You’ve most likely heard the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop (or playground.” Though you may be familiar with it, have you ever really considered the meaning and implications of this well known phrase? If not, I’m totally there with you. I hadn’t either until recently. Suddenly though, this has taken on huge meaning in my life. It’s something I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about lately. More specifically, the Lord has really been teaching me to understand the difference between idleness (idle - not idol, that’s another matter) and rest – true rest. I’m excited to share what He’s been showing me!
When the Lord really begins to convict me about a teaching, He starts by helping me to understand the very clear definition of words. It both aids my understanding and expedites my learning. True to form, that’s where He and I started in this journey and the place I’d like to begin today’s devotional with you. I find that good word study provides an amazing foundation for profound teaching. So, before we dive in, lets take a look at the definition of both the word idle/ness and rest:
Idleness: habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy, of no real worth, importance, or significance, idle talk that is meaningless and senseless, to pass time doing nothing, to move, loiter, or saunter aimlessly. Synonyms imply laziness and slothfulness.
Rest: the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep: refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor, relief or freedom especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs, a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity: mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity, cessation or absence of motion. Synonyms imply inactivity that causes calm and refreshing.
More powerful to me however, is what the Word of God says about the topic of idleness. Biblical commentary explains that, “There are several different words translated ‘idleness’ in the Bible. Although there are some subtle differences in nuance, the general meaning of idleness is ‘undisciplined slackness.’ Ecclesiastes 10:18, gives a graphic description of the results of idleness: ‘Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.’ Idleness is the opposite of diligence, which the Bible often commends (Proverbs 12:24; 13:4; Romans 12:11; Ephesians 4:28).”
Whoa baby! Isn’t that powerful?I mean are you impacted by this the way I was?! I don’t know about you but I don’t want much of anything sagging, and especially not the rafters! The very framework that secures my shelter and refuge! No thanks! When I read this very illustrative explanation married with the definition of idleness, it caused two responses in me. One, identification and two, conviction! Friends, I identify myself in the description. I recognize a pattern in my life that is producing the fruits of idleness. I’m convicted because I see that as a serious danger, I do! I’ll explain more about why I see it as being dangerous in the upcoming sentences. I pray you’ll stay with me here!
Idleness manifests in countless different ways for different people. Being idle may “look” different for you than it does for me, but the point of this lesson is that idleness, regardless of how its represented does not yield a harvest of blessing. It does not provide the refreshing we truly seek. Idle activity, thought or speech simply provide distraction and a temporary escape. An escape from which we return unfilled, unrefreshed and often times more discontent and drained than when we began. For me personally, the two most inviting and illusive forms of idle escape are technology and food.
As the Lord’s led me through this learning season, He caused me to experience a HUGE “ah-ha” moment. A moment of true revelation about why this is all so important. I mentioned that I am convinced that idleness is not only unproductive and unrewarding, but truly dangerous to the life of a believer. Will you indulge me in a bit of build-up here? I’d like to set the scene by confessing to you that I’ve been in a rut. For about six months or so I've really struggled to operate in, or release, the fruit of joy in my life. Sure I’ve had great moments and great days, but overall I’ve been low, irritable and just generally a bit sour. I’ve been praying about why. Lord, why am I burned out? Why, in the midst of the most blessed life I could hope for, am I discontent, resentful, crotchety, and even maybe a little depressed? I have no reason that I can identify to feel this way, and yet Lord, I just can’t shake it.
It’s an honest confession. I share it because I'm certain I’m not alone. I also share it because the Lord answered! Friends, here’s the big deal about idleness – when it becomes part of our daily DNA, when diligence is habitually exchanged for slackness, when we replace true rest with idle activities, the very first thing to go is the fruit of the joy. On its heels are the fruit of peace and patience. Ushered out right behind those are kindness and self-control. Do you see it!? The danger is that the fruits of idleness subtlety strangle, choke and wither the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Loved one, if we are known by our fruit (which the Word says we are!) and we are habitually making choices that smash it to mushy bits, that is a serious problem!
At this point, I’m guessing we all agree that this is serious business. This is WAY bigger than just a little bit of wasted time, or clocking a few unproductive hours. We are talking about schemes, strategies, and very calculated side-tracking meant to steel your joy.
So, lets get really practical here. What then exactly, does it look like to choose and enjoy true rest versus idle imitations of rest? The answer and the practical application will look a little different for everyone, but overall, it comes down to getting really good at identifying fruit.
Scenario that produces fruits of idleness in my life…
First thing upon rising I pour my coffee, flip on the fireplace, cozy into my favorite spot, and……you expect me to say get right into the Word I bet? Lately (who guessed about six months? Coincidence? Nope!), it’s been…..cozy into my favorite spot, check the weather, check my bank account, check two sets of emails, check Messenger, check Facebook, refill coffee, kill at LEAST an hour and then glance up at the clock, realize I have only a few minutes remaining before I have to kick it into gear for the day, grab my Bible (or admittedly, more than I like to share, read an online devotional) zip through a quick moment with the Lord and I’m off.
Calculated diversion. Joy sucking idle behavior intend to leave me with sagging rafters. Enemy -1, Sarah- Zero.
Scenario that produces fruits of idleness in my life…
Intentionally carving out more days to work at home in an attempt to be more productive and not over commit myself – you know, making margin for self-care and “rest" (insert sarcastic eye roll.) Work productively for 30-minutes, then find myself standing at the counter checking my phone and nibbling mindlessly on a snack – FOR THE 107th TIME – and it’s only 10 a.m. Sure, it’s only for a few minutes, not too harmful right? Except that when I do that 107 times by mid-morning, I’ve literally lost my power and my potential doing NOTHING of worth. Not only nothing of worth, but most likely joy sucking. It fogs my brain, strains my neck, distracts my focus, and strangles my intentionality. It’s a big deal.
Conversely, here’s what the Lord has shown me rest looks like. Scenario that produces useful fruit in my life…
I’m going 100 miles per hour since my feet hit the floor at 4 a.m. It’s 1 p.m. I’m tired, truly tired and need a recharge. I intentionally leave my phone in the other room. I sit with my feet up and head back on the couch with my eyes closed. Just still – for 30 min. Rest.
I feel the need to check the gazillion social media forums for the 11’nty billionth time. I’m in need of relationship. Time to get out of the house and BE with a friend. Relationship.
I’m mindlessly snacking and making choices I know aren’t aligned with my goals. I’m either feeling empty and need to fill up on some truth and time in the Word, or I’m bored and need to refocus my activities. Refreshing.
Friends, I pray this teaching has left you feeling empowered. I pray that you experience the sense that blinders have been llifted from your eyes to see what’s being stolen from you. I pray that it leaves you with an urgency for intentionality. Sisters, we are known by our fruits. May your life by marked by those of the Spirit and may you be keenly discerning about any imitation that would try to distract you and disguise your true, best, divinely anointed identity!