A lesson like this is hard to preach because it too often applies to me. It affects almost all of us in some way or another and so when I present a lesson like this, there is always a disclaimer: This lesson is one I need too.
In studying virtue, it seems that wisdom must play a part and one of the people who seem to have the least amount of wisdom is the procrastinator. Sloth is one of those things we are encouraged to leave behind in childhood yet it can persist among adults nonetheless. Peter, in encouraging his audience to add good qualities to their faith, did not mention wisdom and yet, it is hard to imagine an a virtuous person who did not have wisdom. Even in the first chapter Wisdom cries out and tries to teach. She says in effect that the calamity that come upon you for lack of wisdom is your own doing. Those who suffer from calamity the most are the sluggards and lazy procrastinators, who will not do what they should be doing.
To procrastinate can be as simple as putting something off but implied in the word (and the reason why we are warned against laziness) is because the procrastinator puts it off to the point of missing an opportunity or causing distress in his life or the lives of others. We are not discussing the problem of procrastinating laundry folding in favor of reading a book (unless the laundry has been piling up for three weeks and you need clean socks), it is more the procrastinating of important things like book reports, Dr. visits, exercising, apologizing or even preaching the Gospel until the opportunity passes.
To help understand the causes of procrastination, we might look at a chart that I first saw in Steven Covey’s book “the 7 habits of highly effective people”. Here is a picture of it:
What we can see from this is that each task of your life can fit into one of those four quadrants. The urgent, important things are usually immediate needs like phone calls, a fire, a heart attack. Whereas the important non urgent items are things like spending time with family, exercising, visiting the doctor for a check-up and things we put off more easily than a ringing phone. Of course, the spiritual applications are many which will be made in further lessons.
The causes then of procrastinating could be from pure laziness. Spending our time on non important and non urgent things because we want to, or because we are afraid to venture out into the other aspects of our life. Sluggards can always find a reason (“There’s a lion in the street” they cry.) Or perhaps it just doesn’t seem the right time. I will plant seed and do a lot of watering to catch up. I want to have fun now!
Sometimes the procrastination is from being too busy. We have put what we perceive to be important things (and they are) so high above other important things that we are out of balance. We spend 80 hours at work and none with our kids, we spend so much time teaching others, we don’t teach our families. We give so much to God, we have none to help the poor or parents with. (Mt 15)
And then sometimes, we just do not see the urgency. There will be another opportunity to do this or that. We, of course, do not even know our own life’s length, much less the length of another’s. The Thorny soil in Mark 4 represented those who were busy. Once I have my fortune made, then I will serve the Lord may will have been their thinking.
The solutions to procrastination may be more involved then this advice, but it is a good place to start: Go to the ant!
Consider how the ant works and gathers and needs no prompting. She gathers for the now and for the winter. Also, you might consider how different the Bible would have read had Abraham procrastinated when God told him to offer up his son Isaac. Yet, the scriptures say that Abraham arose early in the morning for their trip. Gen 22. He didn’t say ” plenty of time, wait for me to enjoy him a few years.” Or even more dramatic, we wouldn’t be reading this blog had Noah decided to procrastinate on the Ark. 120 years goes by fast! What if he had waited a couple of decades?
We should remember that Time is not a savable commodity and while our life may be full of “non urgent” things, the important ones need to be attended too. Bible reading and Bible study (two different concepts), prayer, preaching, and visiting others are all things we can “put off” and perhaps we don’t see the danger now but eventually we will.
A man of virtue will not procrastinate. The sermon is here.