Monday, February 5, 2007


1. We are entitled to set aside time for lawful repose and for meditation and prayer. But real idleness is always a sin. It can easily be the cause of graver faults and of our spiritual ruin. God gave us material and spiritual powers as our talents, which we must employ for profit and not bury uselessly in the earth. The servant who received five talents from God and increased the sum by another five was rewarded by the praise of his Lord and admission into the kingdom of Heaven. He dealt in a similar manner with the other servant who had received two talents and doubled them by his industry. But the lazy servant, who buried the talent he had received and met his master with empty hands, was condemned and flung in the darkness of Hell (Cf. Mt. 25:15-30). This is a frightening lesson which the Gospel teaches us. It should make us think about the fact that one day we shall have to render an account to God of all the gifts which He has bestowed on us. Has He given us a great deal? If so, we shall have to account for it all. Has he given us only a small amount? Even so, we shall have to account for every bit of it. Consider the immense responsibility which becomes ours along with the gifts of God. Let us resolve to employ these to the best of our ability, so that when we appear before Him our hands will not be empty, but filled with gains.

2. Idleness is forbidden by God because work is His commandment. He had already told Adam and his successors: In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread (Gen. 3:19).

St. Paul warns us: If any man will not work, neither let him eat (2 Thess. 3:10). This is a universal law which embraces people of all classes and circumstances. God commands everyone to work. Therefore, anybody who disobeys this law without reason sins against God. Those who lead leisurely, inactive lives should meditate seriously on this law of God. The fact that they possess large fortunes does not excuse them from this divine law. They must engage in some work, either mental or manual. It may be for themselves, or it may be for their needy brothers who live in want or in illness and cannot fend for themselves. We are all brothers in Jesus. It is not right that one brother should live in poverty and wretchedness, while another idly enjoys a life of plenty and of pleasure.

3. There is another weighty reason which should prevent us from living in idleness. The Holy Spirit warns us that: Idleness is an apt teacher of mischief (Ecclus. 33:29) and he who follows idle pursuits is a fool (Prov. 12:11). In other words, sloth is a great stupidity and is the father of the vices. If anyone is inactive, he learns nothing. Since our bodily and spiritual faculties were made for action, it necessarily follows that when they are not working for a good or useful purpose, they find an outlet in other directions which lead to disorder and sin. Without work and prayer, there is only inactivity which leads to sinl. It is fatal to remain idle. God warns us that we must render an account of every idle word (Mt. 12:36). St. Thomas notes that an idle word is usually a venial sin, but can also be a mortal sin (Summa, II-II, q. 72, a.5). What should be said, then, of those who live idleness, while there is so much work to be done for the glory of God, for our own good, and for the good of others? Anyone who loves God is never idle, says St. Jerome. The love of God works wonderful things; if it does not, it cannot be called love.

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