Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
I. IT IS A FALSE OPINION WHICH WOULD MAKE LABOUR THE CONSEQUENCE OF SIN.
1. Labour was God's ordinance whilst man was in paradise. The curse provoked by disobedience was not work, but painful work.
2. Employment is appointed to every living thing. The highest of heaven's angels has his duties to fulfil; and the meanest of earth's insects must be busy or perish. It is the running water which keeps fresh; it is the air fanned by winds which is wholesome; it is the metal that is in use that does not rust.
3. There is wisdom and goodness in the difference placed between man and animals. From man, the lord of this lower creation, there is demanded labour, and ingenuity, before he can be provided with the common necessaries of life. Whatsoever is beautiful in art, sublime in science, or refined in happiness, is virtually due to the operation of that law of labour, against which so many are tempted to murmur. The unemployed man is always dissatisfied and restless.
II. WHATEVER IS WORTH DOING AT ALL IS WORTH DOING WELL. You frequently meet with persons who occasionally will exert much diligence to produce something excellent, but who, at other times, care nothing, so long as a duty be performed, how slovenly may be the performance. And it is against this temper that our text directs its emphasis. What a man is in one thing, that in the main will he be in another. If industrious only by fits and starts in business, he will be industrious only by fits and starts in religion — a habit injurious to both. If I fritter away my time through being "slothful in business," fewer hours are employed than I might have had for providing for eternity.
III. THERE CANNOT BE A GREATER MISTAKE THAN TO DIVIDE EMPLOYMENTS INTO SECULAR AND SPIRITUAL. The businesses of life are so many Divine institutions, and, if prosecuted in a right spirit, are the businesses of eternity, through which the soul grows in grace, and lasting glory is secured. If men are but "fervent in spirit," then are they "serving the Lord" through their very diligence in business. And if this be so, then is diligence in business to be urged by precisely the same motives as diligence in prayer, in the study of the Bible, or in works of piety and of faith. For our earthly callings are the appointments of God; and are therefore means through which you are to work out your salvation; and consequently the servant, the mechanic, the merchant, and the scholar must "do with their might whatsoever their hand findeth to do."
IV. BUT THERE ARE DUTIES WHICH ARE MORE OPENLY CONNECTED THAN OTHERS WITH THE SAVING OF THE SOUL. It is not the representation of Scripture that religion is an easy thing; so that immortality may be secured with no great effort. Admitting that we are justified simply through faith, nevertheless the Christian life is likened to a battle, a race, a stewardship; so that only as we are "not slothful" in religion, have we right to suppose that we have entered on its path. Be not then slothful in the great prime business of all. Is temptation to be resisted — be "not slothful" in resistance: a half-resistance courts defeat. Is prayer to be offered — be "not slothful" in offering it: a languid prayer asks to be unanswered. Is a sacrifice to be made — be "not slothful" in making it: a tardy surrender is next akin to refusal. Be industrious in religion. We can tolerate indolence anywhere rather than here, where an eternity is at stake. Work, then, "with your might," give all diligence to make "your calling and election sure." If, by industry hereafter, you might repair the effects of indolence here, we could almost forgive you for being "slothful in business"; but now that probation is altogether limited to the present brief existence, and that the boundless future is given wholly to retribution, what are ye, if ye work not "with all your might"?
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;