Love Not Sleep
Article by Marshall Segal, staff writer, desiringGod.org
Laziness does not seize control of our lives overnight. It takes a few inches each day, singing its sweet and familiar song,
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest . . . (Proverbs 24:33)
Notice how little creeps in undetected. What’s wrong with a little extra rest?The next verse warns us,
. . . and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:34)
Laziness lulls us to sleep with the music of soothing excuses, with all the reasons that we really deserve a couple more hours of sleep, or television, or Instagram, or YouTube. But even a little rebel rest can eventually leave us lying in wreckage. The writer of Proverbs warns about physical poverty and destitution, but the wisdom is manifestly spiritual and pervasive. If the reality holds true for food and shelter, how much more for your soul?
Reward of Laziness
When the wise man comes across the sluggard’s disgrace, he writes, “Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction” (Proverbs 24:32). Instead of turning away in shame or disgust, he looked even closer. He stepped through the ruined field, and into the ravaged vineyard. He considered what his own life might be like if he let laziness have its way.
One way to avoid the pitfalls of laziness is to look more closely at the pitfalls of laziness — to examine the thorns and nettles (Proverbs 24:31). The vineyard had not only ceased to bear fruit, but was now unable to bear fruit. The once fertile ground was covered with weeds. Before anything good could grow here, everything would have to die.
The sluggard always reasoned that he would tend the vineyard next year, but a decade or more had gone by while his comfort slowly ravaged his garden (and probably everything else he owned). Like Samson, he lost everything while sleeping soundly (Judges 16:19–20). The man never intended not to tend the garden. But that was the problem, right? He never intended much of anything. He simply followed his impulses for a little more sleep until he had painfully little left.
Whatever little he had left, it was not worth guarding. The stone walls he built to guard his vineyard now laid in pieces (Proverbs 24:31) — and no one seemed to care. Why work on the wall when no one would want what laid inside? You would think he might put a couple stones together just to hide the mess. Maybe tomorrow.
What are we supposed to see and feel among the weeds? That unchecked laziness eventually diseases and cripples a life.
Four Prayers for the Vineyard
The observations, though sobering, are not meant to stir depression, but inspiration. They’re meant to make us wonder at the worth of wisdom. The eyes of our heart are prone to droop. The vigilance we need to keep our hearts is its own spiritual gift (Proverbs 4:23). And one way God wakes us up again is to confront us with the consequences of negligence.
What does he awaken us to? To whatever threatens the vineyard.
God, awaken us to the thorns that would choke our faith.
Jesus warns, “As for [the seed that] fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14). If we cultivate laziness, we reap immaturity. Even the sweetest gifts God gives — the pleasures of life — can be poisoned for us. Therefore, we nurture and enjoy whatever brings us more of God and uproot whatever dulls our love for him.
God, send the roots of our faith deeper than our trials.
Again Jesus says, “The [seeds] on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away” (Luke 8:13). One way a vineyard fails is to never really have started. The roots never make it deep enough to sustain life. If our roots are short, we only love Jesus as long as life is going well for us. When storms comes (and they will come), our boat sinks, often quickly. Therefore, we ask God to give roots in him deeper and stronger than any heartache or temptation.
God, thwart the thief and his schemes to undo us.
Satan lives to spoil vineyards. Jesus says, “The [seeds] along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). Imagine this happening in your church. The word is scattered again on Sunday, but the devil scrambles from pew to pew, snatching up seeds like they’re $100 bills. We are growing vineyards on the frontlines, planting and watering seeds while bullets fly. So, as we seek, serve, and sleep, we pray against our true and greater enemy.
God, give us the vigilance to bear fruit with patience.
Jesus ends his parable, “As for that [seed] in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). The faithful are not in a hurry, but they are focused. They know they need to sleep, but they do not live to rest. They hold fast the word with holy jealousy, meditating on it day and night, and their lives are one long harvest. Having put off laziness, they have found abundant life.
Precious and Dangerous Gift
Sleep is not our enemy. The psalmist writes, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). The sluggard’s rest is in vain, but so is the workaholic’s labor. Righteous rest is an ambassador of heaven. Whenever it goes wrong, we have been the spoiler. When it comes to the bread of anxious toil, we should all live gluten-free and freely sleep.
But the Bible sounds another alarm: “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” (Proverbs 20:13). Wisdom knows when to get some sleep (Proverbs 3:24), and when, in love for God and others, to forgo the gift for a greater good. For any of us to sleep well, though, sleep cannot be our true rest. King David writes, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
Sleep does not make the garden grow. God does. When we receive sleep from him as a gift, without loving sleep more than him, we are like the blessed man in another parable: “He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how” (Mark 4:27). We plant and water, meditate and pray, love and serve — with all vigilance — and then watch him give the growth.
Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.