Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord. — Romans 12:11
I’ll never forget the time when, as I met with a head of government in a foreign nation, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I just don’t understand many of the Christians I’ve met. To me, they seem to be some of the laziest people I’ve ever known in my life. I’m amazed that anyone would be satisfied to live with such low standards. Is this the way all Christians are?”
I was so embarrassed when I heard those words. I found myself wanting to apologize for the entire Christian community! But the truth is, I personally knew some of the Christians he was referring to — and I had thought the very same thing on many occasions! These people didn’t seem to have enough gumption to get up and do something with their lives. It wasn’t that they weren’t talented, gifted, and knowledgeable. They were just satisfied with the level they had attained and had no desire to show any professionalism with their lives.
Honestly, it’s a mystery to me how anyone can claim to be a Christian indwelt by the Spirit of God and yet be satisfied with such a low-level existence. Of course, I am very aware that many people weren’t raised with the same high standard of excellence that my parents taught me. Perhaps some Christians grew up in an environment where low-level thinking was viewed as normal, and that’s why they have accepted such a low standard for their own lives. However, other low-achievers can’t claim a mediocre upbringing as an excuse. They just don’t take advantage of opportunities to learn, adapt, and better themselves and therefore never experience needed change. This is usually a sign that these people have no inner desire to improve their lives.
You may send such individuals to school to educate them; you may even pay for them to fly halfway around the world to learn new and better techniques in their field of expertise. But if they don’t possess the inner drive to improve themselves and to become more professional, it doesn’t matter how much time or money you throw at them. It’s all a waste unless they possess the desire to be diligent.
Such low-level standards should never be tolerated by a believer, a pastor, an employer, or an employee. Yet too often believers make excuses for their slothful attitudes and allow them to continue. As a result, the world frequently looks at the Church as a pathetic entity made up of a bunch of nincompoops who aren’t serious about what they do or say.
I am certain that Paul’s experience with low-achievers in the Church is one of the reasons he wrote the believers in Rome and told them to be “not slothful in business.…” The word “slothful” is the Greek word okneros, a word that means lazy or idle. It carries the idea of a person who has a do-nothing, lethargic, lackadaisical, apathetic, indifferent, lukewarm attitude toward life. I find it very interesting that this word translated “slothful” is the identical Greek word used in Matthew 25:26 when Jesus tells of the “wicked” servant who was thrown into outer darkness because he produced nothing significant with the resources that had been entrusted to him. In these contexts, both “slothful” and “wicked” denote an attitude of apathy that should have no place at all in the life of a Christian.
But Paul goes on to say that we are not to be slothful “in business.” The word “business” is the Greek word spoudadzo, and it means to do something with eagerness or to do something with diligence. It is the idea of acting responsibly, quickly, and with attentiveness. You could say that the word spoudadzo (“diligence”) is exactly the opposite of a person who lazily strolls along with no passion or desire. Instead of being lazy and apathetic, a diligent person is excited and energetic, putting his whole heart into the project that has been given to him. He treats his responsibility as if it is important, and as a result of his excellent attitude, he does his job well.
Paul also says that we should be “…fervent in spirit….” The word “fervent” is the Greek word zeo, which originally meant to boil. This is the picture of a person so enthusiastic about his task that he can hardly contain his excitement. The desire to do his job with excellence and enthusiasm is constantly boiling inside the person who is diligent about his assignment. In fact, the Greek tense used here would be better translated, “…Be constantly fervent in spirit….” The word “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the attitude of this believer. It means, “…Be constantly fervent in your attitude.…”
Then Paul takes it another step by saying that we are to be “…fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” It is very plain what Paul is declaring here: A right attitude is one of the most effective ways for a person to serve the Lord. You see, when a believer does his job right and with an awesome attitude, it is a testimony to the name of Jesus. But when a believer does his work shabbily, he projects a sorry image of who Jesus is. This is exactly what happened in the case of that foreign head of government who asked me if all Christians were as mediocre as the ones he had encountered.
Paul uses the Greek word douleuo when he writes about “serving” the Lord. This word comes from the Greek word doulos, which means a servant who does the bidding of his master. The word doulos described a servant who was sold out, lock, stock, and barrel — totally committed to serving and pleasing his master. As a good servant, he would do his best to discover his master’s desires and then explicitly do whatever was needed to fulfill those desires.
By using this word in this context, it is almost as if Paul is saying, “If you really want to please the Lord and be a servant that brings Him satisfaction, then do these things.…” What things bring pleasure to the heart of Jesus? Let me repeat the qualities we’ve already discussed: having an attitude of excellence; doing your job with seriousness and responsibility; and being consistently fervent, committed, and enthusiastic in your attitude. When a believer steadfastly demonstrates these attributes in his life, he becomes a servant who truly brings satisfaction to the heart of Jesus Christ.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Your salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, and nothing you do can buy you a special standing with Him. Nevertheless, how you serve God and the testimony that your life demonstrates to the world is very important to Jesus Christ.
So I urge you to take an honest look at yourself today. Ask yourself, When people look at my life, do they come away with a positive idea of what a Christian is like, or does my example leave people unimpressed with Jesus Christ? Then ask the Lord to show you any changes you need to make so you can move on up to a higher level of excellence in God!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am very convicted by what I have read today. I don’t want to allow any area of my life to be a bad testimony of who Jesus is. Therefore, I am asking You to open my eyes and show me those areas of my life that need to come up to a higher level. Please forgive me for being tolerant of low standards that are not compatible with the excellence of Jesus’ wonderful name. Starting today, I want to move up higher. Holy Spirit, please help me as I start taking steps toward making serious changes in my life, my attitudes, and my actions.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I will no longer be satisfied with living a low-level existence. God has something great planned for me, and I have made the decision to abandon the negligent attitudes that have dominated my life. Jesus has called me to be a servant that brings Him pleasure, so that is what I am going to do. I will not allow laziness or apathy to be a part of me any longer. I intend to start projecting continual enthusiasm and excitement about what Jesus has asked me to do!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Would you say that your life is a good testimony of who Jesus is, or does your example leave some people shaking their heads, wondering what is wrong with lazy, low-level Christians?
2. Perhaps you have a standard of excellence in some areas of your life but not in other areas. In your opinion, what areas of your life already portray excellence, and what areas do not?
3. Do you try to stay aware of how your attitudes, your dress, and your job performance are affecting people’s opinions of Jesus? Are you continually striving to make sure your life gives an honorable impression of Jesus Christ to others?