I Shall Be Slain in the Streets!

John Piper

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”

– Proverbs 22:13

The controlling emotion here is laziness, not fear. But what does laziness have to do with the danger of a lion in the street? We don’t say, “This man is too lazy to go do his work because there is a lion outside. The presence of a lion does not produce laziness, it produces fear. So what’s the point of the proverb?

The point is that the sluggard creates imaginary circumstances to justify not doing his work, and thus shifts the focus from the vice of his laziness to the danger of lions. No one will approve his staying in the house all day just because he is lazy. But they sleepy-tigermight sympathize with him and approve his staying home if there is real danger outside. So, to hide his laziness and justify himself, he deflects attention away from the truth (laziness) to an illusion (lions).

If we would be wise people – people on the way to being “sages” – we must understand how our sinful human hearts and minds work. One profound Biblical insight we need to know is that our heart exploits our mind to justify what the heart wants. That is, our deepest desires precede the rational functioning of our minds and incline the mind to perceive and think in a way that will make the desires look right. It is an illusion to think that our hearts are neutral and incline in accordance with cool rational observation of truth. On the contrary, we feel powerful desires or fears in our heart, and THEN our mind bends reality to justify the desires and fears.

This is what the sluggard is doing. He deeply desires to stay at home and not work. There is no good reason to stay at home. So what does he do? Does he overcome his bad desire? No, he uses his mind to create unreal circumstances to justify his desire. He may even believe the creation of his mind. Deception can cross from moral depravity to mental derangement – from deceiving others to deceiving ourselves.

Thus Proverbs 26:16 says, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.” Now why is that? Does laziness make a person haughty? Not necessarily. But it does make them resistant to any truth that exposes their laziness. So when seven men say, “There is no lion in the street,” the sluggard cannot concede. He must insist that his own answer is wiser: There is a lion in the street. Otherwise his laziness is exposed for what it is. Thus truth is sacrificed on the altar of self-justification.

Busy

John Piper

There is a mind-set in the prosperous West that we deserve pain-free, trouble-free existence.  When life deals us the opposite, we have a right not only to blame somebody or some system and to feel sorry for ourselves, but also to devote most of our time to coping, so that we have no time or energy left over for serving others.