On Sloth and Writing Well


In the field of writing, I have to admit, I envy the brilliant and productive, the disciplined and accomplished.  Like many others, I wish I could write dozens of books and articles and be a well-known published author and professor.  But there are two things I lack that those who do such things do not.  I lack both brilliance and diligence.

While all minds can be developed, true intellectual brilliance is something only God can give (or take away), so there’s no use in asking God, “Why did you make me this way?” or bemoaning the fact that when it comes to intellectual capacities, all people are not created equal.  A lack of industry, however, is something for which I certainly bear some responsibility.  But two main barriers stand in the way of such due diligence.

First, I want life to be easy.  I want things to flow magically from my mind to the page without significant energy being expended.  I want all of my writing to be instinctively and effortlessly inspired, all of my ideas to be clear, profound, and succinct.  I don’t want to have to work—and work hard—to produce those kinds of masterpieces!

Second, I like making excuses for why I have not been able to do more and produce more.  That way, I am not consciously accountable to God or the Christian community for my laziness and lack of intentionality.

The traditional word for these attitudes is sloth.  It’s a good word and one that has fallen out of favor in our leisure-obsessed society.  We like to be entertained and dazzled by the greatly gifted not so much because we can see God’s grace given to us in the midst of a pain-filled, sin-stained world, but because we like to experience the joy of amazement and enlightenment without putting forth much personal effort.  Why learn and produce music when I could listen to someone else create and sing it better?  Why write when someone else can say it more eloquently for me?

In Genesis 2:15 God gave human beings a mandate—a mandate linked to our nature as image-bearers.  That mandate was a creative one.  We were place in the world, placed in the garden “to work it and keep it,” to cultivate and be productive as a way to reflect God’s creativity and productivity in the world, as a way to honor Him as image-bearers.

I am almost 50.  Now is the time most in academia consider to be the “productive years” of a teaching ministry.  Now is the time when my mental faculties are still sharp and I am supposed to have the accumulated knowledge and wisdom that is worth sharing—and sharing well—with others.  To be sure, a large part of that takes place in the classroom and through ongoing friendships, mentoring relationships.  It also happens in the home and in the community as I interact with my immediate and extended family, with strangers, co-workers, and acquaintances.

But in the midst of all this, God keeps giving me ideas and pushing me to write them down and think about them more—to mold and shape them into something worth reading and considering and applying.  This is a stewardship that I simply must offer back to Him with both gratitude and sobriety.  I am deeply thankful for the insights He has bestowed upon me, but I am also sobered by the responsibility to be a good steward of those insights.

In this sense, I do not write to be published, to be noticed, to be impressive, or even to be helpful to others, as much as I want my writings to be.  I write to honor the One who calls me to write and gives me the motivation and ability to do it.  What He does with it after that is His business.  I only need to be faithful and depend upon Him to empower my efforts.

Oh God, save me from sloth.  Save me from a scattered and indifferent life that would bring You less glory than You so obviously and magnificently deserve.


3 thoughts on “On Sloth and Writing Well

  1. LynnRae Dupree

    Good admonishment Lewis! This doesn’t just apply to writers but to all Christ followers in using our gifts and talents diligenly for His glory. Loved the prayer at the end. Thanks for sharing.


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