The Bible has quite a bit to say about idleness. And it’s not positive. Laziness is characteristic of the sluggard of Proverbs, who will be overtaken by poverty (Prov. 15:19; 24:30–34). The sluggard who will not work will not eat (20:4). Refusing to work is consummate foolishness. Idleness runs contrary to the biblical command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:26–28). Thus, it stands in tension with the pursuit of God’s blessings and is consistently portrayed as contrary to the will of God (Prov. 12:27; 19:15). In brief, laziness leads to destruction (Prov. 18:9; Eccl. 10:18).
In the New Testament, Paul warns against idleness and provides his own life as a pattern of godly diligence (1 Cor. 15:10; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:6–11). Similarly, he also speaks of self-control as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). To be sure, Paul does not teach an ethic of self-righteousness—we are not righteous before God based on anything that we can do. Even so, Paul’s writings are consistent with the call of Proverbs to be diligent in our labors as we work unto the Lord.
The Bible is clear that we ought to be engaged in constructive and diligent work. This is a mark of maturity and will ordinarily lead to blessings. The diligent should expect to receive the fruits of their labors, but the dangers of idleness are often compounded, for idleness can lead to other sins as well. Idleness is the handmaiden of temptation. Laziness often yields not only thorns but temptation—which leads to sin, yielding death (James 1:14–15). When we’re focused on nothing—or on ourselves—we are more prone to temptations that arise out of our sinful hearts.
Pursuing work diligently is thus one helpful strategy for dealing with temptations. Having too much leisure time—or not having positive work to engage in—can more easily lead us into temptation. As those created in God’s image, we are made to work and to create. Sitting around doing nothing—or doing low-friction activities such as binge-watching television shows or “doom scrolling” on devices—can lead to the slothfulness of spirit that provides fertile ground for temptation. Slothfulness also turns us in on ourselves, leading us to lose sight of others around us made in God’s image, whom we are to love as ourselves.