Not Only Idle

by Glenn Conjurske

“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” (I Tim. 5:13-14).

Idleness is both sinful and dangerous—-sinful enough in itself, but also dangerous, because it draws other sins in its train. God never designed that men should be idle. God gave work to man to do, even in his pristine purity in paradise. When man fell from his purity, God gave him harder work to do. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” This came as a judgement upon man for his sin, certainly, but there was mercy mixed with the judgement. The fact is, it is good for man to work. It directly promotes the health of both body and soul. But the world, the flesh, and the devil have worked indeed to counteract the divine injunction. God joins bread with sweat. The devil has wrought to join bread with idleness—-yea, “fulness of bread” with “abundance of idleness.” This (with pride) was the sin of Sodom. (Ezek. 16:49). Not that this was the only sin of Sodom, for idleness draws a host of other sins in its train. Of that more anon, but first we must observe that idleness itself is sinful. What! has God given to us a few fast-fleeting hours of time in which to prepare for a never-ending eternity—-a small and frail and soon-to-vanish vapor of life, beset with strong enemies within and without—-a few fleeting days in the midst of a world filled with perishing sinners—-and shall we spend those days doing nothing? Who could dream that such a course is not sinful?

Nevertheless, it is not the sinfulness of idleness of which I wish to speak, but its danger. Idleness does not come alone. Those who are idle are “NOT ONLY IDLE.” The human soul cannot remain a blank. If it has nothing to do, it will find something. And the natural inclinations of the depraved heart of man being what they are, those who have no good to occupy their hearts and hands will soon sink into evil. This is a fact which is so widely recognized by the whole world that it is embodied in numerous ancient proverbs. Some of those are:

An idle man is the devil’s workshop.

Idleness is the root of all evil.

If the devil can catch a man idle, he’ll set him to work.

The devil tempts all, but the idle man tempts the devil.

When we do ill, the devil tempts us; when we do nothing, we tempt him.

Without business, debauchery.

Such proverbs are no authoritative statement of truth, but they are the embodiment of truth, which men in general have recognized as truth. And these proverbs are in complete agreement with the inspired Scriptures. Paul says that when women learn to be idle, they become “NOT ONLY IDLE,” for other sins soon follow in the train of their idleness. God established an economy for man in which work was necessary. The devil has built a system (the world) in which man may live, and live high, with but little work. And women are often more victimized by this system then men are—-and those who out of principle and conviction are “keepers at home” may be in more danger than others. Machines and appliances do much of their work. Their children are few, and those (alas) gone to school much of the time, so that many women are idle indeed. Their grandmothers baked their own bread and churned their own butter, raised and preserved and prepared their own vegetables, spun their own thread, wove their own cloth, sewed their own clothes, and washed them without a washing machine, and with soap which their own hands had made. But we live in a society in which such work is no longer necessary, and the work which is necessary is little and light.

Now this is just the situation which Paul addresses with the injunctions of this scripture. The widows who were cared for by the funds of the church would have had but little necessary work, and were therefore likely to become idle, and, as a consequence, not only idle, but runabouts, and tattlers, and busybodies. None were to be taken into the number, and provided for by the church, but such as had already proved themselves by a long course of activity to be diligent in every good work—-such, therefore, as would be little likely to become idle merely because they could if they pleased. For the rest Paul prescribes, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” He advises them, in other words, to seek out a situation in which they would have work to do, for the moral preservation of their souls from idleness and its sinful fruits.

The substance of this injunction is more necessary than ever in our own day, and not for women only, but for men, for women, and for children. It is this: by all means, find work to do. Not necessarily only physical and temporal work, but some kind of work. Help those who are poor, or overburdened with work, or old and infirm. Labor for souls, study the Scriptures, read good books. Keep the heart and the mind and the hands and the feet busy with something profitable, or you will likely soon descend to something unprofitable, or worse than unprofitable. And parents ought to make it their business to see to it that children have work to do, lest they be formed in habits of idleness from their very youth.

Glenn Conjurske