What is lollygagging? This strange word has come to mean wasting time, idling, dawdling, trifling, loitering, etc., primarily to avoid work or some other undesirable activity. No one really knows the origin of this term, but some have traced it to mid-nineteenth century America. Regardless of its origin, lollygagging is an ancient practice that is addressed frequently in the Bible, although not by that name.

The book of Proverbs is especially strong in its denunciations of laziness and lollygagging. It commends the clear, righteous, and godly alternative to lollygagging, which is work, diligence, and industry. Consider a few of its messages on this matter:

  • Proverbs 14:23 -- In all labor there    is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
  • Proverbs 18:9 -- He also who is    slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.
  • Proverbs 20:13 -- Do not love sleep,    or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with    food.
  • Proverbs 28:19 -- He who tills his land    will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have    poverty in plenty.

These are just a small sample of all the Proverbs concerning laziness and diligence. Other Proverbs pertaining to this issue are 6:6-11; 10:4-5, 26; 12:11, 24, 27; 13:4; 14:4; 15:19; 16:26; 19:15, 24; 20:4; 21:17, 25-26; 22:29; 24:27, 30-34; 26:14-15; 27:18, 23-27. After you have read all of these, you will get the point. Lollygagging over necessary work is wrong, and it will be punished.

The book of Proverbs is not the only book of the Bible that warns us against lollygagging. Consider the book of Ecclesiastes, which states, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going" (Eccl. 9:10). Notice how this verse leaves no place for even half-hearted effort, but rather it demands a full application of our strength to the work we have to do. It has been said that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and God's word confirms this. This particular message from God's word also gives us a potent motivation for giving a full effort in whatever we do, which is the looming reality of death. Our time in this world is severely limited (Ps. 90:10; John 9:4; Jas. 4:14), and there will be no time to finish or redo our work when we go to the grave.

In Colossians 3:22-25, the apostle Paul wrote an instruction for slaves that has applications for all of us concerning diligence in our work. Consider this passage:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

This passage, along with its companion passage in Ephesians 6:5-8, warns us against the practice of
insincere "man-pleasing" and "eye-service." This is a highly relevant application, for the modern arrangement of employees and employers is greatly hindered by this problem. Many workers only give full effort when they are watched by supervisors, and they tend to lollygag when the boss is not looking. Many work according to the saying, "When the cat is away, the mice will play." Contrary to this, God's word says that we should "work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance." Consider carefully this motivation. It does not direct us to work harder in order to receive a bonus, a raise, or even praise from our employers. Instead, it directs us to work hard simply because Christ is our Lord, and He will reward us. Certainly, this should change our minds about work to an attitude of diligence and humility. When we work for the Lord, our attitudes must be dictated by His words from Luke 17:10 -- "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

So then, what kind of effort will you give? Do you do with your might whatever your hand finds to do? Are you guilty of eye-service and man-pleasing? Obviously, lollygagging about necessary and required work is not a commendable practice, and it is one that all Christians should put away. Especially when it is concerning the work of the Lord, Christians must work with great effort and sincerity, for our Master is coming at a time when we will not expect Him (Matt. 24:45-51). "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1Cor. 15:58).

Stacey E. Durham


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