, the merchants in the temple who exploited religion to make money, the cruel servant who would not forgive a middle sized debt, the drunken servant who beat those lower on the pecking order and the silly and fearful such as the "five foolish virgins" or the one talent servant who sulked.

There is so much teaching in Scripture against spiritual slackness amongst God's servants that I cannot cover even a fraction of it in this article. Lets just look at a series of stories at the end of chapters 24 and the beginning of chapter 25 in Matthews gospel. First Jesus sets up the two general principles of commending diligent and faithful service and severely condemning slothful, careless and slack service.(Mat 24:45-51 NKJV) "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? {46} "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. {47}"Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. {48} "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' {49} "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, {50} "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, {51} "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This leads directly to chapter 25 where He tells a series of parables to drive the point home. These are well known so I will not quote the full text of them. Firstly the ten virgins ..(Mat 25:1-30 NKJV) "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. {2} "Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. ..' {10} "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. {11}"Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' {12} "But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'

Then there is the parable of the absent Master and the talents. Matthew 25:24 .."Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. ....Then the Master says... {28}'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. {29} 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. {30} 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The five unwise virgins are left outside the Kingdom, the slack steward who beats those under his charge is cut into two, the "one talent" slack steward finds weeping and gnashing of teeth. These are penalties we would reserve for the worst of criminals - yet none of these people would have considered themselves criminals! Just slack, just lazy, just a "little bit unwise". How can that be? I think it goes something like this.. Jesus is Lord, therefore He has every right to set your life's agenda. To ignore His agenda for your life is to say "No" to the clear consequences of His Lordship.

To despise His agenda and to pursue your own agenda instead is actually rebellion. Rebellion against the clearly revealed will of God - our clear duty - is a very major sin. Slackness is therefore punished for being the rebellion against God that it is. That is why slack Christians face severe penalties.

This goes against our "cultural norms" it seems weird to our minds that slack, lazy or incompetent performance of God's will can be treated so harshly. Surely God is gracious, surely he will overlook our faults? God overlooks your faults - when you can do no better. However He does not overlook them when He knows you can do a lot better. Here is a simple illustration: No Father despises a 4 year olds clumsy attempts a "coloring in" that miss the lines on the drawing. A 12 year old will be told to stay within the lines. A mature eighteen year old would be mocked for producing work like the 4 year old and rightly so. God knows your capacity to serve Him and expects you to do "the very best you can". Sloppiness insults Him. Insulting God can bring a strong response!

Malachi was sent to Israel when the nation had become slack towards God. The whole book deals with the theme of slack service ..here are just a few verses.(Mal 1:6-8 NKJV) "A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' {7} "You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.' {8} And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts.

The Lord's reaction to the slackness among the priests was vehement. He would curse their blessings and spread refuse on their faces. Those who dishonor God will themselves be dishonored.(Mal 2:1-3 NKJV) "And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. {2} If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name," Says the LORD of hosts, "I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. {3} "Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.

Jesus gives grace to us that we may diligently use it in His service. Grace does not eliminate responsibility. If anything it increases it! I groan within when I see slack churches, slack efforts at evangelism, slack concern for missions, slack attempts at holiness, slackness in prayer, slackness in doctrine and the Word. We are wasting the immense resources God has given us to do His work!

What then can we do about this epidemic in our midst? Firstly realize that God is calling us to be diligent and wise servants. Secondly study Proverbs and realize what it says about diligence being a man's "prized possession". Take to heart the work ethic described in the pages of Proverbs. Do a study on the word "work" in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. You will learn much! Thirdly - get busy. Revival always leads to action because the Holy Spirit is "living and active" not dead and lazy! God is an active God, Jesus was active, Paul was active, the revival under the Wesleys was active, and so on nd so forth! Take hold of grace and get moving!

Prayer

Lord we are unworthy servants. We have been slack and lazy in many areas of our life. We repent. We ask that Your Holy Spirit may make us diligent and wise and useful and that we may fully carry out all the works that You call us to do. Amen.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.